Glee Review / Recap Season 4 Episode 4 ‘The Break Up’: Best Glee Ever

As stern NYADA maven Carmen Tibideaux would say, “Nice.”

As I would say, “Bravo!”

I know the Twitterverse has erupted in a fury of “shippers” screaming their displeasure about Glee’s “The Break Up” doing exactly what its title said it would do. I know fans will be fans and they’ll lash out.

But I’m not, and I’m a fan too — but in my own way.  That’s because I’m accepting — and I accept because of this: Of Glee’s 70 episodes to date, “The Break Up” was the most moving, meaningful, artful and musically accomplished. Shun or embrace the inevitability of  its heartbreaks, but they were heartbreaks well earned, and thus more affecting.

Credit Ryan Murphy’s emotional, persuasive script and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s dramatic direction. Credit Glee’s superb cast, which included original stalwarts returning in much appreciated spotlights and others rising for their best moments. Credit the shrewd music selections and remarkable performances overseen by music director Adam Anders, providing the most unifying and potent mix of music on any Glee episode to date.

Or simply credit Glee itself, which earned this pivotal episode by building toward it — in a way, ever since Finn and Rachel first set eyes on each other, and since an oddball little glee club in Ohio stole our hearts.

You may resist what still could be temporary splits, but the substance they provide Glee’s sometimes carelessly wacky warmth is much needed for this series. Besides, Glee  — a “comedy” in Emmy’s eyes — never has been averse to serious sides, from Kurt’s hospital vigil for dad Burt to the tastefully handled “First Time” episode to last season’s finale of Finn proving his love by letting Rachel go.

But this show, this hour, was that and more. It was different.

It was the best.

Yes, for a series that so often enthralls me, this episode was Glee’s finest hour ever — not because of the break ups, which I believe won’t all be permanent, anyway, but because of the reason some lovers will reunite: because lasting love is what life is all about. For 22 years and counting with my own soulmate, I’ve believed that, and I believe we’ll see it still in some of the characters on Glee.

Yes, I’m disappointed in Blaine, but I was disappointed in a neglectful Kurt too. And young love is hard enough to sustain without the distance that Santana so rightly pegged as making relationships “almost impossible to maintain.”

Yes, I hate to see Santana and Brittany parting after hearing Naya Rivera’s incredibly soulful singing of Mine for her girlfriend and seeing Brittany cry in Heather Morris’ most vulnerable scene ever. Yes, I’m sad to see Finn feeling lost and exiled from his old life (an exile which clearly will end when he rejoins New Directions as director of — brilliant choice — school musical Grease). And yes, it was wrenching to hear Rachel’s declaration of betrayal, though she beautifully couched it in defiant hope, expressed with an impassioned eloquence which marked Lea Michele’s finest acting on this show — and that’s saying a lot.

But no, I’m not sorry any of it happened, because that’s love, and that’s life, even on Glee. Besides, there’s still hope, and as a love song by the Association once said, sadness is the sweetest of the pain.

So what’s the lesson here, in a show which once had weekly themes and sermonettes but has abandoned them of late?

As I see it, love is hard, but love is worth it. Sustaining tenderness takes effort and resolve. But the love behind such devotion is why we do it — and why it matters.

This show mattered in so many ways, but I must single out the music. I have no complaints about any of the six numbers. None. They all delivered — big-time — to me.

But though I truly loved the broadcast version of Blaine’s Teenage Dream (echoing Darren Criss’ earlier piano-and-voice sad spins to Katy Perry’s buoyant song, sung live and apart from Glee), the one song that I’d take to the memory bank and deposit forever is the last one, Coldplay’s The Scientist, sung by all the principal cast on a darkened stage.

Call it climactic. Call it magical. Or call it, as I do, Glee’s most beautiful performance ever — and again, that’s saying an awful lot.

After last week’s smug misfire, and with four non-Glee weeks now looming due to baseball playoffs on Fox, that’s the song I needed to hear, and this was an episode we needed — even if we resisted — to see. Sure, it makes us cry, or want to cry out in frustration. But it feels right. It feels true. And more than anything else so far this season, it makes Glee matter again, and stand out again, as what I will always believe is the finest TV series of its time.

— Bruce Westbrook

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One Response to “Glee Review / Recap Season 4 Episode 4 ‘The Break Up’: Best Glee Ever”

  1. jimmymackey Says:

    It was an awfully emotional episode, and I have to admit, that combined with the great acting (Real tears!) and super awesome song choices, we had a home run (playoff joke). My daughter is the real fan though and Glee is the theme for our DISH Halloween work party for our families this year, which made my kids happy, since they like the show so much. They save all of the episodes each season, and now that I have the Hopper DVR, I have a thousand hours to hold their shows, and mine.

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