Glee Review/Recap Season 4 Episode 13 ‘Diva’: Girl On Fire

Glee Diva

All right, shippers. Maybe it’s time you face some hard truths — as some characters did on Glee’s Episode 13, Diva. Maybe it’s time you recognize the reality that high school romance isn’t always end-game — in fact, it rarely is. And maybe it’s time you acknowledge that relationships can come and go on any show, and Glee shouldn’t be judged — or damned — solely on how far it goes to make its many ships sail toward wish-fulfilling gratification for couples-obsessed fans.

And maybe it’s time we all recognized something else — that Glee, like its characters, can be clumsy in romance yet still stay bold and beautiful for the emotional songs in its heart , and that the true love in this special, unprecedented show is the soul-soaring glories of its music, music that, unlike ships, is historically rare on scripted network TV, which is why Glee’s music — as its characters have said —  matters most.

That certainly was true in Diva, an episode which in some ways reeked of the force-fed one-word themes of Season One (“confidence,” anyone?), given  its relentless dialogue connecting sassy, self-centered divadom to all sorts of allegedly admirable things instead of challenging the self-absorbed obnoxiousness of it all. (Well, at least Kurt did call Rachel out on that — yet later  spun “diva” into “I’m truly great, so it’s OK” entitlement.)

But beyond the thin theme — and continuation of painfully forced tandems (Sam and Brittany,  Tina’s infatuation for an absurdly inappropriate Blaine) — Diva did have that music, with a generous seven songs. And though not all onscreen performances wowed as much as the studio tracks (Tina’s Hung Up being one), those songs worked in so many ways, from the Kurt-Rachel showdown intercutting Les Miz’s Bring Him Home a la Season One’s Defying Gravity to Blaine’s Freddie Mercury tribute with Queen’s irresistibly exuberant Don’t Stop Me Now. Heck, even Hung Up is one of my favorite studio cuts of the episode — thanks Madonna (and ABBA).

Yet the big number for me was one of three — three! — songs lending an overdue spotlight to the major breakout star of Glee since its pilot episode, and that’s Naya Rivera. Her Santana went from fierce (Nutbush City Limits) to soulful (Make No Mistake) to a big-finish show-stopper with Alicia Keys’ moving girl-power anthem, Girl On Fire, a song that Naya killed — and in the best way.

Indeed, Girl On Fire was what really got me — including the major new direction it took this show at the end. Yes, Brittana fans will be livid. But no, this wasn’t a misstep by Glee. It’s the right one. It continues this season’s transition from Lima-centric to two-settings as a format, and did you not love Santana’s bold “I’m moving in” to Kurt and Rachel as she made their New York loft her new home — a loft which had plenty of room to spare until lately, or didn’t you notice? (It’s now something straight out of Friends or New Girl, with four residents and counting, including Brody.)

So for me, Glee gets a thanks for Diva, even with its shattered ships. And that thanks includes overlooking the clear misdirection of Finn briefly kissing Emma to short-circuit her mounting hysteria about wedding pressure. I’m not buying that as a twist, but as a brief detour, and I still see Emma and Will getting married for next week’s I Do episode.

That’s because, more than halfway into Season Four, people are gravitating toward where they belong. For Emma and Will, that’s marriage. For Kurt and Rachel, it’s renewed appreciation of each other — as talents and as people.

And for Santana, it’s NYC, baby.

Can you imagine the bites our Lima Heights heroine will take out of that Big Apple. Bring it on!

— Bruce Westbrook

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