Glee Review/Recap Season 4 Episode 17 ‘Guilty Pleasures’: How do you plead?

Guilty Pleasures

If the latest rumors are true, and Glee’s still unannounced but presumed Season Five will be New York-centric, then this week’s Episode 17, Guilty Pleasures, shows why that may be a good idea.

After all, the largely Lima-based tale was as insubstantial as any episode for months, with a theme-of-the-week feel echoing Season One and precious little going on in terms of  characters or story. Given that I enjoyed most of the guilty-pleasure performances on some level (can Jacob Artist dance, or what?), I contented myself with the thought that the music could be its own reward, and the music tonight would have to be enough.

But when the show shifted more fully near its end to a Brooklyn loft and a Manhattan college, with post-high school characters immersed in weightier matters, it brought home to me how much Glee owes the natural move to its new Gotham setting, where more is at stake than learning weekly lessons, and where its best core characters — Rachel, Kurt, Santana — now reside.

First, Rachel’s tearful confrontation of Brody about his male hooker bent finally gave heft to the episode. And it was brought to a head by their gripping duet for Radiohead’s Creep. Sometimes sung with pained wails, the powerful mid-tempo rocker shifted from NYADA hallways to a nameless dark stage, ending with the starkness and highly emotional punch of The Scientist, this season’s best song performance to date.

As for the night’s finale, though it shifted mid-song back to Lima, Rachel’s jarringly sudden but buoyant rebound with ABBA’s Mamma Mia did more than conveniently fit the guilty pleasures theme, but also capped an otherwise thin episode with a genuinely potent — in terms of sheer fun — finishing kick.

So yes, bring on the Big Apple, big-time. If Season Five shows are more like the best parts of this one, such a move would make perfect sense. With just one foot planted there now, Glee sometimes feels like it reels backward by revisiting simple pursuits such as “coming out” over guilty-pleasure tunes (which, in truth, it already did back in Season One’s Bad Reputation episode).

Instead, let’s get on with the big wide world out there — including Broadway, where Rachel will make her Funny Girl audition of destiny after the series returns from a three-week hiatus.  Besides, next year some of this year’s graduating Lima seniors could join the mix too — the more the merrier!

As this series rejoiced at Season Two’s end, I love New York — and what it means to Glee. Besides, if Glee can make it there, it’d make it anywhere, so why look back?

So let’s get on with it. Let’s go Gotham, all the way — because then, in the evolution of this special show about grand musical dreams, Glee will be where it belongs.

Glee will be home.

— Bruce Westbrook

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