So, the general trend around the blogosphere concerning last night’s episode of Glee was that it was the best episode of the season (so far) and one of the best episodes of the series period. I’ve watched it twice now, and I’m really curious as to what everybody else was smoking. While the episode was quite good (and some aspects were truly great), a very mixed bag of musical performances and the complete derailment of a character who was essentially likeable til that point in the series dragged down an episode that could have been an instant Glee classic. Words can’t begin to express how much I loved every second of the Mike Chang storyline against how much I hated nearly every second of Mercedes’s storyline (one jaw-dropping musical number aside). Glee hasn’t had a problem where one storyline was written vastly better than another yet this season, but I’m seriously concerned that the series is heading down a path that will ruin my ability to like Mercedes for the rest of the show.
Remember how last week’s story was fairly focused (and by proxy every story had actual meaning)? Yeah, that wasn’t the case this week. Ostensibly, there were three main stories, but a lot of different subplots dragged these down from fuller exploration. Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.) has received an A- in chemistry and according to his father this is an “Asian F” (and the episode’s title). Mike’s father wants him to quit the Glee club and dump Tina so he can focus on his schoolwork and get in to Harvard and also because he thinks that Glee club is a waste of time. Mike, however, wants to audition for the school musical for the second male lead, Riff, because he’s worked hard on his singing which has improved vastly since last season’s rendition of “Sing”. Deciding to follow his dreams and heart rather than his father’s desires, Mike auditions for the play and bowls over Bieste, Emma, and Artie. His mother confronts him later about missing his chemistry tutor lesson, but she decides also to encourage him to pursue his dreams and Mike gets the roll in the play.
The other two main story lines (and this doesn’t include subplots about the student body election) involve Mercedes and then Will and Emma. Will has become concerned that Emma is ashamed of him and doesn’t want him to meet her parents. It turns out that Emma is ashamed of her parents who are “ginger supremacists” and are fairly responsible for her OCD. Mercedes finally auditions for West Side Story for Maria and she and Rachel are asked to do a call-back where they both perform the same song. Rachel thinks Mercedes did better (I didn’t) as does Mercedes. Mercedes flips out on Mr. Schue during Booty Camp for “singling her out” (cause she’s a terrible dancer, like Finn bad) and quits the New Directions. When Bieste, Emma, and Artie decide to double cast both Rachel and Mercedes as Maria, Mercedes throws a serious bitch fit and storms out and concedes the part entirely to Rachel. At the end of the episode, Rachel approaches Shelby Corcoran and offeres to join her new Glee club (lord knows she’ll be better than Sugar Motta).
The musical numbers this week ranged from spectacular to meh to straight out bad so that was unfortunate. “Spotlight” (a Jennifer Hudson number to fit the whole Dreamgirls theme of the episode) was supposed to be the big number that showed off Mercedes’ new found confidence and sense of empowerment, but it wasn’t nearly as good as numbers like “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” or “Try a Little Tenderness”. Her voice was fine, but it just lacked the grandeur and emotion I had grown to expect from a big Mercedes number. No one’s ever going to accuse Brittany (Heather Morris) of being one of the best singers on the show, but she’s still one of the show’s biggest triple threats as her extravagantly choreographed rendition of Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” showed off her good if not amazing voice as well as her spectacular dance moves. That was one of the best choreographed numbers the show has done since “Toxic” in Season 2 and the original Vocal Adrenaline numbers from the beginning of Season 1.
“Cool” from West Side Story is my sentimental favorite for the episode as it was Mike Chang’s audition song for the musical. Mike was basically tone deaf but tonight, he sounded as good as Finn did in the 1st season so it’s a massive improvement. Plus, we got to see him dance, and when isn’t that a delight. The addition of a well-choreographed cameo from the football players only increased my enjoyment of this particular number. “It’s All Over” from Dreamgirls was probably the best song of the episode in terms of actual quality. Staging the number straight out of the musical itself as a fantasy of Mercedes, Amber Riley showed off how powerful her voice was and the show took some real risks in terms of staging and conception. It was just spectacular. I did not like the song “Out Here on My Own” from Fame in the slightest. Neither Rachel nor Mercedes particularly impressed me, although I thought Rachel did better as she always does. “Fix You” by Coldplay was the weakest moment of the episode. While the instrumental section that showed the results of the casting for West Side Story being posted was really done and I liked the music there, Matthew Morrison does not have the falsetto needed to sell a Chris Martin song. His poor falsetto actually made me terribly uncomfortable.
If one more person quits the Glee club this season, I’m going to put my foot through my television. It was kind of a running joke used for comedic purposes back in Season 1 with Rachel to show off her essentially diva-esque nature. However, they’ve been trying to use it for dramatic effect this season, and it might have worked when they kicked out Santana, but of course, she was back with the most pat of explanations this episode and then they tried to do the exact same thing with Mercedes. It didn’t work for me. Also, a lot of bloggers apparently enjoyed the empowerment that Mercedes showed in this episode. But to me, she came off as extremely selfish and bitchy (pardon the sexist term but it’s the only one that came to mind). Rachel acts that way the entire series, and once again, this is used for comedy. For Mercedes, it just makes her unlikeable. I do appreciate the fact that Mr. Schu has finally manned up and started telling people what he really thinks. I only wish he had more time with Mercedes to give her the same verbal beat-down he gave to Quinn.
Now that Harry Shum Jr. can dance, act, and sing, he gets to join Heather Morris and Darren Criss as one of the real triple threats of the series. For the first time in the entire series, he got significant screen time, and he made every second worth the wait. He brought real gravitas to the scene where he’s dancing in the room by himself and he sees both his father and Tina as he struggles to come to a decision about where to take his life. I hope he continues to get screen time this season since it’s his senior year. One last note before I draw the episode to a close. Was I the only person to cry when Kurt brought Blaine his flowers? Last week made me think that whole scene was going to go down a lot differently. I cried three separate times during this episode and laughed plenty (Jimmy Fallon’s butch daughter was classic); I just wish the writing and music had been consistently great as there was plenty to like in the episode. There was also plenty not to like.
Final Score: B+