Category: Musical


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(A quick aside before I begin this review proper. I know that I haven’t reviewed TV since August of last year and this isn’t a sign that TV reviews will become a thing again on this blog. But, after finally catching up on Glee, I felt the undeniable need to write about my experience watching its Cory Monteith tribute episode. And, so this write-up is dedicated not only to the memory of Cory but also to his friends, family, and colleagues who have this massive hole in their lives.)

When Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired “The Body” over ten years ago now, it created waves in the TV industry. Not only did the series kill off a beloved supporting character (an act that would become something of a Joss Whedon staple), it did it in the least dramatic way possible via a brain aneurysm off-screen. Moving beyond the fact that the show had the restraint to have Buffy’s mother die of natural causes (rather than falling victim to the Season’s “Big Bad,” Glory), “The Body” became an artistic milestone because of the way it dealt with the act of death itself.

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On most television programs, the death of a major character is usually telegraphed weeks in advance and the advertising lead-up of said death primes the audience to understand that by the end of said episode, someone it loves is gone. Death episodes are a chance for writers to tie up any loose ends a character may have and it’s the last opportunity for an actor to throw one last bravura dramatic performance that will certainly wind up being their Emmy submission tape. Instead, Buffy used the sudden and earth-shattering death of Joyce Summers to explore the way we respond to the tragedy of an unexpected and shocking death of someone we love. And it became not just one of the best episodes of Buffy but one of the most emotionally raw and well-written episodes of television ever.

Whether it was the gut-wrenching direction during the sequence where Buffy comes home to find her mother’s corpse on the couch or the powerhouse acting moments later from Alyson Hannigan and Emma Caulfield where Willow and Anya each experience their own emotional breakdowns and confrontations with mortality before Joyce’s funeral, “The Body” abandoned the supernatural action that defined the series for a brutally honest meditation on grief and loss. After the tragic drug-overdose death of star Cory Monteith, Glee was forced to deal with the tough question of how to handle the loss of both the actor Cory and his character Finn. And with the exception of “The Body” and the closing montage from the series finale of Six Feet Under, I don’t know if an episode of TV has ever wrecked me so completely as “The Quarterback.”

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Glee is a clusterfuck of a television program if there’s ever been one. I’ve stuck with the program through its highs and lows because no matter how mind-bogglingly stupid the show can become, its highs have always more than made up for it to me. Whether its the continued maturation of Chris Colfer as a performer and the depth of his character Kurt or just the chance to hear Lea Michele sing again and again, Glee strays but thanks to those aforementioned moments, it keeps me coming back for more. And one of the thing the show has always done well (though its genuine thematic ADD means it can’t stay there for too long) is tapping into pure, primal emotions and the overwhelming despair of being young. And (thanks to the omnipresent reality subtext of the episode), “The Quarterback” does that more intensely than any episode of TV in recent memory.

From the beginning performance of “Seasons of Love” at Finn’s funeral to the final moments where Matthew Morrison’s Mr. Schuester finally experiences his emotional breakdown, every second of “The Quarterback” runs not on the sadness and loss of the characters of the show itself but on the despair and heartbreak of the actors playing those characters who had had four years to get to know Cory Monteith, who despite his drug problem had a reputation as being an exceptionally genuine and kind man. I’ll get into how the characters’ plights moved me but more than anything else, this episode was a chance for the cast to say their final goodbyes to a close friend and if there’s ever been a more honest portrayal of grief in a fictional TV program, I don’t know if it exists.

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The songs of the episode were framed around Mr. Schuester giving the New Directions (past and present) the assignment to say their goodbyes to Finn. And (with the exception of Chord Overstreet whose Sam sang “Fire and Rain” with Artie), those duties mostly went to the members of the cast who had been there since Season 1. And, those performances were haunting to watch. There are good actors in the Glee cast (Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Blake Jenner), but none of them are this good, and my heart broke all over again watching these actors baring their souls about a lost friend with such naked vulnerability. I read that they did most of the takes for this episode in a single try because everyone’s emotions were already so out front and on the surface that people would leave the room after each shot sobbing. It’s clear from every second of this episode how true that is.

Of course, the reality subtext of the show was never more painful and more clear than it was with Lea Michele. Rachel and Finn have been an on-again/off-again couple since the inception of the series, and for the last year or so, they had been dating in real life as well (they were even rumors that they were soon to be engaged right before Monteith’s passing). Wisely, the show delays Rachel’s arrival until three-quarters of the way through (presumably because she has rehearsals for Funny Girl in character) because if I had been forced to deal with the anguish of Lea Michele for a whole hour, I don’t think I could have taken it. When Lea Michele performed “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele and then had her conversation with Mr. Schuester about how Finn’s death had ruined all of her life plans, it was just too real to bear, and major kudos must be given to Lea Michele for refusing to add any sense of theatricality to the performance. It was “true” and that was the best tribute Cory Monteith could have been given.

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As to the actual story of the episode, it takes place three weeks after Finn’s funeral. The episode goes out of its way to not discuss the circumstances surrounding Finn’s death. In fact, during Kurt’s opening narration, it lampshades this with him saying how everyone wants to talk about how Finn died, but Kurt would rather remember how Finn lived. And so, everyone returns to Lima (except for Quinn and Brittany) to say one last goodbye to Finn with a memorial planned by Mr. Schue. Mr. Schue has forced himself to be the rock that the other people in his life need to rely on for emotional support and hasn’t allowed himself to really grieve himself. Kurt, Burt, and Carol are trying to figure out what to with Finn’s belongings as Carol also deals with the loss of her child. Puck starts to backslide into his old ways now that Finn isn’t around to keep him on the right path. Santana and Sue both loathe themselves for how terribly they treated Finn in the past without ever having a chance to tell them how they really felt.

I don’t want to turn this into a total recap in the vein of my past TV reviews/recaps, but there were moments beyond the terrible realness of the performances and subtext of the episode that did the things Glee can do so well (when it tries to be genuine programming). Mike O’Malley has long been one of the show’s unsung heroes as Burt and when he breaks down over having not given Finn enough hugs and how he wished he had handled Finn’s “faggy” comments about Kurt’s lamp differently, it was emotionally wrecking and then Carol talks about how she always wondered how other parents moved on after losing a child and how she’s now totally lost. It was like being punched in the stomach. Puck and Bieste have always had great moments together and this episode was no different when they mourned the loss of Finn together. And, Jane Lynch, who consistently has some of the funniest moments on the show and the most tear-jerking, has a talk with Santana later on about how she might have hated people, but she loved Finn and the senseless tragedy and wasted potential of his death

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But, the two moments that of course brutalized me the worst were at the very end with Rachel and Mr. Schuester. First, Rachel has her conversation with Mr. Schue about how all of her life plans have been devastated and her dreams of growing old with Finn will never happen and that she’s scared that one day she’ll forget his voice. The only time in my entire life that I cried that intensely was when I read the eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral that my dad had written but couldn’t read himself. The salt in my tears was burning my eyes and the side of my face had gone completely numb. I was sad when Cory Monteith died but watching Lea Michele’s genuine despair was literally more than I could even begin to handle. I was in the midst of deep, full-body sobs to the point that I could barely breathe during every second she was on screen.

And, then in the final moments of the episode where Matt Morrison finally had a chance to show how much he was hurting hit me. That hit me mostly on a story level though because of a subplot involving Finn’s letterman jacket that Kurt kept and gave to Santana but was stolen from her. You thought it was maybe Puck but it turned out it was Mr. Schuester who needed one last reminder of the student who gave his career and life a new direction. And Mr. Schuester who’s become something of a running joke in the fandom (because he has no adult friends outside of Emma and Bieste) reminds us why he was the glue that held the series together in the beginning and how losing Finn was like losing a child to him. In an episode of heartbreak, it was a beautiful and wrenching topper.

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This episode wasn’t as “good” as “The Body” from Buffy if for no other reason than that Glee is seemingly incapable of keeping up a serious mood for more than an hour. While some of the darker humor of the episode hit the right notes (particularly, all things Jane Lynch per usual), some moments felt like inappropriate padded material like Tina going into Emma’s office for grief counseling only to start talking about her clothes and Emma handing her a pamphlets that say “Am I Callous” and “It’s Not All About You.” I get, in retrospect, that was probably something about Tina being in denial but it just felt awkward and out of a place in an otherwise terribly real episode.

Cory Monteith’s death was a tragedy. He was at the start of a fruitful career and had his whole life ahead of him, and he threw that away through drug abuse and addiction. But, as Kurt said, I don’t want to remember Cory Monteith by how he died. I want to remember him for how he lived. He was the relatable, every-man presence that was the necessary cornerstone in what made Glee work for so long. You might not understand the sexual identity issues of Kurt or the all-consuming ambition of Rachel but how could you not understand the fears and hopes and dreams of Finn who was just trying to find his place in a world where he wasn’t always sure if he was talented or smart enough to get by. Cory’s charisma and boyish charm were an under-appreciated aspect of what keeps Gleeks returning week after week, and he will sorely be missed.

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“The show must go… all over the place or something.” ~ Finn Hudson

In memory of Cory Monteith (1982-2013)

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And it is done. I almost want this to be the way that Glee ends. It will be far from perfect, and it will leave about a million hanging loose ends, but I almost want to rob the show’s creators, writers, and showrunners the opportunity to screw this show up. Glee redeemed itself over these last three episodes, and I want it to stay that way. As a program, Glee manages to simultaneously do a ton of things right, and as any fan can tell you, it also manages to fuck a million different things up. And Tuesday night’s finale which saw the high school graduation of half of the cast did more good than bad (which is really all you can ask for from Glee) and it had the feel almost of a series finale. Considering some of the final act twists (which exist almost solely to set up drama for next season), I’d love to know more about what’s going to happen to Kurt and Finn now that they have found out they won’t be going to NYC (this is what happens when you don’t have back-up plans), but I just honestly don’t trust this show’s ability to be worth a damn next season when it’s missing most of its cast. I just don’t see how this isn’t going to be an epic disaster. Just like with the impending return of True Blood (whose fourth season was truly awful), I’ll be back for my licks when Glee finally returns, but it will be with seriously tampered expectations and the obvious truth that the show won’t be the same (and I can’t see how it will be any better).

It’s graduation time at McKinley High which meant it was time to prepare for an hour straight of me crying either softly or intensely. In true Glee fashion, Mr. Schue gives the club one last assignment for the year which is to say goodbye via song to everyone else in the group, and he starts it off with a really touching performance of “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart (but more on the performances in their section). The rest of the episode is given to saying one last goodbye to our various seniors. Kurt gets a surprise visit from his father as the duo share one last touching moment together and Burt does a hilarious rendition of “All the Single Ladies” as Kurt’s last graduation gift. We learn that Mercedes has a recording contract to be a back-up singer on an indie label in L.A. Mike got a scholarship to be part of a prestigious dance academy (I think. I got a little lost there). We finally meet Santana’s mother (played by Gloria Estaban) who is actually supportive of Santana’s bisexuality and we discover that Brittany won’t be graduating (because she had a 0.0 GPA). Quinn kisses Puck one last time to give him the confidence to study for his Geography final which he passes which means he’ll be able to graduate as well. Kurt, Finn, and Rachel make an ill-advised pact to open their college acceptance letters together. When they do, we find out to no one’s surprise that Finn didn’t get into the Actor’s Studio. However, the twist is that Kurt didn’t get into NYADA either. Rachel however did get in. So, graduation happens. Rachel decides she wants to stay in NY and defer her admission to NYADA to try and help out Kurt and Finn. Just when Rachel thinks she’s on the way to the chapel to finally marry Finn, we get the final twist of the episode. Finn  is joining the military and is breaking up with Rachel to force her to leave Lima and pursue her dreams in NY. Damn things got dark out of nowhere.

Well, this was an episode of Glee so let’s look at the songs. Although my dad and sister weren’t crazy about it, I thought Mr. Schue’s rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” was really touching. It also didn’t sound like your typical Matthew Morrison number, and I really enjoyed it. We’ve had a lot less of him singing this season which is a shame. Chris Colfer did a lovely version of “I’ll Remember” by Madonna even if I wasn’t all that familiar with the original song. His voice has really taken shape and matured over the course of the series but I’ll reserve my thoughts on how I think they’ll incorporate him into the series next season for my next paragraph. I really liked the version that the New Direction seniors did of “You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals (which was entirely coincidentally my Song of the Day earlier this week). Finn’s voice has also gotten infinitely better since the series began. It’s almost shocking just how better he’s sounded the last half of this season than he’s ever sounded before. The New Directions underclassmen took on The Beatles “In My Life.” I wasn’t as crazy about it as my dad was especially since their arrangement of the song was almost unrecognizable as being the Beatles to me. I thought Mark Salling and Corey Monteith did a pretty respectable job with the Bruce Springsteen classic, “Glory Days,” though it seems like a really weird song to be playing at their high school graduation ceremony (unless the show was trying to be very subtly ironic) since it’s basically a song about a group of pathetic people whose current lives are totally miserable and have to relive their glory days in high school. I had never heard the song that Lea Michele sang in the finale before, “Roots before Branches” by Room for Two but in true Rachel fashion, she sang the hell out of it and I was crying the entire time.

I spent about 6 hours today writing one article for work, an interview with Canadian alt-rock band Our Lady Peace that became a 2800 word monstrosity, so I almost don’t have it in me to give this final Glee review of the season the treatment it deserves. Here’s some quick observations though. The scene where Mike O’Malley did the “Single Ladies” dance for Kurt was one of the most hilarious/touching things I’ve seen in the entirety of the show and whoever had that idea deserves a raise. It was comedy gold. While I would have been pissed if Puck hadn’t graduated, having Brittany not graduate actually makes a lot of sense. That girl is borderline retarded, and while it’s sort of silly to have her back in the New Directions next year, I’ll definitely be glad to have Heather Morris around some more. The show kind of just shoehorned in the reveals about Mike and Mercedes but because we are most definitely not seeing them again next season (unless they return for Will and Emma’s nuptials), the show didn’t really have a ton of time to draw those stories out. I would have loved an update about Karofsky in this episode (even just a sighting of him at graduation would have been nice) but alas, I’m coming to the conclusion that we’ve seen the last of Max Adler. I get why Finn didn’t get into the Actor’s Studio. I don’t think that was ever actually a possibility (and would have thrown away any shreds of reality that this show has since he never even did any acting on the show) but this whole subplot about him joining the military seemed to come out of nowhere and I have a problem with it. Also, Kurt not getting into NYADA was something I predicted going into the episode, and I really don’t know how they’re going to handle him on the show now. I hope he still finds some way to NYC because I don’t want to see his wonderful character stuck in Lima, Ohio for another year. Kurt is my favorite character on the show and I hated to see his dreams shattered like that even if it made for good drama. However, I am now thoroughly convinced that Jesse St. James will be joining Rachel Berry as a freshman at NYADA (even though he’s three years older than her).

Like I said, I just don’t have the energy to write another 800 words about this episode. It was a good finale. It wisely avoiding being too “loud” and screaming for attention the way that Glee usually does. I would never call it subtle. Rachel walking down the streets of NYC in a garish red dress and pillbox hat like she’s Mary Tyler Moore is the theatrics this show lives and breathes on, but with the exception of the last minute twists about the college acceptances, I don’t think this episode felt like it was trying too hard. It was an honest and natural way to bring an end to the stories (and to create new beginnings) of characters I’ve really grown to love over the last three years. I’ll be back in the fall with bated breath to find out how things are going for Rachel in New York, to see if Finn really joined the military, and to find out what exactly is going to happen with Kurt, but I’ll come back knowing that this is an all new beast of Glee and that I have to prepare for a vastly different show than the one I’ve loved for so long. Maybe, change is what the show needs though to get out of the creative rut it suffers from every now and then. Only time will tell.

Final Score: B+

Season Score: B

I wanted to put this post up last night immediately after I finished watching the epic two-part episode leading into next week’s season finale (and the last time we’ll be seeing some of our favorite residents of McKinley High), but I wisely chose to wait 24 hours because I was far too emotional to write about Glee in any sort of objective form. I’m an unashamed “Gleek” (well for the most part). However, I’m also a vocal critic of the series when I think it’s making missteps. I’m the first person to call it out for god-awful stories like: Puck & Shelby, Quinn trying to take Beth, Sue trying to have a baby, etc. I’ve also been vocal when I thought an episode was just really subpar or lazy (“Mash-off,” “The Spanish Teacher,” “New York” [last season]). Still, despite the fact that Glee is most likely a deeply, structurally flawed program, its highs are so much fun and its most memorable dramatic stories are so real and heartbreaking that I keep coming back week after week. Last night’s two episodes were the highs that Glee is truly capable of, and if you were to score television by how deeply, emotionally touched something left me, “Props” & “Nationals” were smash successes.

There were two episodes last night so each one will get its own paragraph (god help my soul if they both require two). In “Props,” it’s crunch time for Nationals and Mr. Schu tasks Rachel with getting prepared for her solo (even though she’s finally beginning to process how much she’s screwed things up with NYADA and she’s semi-stalking Carmen Thibodeau) when Tina finally speaks up for the first time since “Asian F.” She wants the chance to shine (or even be noticed) and honestly, the girl sort of has a point. It’s just the worst possible time to bring it up. As she’s moping about the way the New Directions ignore her, she hits her head at the mall and has a body-swap fantasy (way, way cooler than it sounds) where she becomes Rachel and everyone else in the ND’s becomes somebody else. She finally has her moment in the sun (and gives a lovely version of a Celine Dion song) and she shares a nice moment with Rachel-as-Tina where R/T gives T/R advice on how to go after her NYADA dreams. Tina wakes up from her fantasy and she and Rachel go off and confront Carmen Thibodeau and potentially convince her to come see Rachel’s performance at Nationals (since she’ll conveniently already be in Chicago). There’s also a story about Puck and Bieste where Puck pulls a (fake) knife on a kid in a fight because he’s acting out about the fact that he’s failing out of school. He and Bieste share a touching (read: I was crying) moment together which convinces Bieste to finally leave Cooter. She also talks to Puck’s geography teacher and gives him one more chance to pass and graduate. It’s time for Nationals!

Things start getting out of hand at Nationals in true New Directions fashion almost immediately. Mercedes either had food poisoning or swine flu. The boys are fighting because Puck is spending more time studying for his geography final than practicing his choreography. Unique has become a nearly national show choir sensation which is putting the fear in the NDs. Will is suffering a crisis of confidence. Still, Mercedes pulls throw (thanks to a most likely highly dangerous cure from Sue) and the Nationals perform an absolutely stunning set (even including one with the Troubletones [where do they hide those girls during regular rehearsals?]) and Carmen Thibodeau arrives during the middle of Rachel’s gorgeous performance of a Celine Dion track and cheers with the rest of the crowd after their third and final song is finished. Vocal Adrenaline also puts on a fun show (but I’ll critique the performances more in-depth later), and before the winner is announced, Jesse St. James does a genuinely unselfish thing and tells Carmen that he thinks Rachel is the most talented performer he’s ever met (and she remembers him auditioning for NYADA the previous year). The New Directions win Nationals (I’ll have more on why I’m okay with it being semi-predictable)! And they return to school hailed as champs and actually appreciated for the first time ever. Will and Emma have sex for the first time! Mr. Schu is named the teacher of the year and honored by his kids in another of many tear-jerking moments. Now, the only thing left is graduation.

Once again, two episodes so a paragraph for each one’s performances. Lea Michele started the evening off with Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up.” It worked thematically with the scene and Lea Michele is the best vocalist on the show, but the song is dull and I wasn’t feeling it. Jenna Ushkowitz gave her best performance of the entire series (not that she has a lot of choices) with Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me.” My jaw dropped because I did not think she could sing that well. Lea Michele would have sang it better, but Jenna Ushkowitz more than did it justice and it helps allay my concern that there won’t be any top-tier female vocalists for the New Directions next season. I hate Taylor Swift but I would be lying if I said that Dot Marie Jones and Mark Salling’s rendition of “Mean” didn’t have me slightly in tears. It wasn’t a great vocal performance (from either of them) but it was incredibly emotional, and I’ll take it. Lea Michele and Jenna Ushkowitz closed out the first episode with a duet of Irene Cara’s “Flashdance… What a Feeling” (from Flashdance…), and it was very old school Glee fun. Their choreography was fun and their voices harmonized very well. Also, I loved Rachel’s outfit. I can’t gush about it without sounding very effete so I’ll just say it was great.

The show-stopping performances were all in the second episode however and unlike last year’s Nationals, this was not a disappointment. The Troubletones started things off with Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.” I’m probably a closet Little Monster (I love me some Gaga), but I wasn’t crazy about Born This Way (“Judas” was the only really great Gaga track in my opinion). Anyways, I don’t really love the song but Naya Rivera and Amber Riley definitely sang it really well. It wasn’t bad but it was the least memorable part of an otherwise phenomenal set. Lea Michele just hit a grand slam home run with Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” I mean. Wow. She can freaking sing. Her sheer talent has always been what makes Rachel lovable even in her least lovable moments (which are admittedly all the damn time). So that was just wonderful. However, I was not prepared for how energetic and well-sung “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” was going to be. Every member of the group had a moment to shine (which didn’t turn out to be a clusterfuck like it often does) and Finn does a really good Meatloaf. Obviously, Lea Michele was more than ready to handle the lead female vocal parts, but that song might be my current favorite competition performance of the NDs (and maybe every act). I hate the song “Starship” by Nicki Minaj, but there’s no denying that Alex Newell can give Amber Riley a run for her money in the vocals department. Sista can sing! I love “Pinball Wizard” by the Who which Vocal Adrenaline also did but I really didn’t like the very karoake feel of their arrangement for the song and the actual pinball machines were a bit much. For once, I honestly believed the New Directions gave the best final performance of a season. The NDs sang the song “Tongue Tied” over a very emotional montage where I was crying but I honestly can’t really judge it because I was too busy crying and watching these wonderful moments on screen. They also closed out the episode with Queen’s “We Are the Champions” which is a super obvious choice, but it too had that old school Glee feel and I was crying yet again. So, bravo Glee.

This review is going to be hella long. Like, Game of Thrones: Season 2 long. You’ve been warned. I want to actually talk in-depth about both episodes since each one was really good (though obviously “Nationals” was a little bit better). So, let’s start with “Props.” Jenna Ushkowitz gets almost no screen time on this show. I’ve probably complained on here about how useless she is. The show has found almost nothing worthwhile to do with her for three seasons. Ever since we found out she was faking her stutter, she’s basically either been arm-candy for a better developed male character (Artie, Mike) or she’s just been in the background of performances (or she’s been crying hysterically). If she’s going to be the new Queen Bee of the New Directions next year, the group might actually be in good hands (plus, they’ll still have Blaine. Those two need to sing a duet stat!). Also, Mark Salling had his best acted scene of the entire series as he finally breaks down in front of Bieste. And then Dot Marie Jones matches him in the emotional department and then some. Tears were flowing epically. Also, the scene where Cooter was yelling at Bieste and we see her holding a knife like she’s going to stab him and then dropping it in the sink was powerful, chilling stuff. Then, we find out she’s been sleeping with a knife under her pillow. I’m not sure it was appropriate to have all this in an episode which featured the characters body-swapping for humor purposes (which I could have used so much more of. Their impersonations of each other were pretty much amazing), but man, the moments taken in just their own context were haunting stuff. Dot Marie Jones is a real champ in this cast of champs.

As for Nationals, the fact that I was crying nearly the entire episode (lord knows I’ll be a total mess next week when they finally graduate. My dad, my sister and I will be crying like babies in unison lol) should say plenty about how well done I thought it was. There was almost no doubt in my mind that this was going to be the season that the New Directions finally won at Nationals. I didn’t question it for a minute. But, damn it, after three seasons of cheering this rag-tag group of misfits on, I’d say the audience deserves a moment like this. Friday Night Lights is one of the most critically acclaimed (and criminally underviewed) programs of the last ten years, and no one complained when they won their State Championships in the very first season. So, people who thinks its terribly predictable that the New Directions won don’t understand that unless we’re talking David Simon, a show can have a happy ending every now and then and be alright. These are the same kinds of people who thought that Harry should have died at the end of the Harry Potter franchise and had no idea what a “coming-of-age” story is traditionally about. My only complaint about the episode was the very half-hearted way it suddenly handled Emma and Will having sex. That should have been a major, major moment on the show, and it was used in a throw-away moment in this episode. Other than that, it was one of hte best episodes of the series.

Okay, I’m reaching my 2000 word self-imposed limit, so it’s time to draw this to a close. This two-parter (and I’m hoping I feel the same way about next week’s graduation episode) validated all of the time and emotional energy I’ve invested into this show (let alone the hours I’ve spent blogging about it). I feel like I know this group of kids better than I knew most of the kids I actually went to high school with (and since I was the Senior Class President that’s probably a problem). They’ve become a part of my daily routine and I invest way too much emotional attachment in fictional characters. It’s the reason why television is such a beloved medium to me. It allows me to spend more time with a group of people than any form except for a dozens of hours long JRPG (and most of the time in the latter is spent on character development). So, it’s going to be really emotional to see all of these kids go, and I now know that Glee is going to give these people the send-off that they deserve.

Final Score: “Props” – A-
“Nationals” – A

It’s time to put our imagination hats on. If you know what I look like, just imagine my face. If not, here I am (but basically four years older) and I’ve actually managed to get my hair back to that length which is exciting (maybe just for me). Okay, now you can see my face. Now imagine it with an absurdly frustrated brow and I’m sort of just shaking my head back and forth. There’s just this slight look of exasperation on my face to even things out. That face is basically how I felt about last night’s episode of Glee. Don’t get me wrong. It was downright brilliant at times and was one of the most intense episodes of the series. It had its moments that nearly matched the suicide scene from “On My Way“, but Glee‘s biggest problem reared its head in just the worst way imaginable. Glee attempts to be a dramedy, and that’s fine. However, there are certain plots that are just so serious and sensitive that you can’t shoehorn endless jokes in around them. It ruins the mood of the series and Glee is not well-written enough to pull of that kind of mood whiplash (Freaks and Geeks it is not), and so what could have been one of the best episodes of the series is simply another episode of Gleethat failed to live up to its own potential.

It’s the week of Rachel and Kurt’s auditions for NYADA which would make for a busy enough episode as is but as we’re soon to find out, things are going to get much more complicated. Kurt is considering doing a very lavish (and fire-hazardy) rendition of “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera. However, he’s bored by it. He thinks it’s too safe but Rachel convinces him to play things safe because if he goes to risky, she believes (and she legitimately believes this) that Kurt could be subconsciously sabotaging himself. When it comes time for him to have his audition, he switches back to his riskier song choice at the last minute (in his gold lamé pants under his costume) and wows over the scout from NYADA who applauds his bold song choice. When it’s Rachel’s time to perform (doing “Don’t Rain On My Parade” because as we’ve known since Season 1, she’s known it since she was 4), she chokes and the scout (Whoopi Goldberg) refuses to let her start over a second time. A devestated Rachel recedes into the woodworks and is heartbroken (and obviously completely devestated) by the episode’s end. We also find out that Bieste’s husband Cooter (I had actually forgotten they got married) has been beating her and although they make the girls in the New Directions go through a whole lesson about abuse against women, Bieste lies to Sue and the girls and returns to Cooter by the end of the episode. Puck’s dad also returns to town and despite actually studying for his Geography final, Puck fails the one exam he needs to pass in order to graduate from McKinley. Shit got real.

Here’s my take on the performances which were actually mostly all pretty excellent. I’ve seen “Music of the Night” live (not on Broadway but in Pantages theatre in Canada where it played for many years) in Phantom of the Opera, and while Chris Colfer might not be Michael Crawford (loved the joke they even made about it), I thought he nailed the song. I would have loved to actually hear a duet between him and Lea Michele with her as Christine. Puck did an alright job with “School’s Out.” It’s not an especially challenging song, and he did it justice even if I wasn’t wowed. While the teachers called the girls out for their version of “Cell Block Tango” as not meeting what they wanted from the assignment, I thought their choreography and deliver was still sexy as hell and now I want to watch Chicago all over again (so many showtunes this week. And I LOVED it). Chris Colfer gave one of his best performances of the series with “Not the Boy Next Door” from The Boy From Oz. He definitely made Hugh Jackman proud, and if Kurt doesn’t get into NYADA, I will really be shocked. While I wasn’t crazy about a punk rock version of “The Rain In Spain” from My Fair Lady (which I also want to watch again now), it was an interesting and inspired song choice. I thought the girls of the New Directions did a really haunting job with Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out” and the way it interespersed with the scenes of Bieste going back to Cooter were heartbreaking. It’s not one of my favorite Lea Michele performances but boy did she sing the hell out of Kelly Clarkson’s “Cry.” If there’s one thing that girl does well, it’s turn every single solo performance into a master class in how to add dramatic subtext to a vocal performance.

I’m going to keep this review short so this will be the sole recap of the story. The stuff about Bieste being abused by Cooter was some of the strongest material the show’s ever done. Especially the scene where Bieste breaks down and says she forgave him because she doesn’t think anyone else will ever love her. Dot Marie Jones owned that scene, and as someone who’s known women who have suffered from domestic abuse, I understand the “battered housewife” syndrome all too well. If Dot Marie Jones is wanting an Emmy nomination, this episode is her tape and she just tore my heart out. I would have never thought she could give that wonderful of a performance and the dynamic between her, Roz, and Sue was really well played. However, they also rushed the shit out of this story. This deserved so much more attention, and by putting it an episode with two other very big stories, it undersold how important an issue like this is. It belittled it by putting it on the same level as choking in a big performance or by not passing a test. Also, Sue kept making jokes like always and it just never seemed appropriate. Glee has always had mood problems, but they’ve never been as prominent as they have been this episode (which is a shame because all of the scenes [even the ones that should have had their own episode] were all great. They just didn’t connect well).

I just can’t do any more writing tonight. I could write a good 2000 word review of this episode (Game of Thrones) style, but I just want to actually do something besides write this evening. I haven’t played Xenoblade Chronicles in like a week, and I don’t want to somehow not end up beating that game after putting over 30 hours in to it. Anyways, there were a lot of great moments in this episode. It’s assauging my fears that Glee isn’t going to try and neatly wrap up every story of its graduating seniors (which it doesn’t have to now that they’re almost all coming back in one form or another. Still don’t have any fucking clue how that’s going to be feasible), and because Rachel choked (and didn’t resolve the problem by episode’s end), Glee proved it can still shock me in ways that don’t involve teacher’s sleeping with students or students trying to get babies taken away. There are now four episodes left in the season. Please, Glee, for the love of God, see us to the end in a satisfying manner.

Final Score: B+

Alright, Glee. That’s what I’m talking about. After a very disappointing return from the mid-season finale, you’re back at full-power with what was without question the best “tribute” episode of the entire series. I wish that it has not been four days since I watched this episode because some of the plot details have become sort of hazy in the buzzed state of mind I’ve been in thanks to my sinus pressure and allergy medication because the only other episodes from this season of Glee that I thought were as good as this one were “On My Way” and “The First Time.” So, while I’m going to have plenty of rave things to say about how much I enjoyed this episode (whether it was the uniformly beautiful musical performances, the actual storytelling on display during the “tribute” episode, or the numerous times the episode made me cry), this will likely be a relatively short review just because of the sheer amount of writing I have to get out of the way today. Regardless, I’m still managing to find myself amazed about how much I was able to enjoy an episode dedicated to Whitney Houston even though I wasn’t especially familiar with a lot of her music before I watched this episode.

Several of the students in the New Directi0ns are having trouble coping with the death of Whitney Houston despite the fact that it occurred over two months ago. Emma believes that the kids in the New Directions are equating the loss of Whitney with their own impending loss of their childhood as they graduate from high school (which is sadly coming so soon 😦  ) in a similar manner that Emma did with the death of Princess Diana. She suggests that Mr. Schue use their connection with Whitney Houston as an opportunity for them to get at the heart of any issues they need to work through before they all leave McKinley High. There were three stories at the heart of the episode. Kurt and Blaine are experiencing their first real relationship problems since they had sex for the first time. Kurt feels like Blaine is ignoring him and he begins to flirtatiously text another gay teen that he met at the music store. Blaine considers this cheating (it totally is) and it takes a heart-to-heart with Emma as a counselor for them to realize that they’re both struggling with the fact that in a couple months high school will be over and Blaine will have to stay at McKinley while Kurt goes off to college. The second story involved Joe and Quinn. Joe is helping Quinn go through her rehab and he’s realizing he’s attracted to her. She likes him as well, but Joe’s feelings are complicated because he doesn’t want to compromise his religious faith (i.e. have sex) which is ultimately good for Quinn because she doesn’t want to have another baby. The last story is about Emma and Will. Will wants to move the wedding up to May because he’s afraid that if the wedding is in the fall none of the kids in the New Directions who are graduating will be able to attend even though they’ve become like a family to him.

Let’s start with the musical numbers which were all good. That never happens on this show anymore. That used to only be the case back in Season 1. The opening number, “How Will I Know,” literally gave me chills. It was one of the classiest and most haunting performances of the series and it was the best way to open up the episode which let us know they wouldn’t be exploiting Whitney’s legacy. The a capella  arrangement and the almost gospel feel to it was just beautiful. Heather Morris might not have the best voice on the show but her version of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” gave her a chance to dance, and that’s always a ton of fun. She sounded good but obviously was nothing compared to Whitney’s voice. The duet between Samuel Larsen and Dianna Agron on “Saving All My Love for You” was almost as good as her duet of “Lucky” with Chord Overstreet last season. Plenty of simmering sexual tension and their voices sounded great. For one of the only Rachel/Santana duets, “So Emotional” was a knock-out punch. Naya Rivera and Lea Michele should have sung more songs together over the course of this series. There was a lot more chemistry between these two vocally than there was with either of them with Mercedes. Chris Colfer made me cry with his gorgeous rendition of “I Have Nothing.” He probably hasn’t had a better solo since “As If We Never Said Goodbye.” Boy can he sing! Darren Criss gave another very fun song for the week with “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay.” This was a serious step-up from his weak take on Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know.” The last song, “My Love Is Your Love” was good if not especially memorable but it’s always nice to see the whole group get in on a song in a non-competition episode.

Unlike other tribute episodes (especially “The Power of Madonna” or “Brittany/Britney”), there was an actual storyline in this episode that really continued to push so many of these characters down to their final moments as high schoolers on the show. Everyone in the cast is going in so many different directions. I have no idea how we’re going to bring them all back together on one show next season unless it’s like Game of Thrones and certain people just aren’t featured every episode. I haven’t made it much of a secret that Kurt’s my favorite character on the show, and I was surprised by just how much I was beginning to dislike him for the way he was treating Blaine by texting that other boy. However, it was all saved by a very touching scene with Mike O’Malley (who probably doesn’t have many appearances left as Burt Hummel) which totally made me cry. They have one of my favorite father/son relationships in the history of television. Also, the scene where Kurt and Blaine went to the counseling together also had me in tears. They’re such a great couple and I know their relationship isn’t going to survive Kurt leaving so I have to appreciate these last couple episodes they have together. My only complaint is that Darren Criss’ acting in those moments were absurdly wooden. He’s a great singer and dancer but he is not one of the better actors in the cast.

Part of me wants to write more but part of me also wants to not actually do any more writing today. So I’m just going to bring things to a close here. If this season still has 22 episodes like the past seasons, then there are five episodes left. For once, I don’t actually think their final competition will be the last episode. I’m guessing that Nationals will be the penultimate episode of the season with Graduation acting as the season closer. If you were a Vegas oddsmaker and you were trying to figure out what the odds are going to be that I will crying during the Graduation episode, don’t worry. It’s about 99%. I figure both my dad and I will need to have tissues nearby for the serious crying that will be going down when this group of kids that we’ve become pretty attached to over these last three years leaves. I’m curious which kids in the main cast that are graduating won’t be returning at all next season. I’m guessing we probably won’t see any more of Santana, Brittany, Mike, or Puck. Which is sad but the show has to make room for the new kids who will eventually fill the slots in the New Directions.

Final Score: A-

God damnit Glee. I realize that phrase isn’t the best way to start off a review (and the episode wasn’t so bad that it deserved it, the end was great), but to me, this was one of those episodes of Glee that managed to include the best and worst of the series all at once. Being a Glee fan is without question the most ridiculous experience in the world that doesn’t involve trying to understand how the mind of a woman works (which trust me, I’ve never been able to accomplish). There were nine freaking songs this episode along with a good 3o-40 minutes of plot that was mediocre at best. The episode saved itself with a truly wonderful end, but Glee needs to be tutored by a show that knows something about consistent production because honestly, this show is just a hot mess. Once again, I must reiterate that we’re nowhere near the lows that were the first half of Season 3, and Glee very rarely has episodes that are totally unmitigated disasters (unlike lets say half of season 2 of The Walking Dead), but after watching how Doctor Who was able to transform itself into a consistently excellent program in seasons 5 and 6 (as opposed to the earlier years which was very hit or miss), I know that Glee has the potential to be a great show, and it simply never lives up to its own talent.

The theme for this year’s Nationals is vintage (though they always say stupid shit like this in episodes and then eventually the competition has nothing to do with these ideas so I’m taking all of this with a grain of salt) and Mr. Schue and Sue want to inspire the Glee club by doing another week inspired by an album (like last year’s Rumours). Since Mr. Schue won Nationals back in the 80s with disco, they want the gang to learn through Saturday Night Fever. Mr. Schue is also concerned about the lack of direction and realistic inspiration he senses in Finn, Mercedes, and Santana and gives them each a lesson to determine what they want to do and how they want to achieve it (and obviously incorporate it in song). Mercedes decides she wants to be a singer and move to LA (while still going to school), Santana gets a full-ride in the cheerleading program at another college (thanks to Brittany’s rare smart moment), and Finn decides he wants to move to NYC with Rachel and be an actor. Mr. Schue really isn’t giving these kids much room if their dreams don’t work out. We also meet a kid from Carmelo High in Vocal Adrenaline (with Jesse St. James as their new coach) named Wade who is transgendered and damn can he freaking sing (but more on that later).

Since there were 9 freaking songs this week, I’m just going to talk about the ones I really enjoyed. Lea Michele was amazing as always with the Bee Gees “How Deep Is Your Love.” That’s my favorite Bee Gees song, and Lea Michele’s take on it was really interesting. Her voice is beautiful, and I thought she just knocked it out of the park. The real shocker (in terms of a ton of different things this week) is Corey Monteith who may be up for the “most improved in ridiculously drastic ways” award ever since Harry Shum Jr. went from his “Sing!” to “Cool” from West Side Story. His take on More Than a Woman was just superb. I should add a caveat here though. He deserves that praise if it was really him singing, and they also didn’t give him massive amounts of autotune. But if that was actually Corey Monteith, it was without question one of his best vocal performances of the series and it nearly left my jaw on the floor. Alex Newell from The Glee Project (who plays Wade from Vocal Adrenaline) however gave without question the best performance of the episode with “Boogie Shoes.” He’s a boy (that in the series identifies as a woman) but he can sing just as well as Mercedes. I was just stunned. It’s nice to know that even without Jesse (in a singing role) or Sunshine, Vocal Adrenaline is still going to be able to bring it at Nationals this year.

Almost nothing worthwhile happened in the first 40 minutes of the episode, and at times, it was turning into some afterschool special caricature of the things that I actually enjoy about Glee when it tries to be serious (it all reeked of inauthenticity), but then Finn had an emotional breakdown when confronted by Mr. Schue about his aimlessness and suddenly the episode corrected itself. This episode is definitely Corey Monteith’s best of the whole series. He was superb in that scene where he tells Mr. Schue about how lost he is and his complete lack of an ability to believe in his ability to accomplish anything meaningful. Corey Monteith is sort of the whipping boy/scapegoat of most of my problems with the show, but he stole the week and I salute him. Also, the scene with Brittany, Sue, and Santana in her office where they helped get Santana the scholarship was also very touching if only a little unrealistic (that’s like the second time this series where people have done someone else’s college applications for them which I’m pretty sure is fraud). I wasn’t crazy about the scenes with Sam and Mercedes though, but I will never get the Samcedes ship. It irritates me on a deep level.

I’m going to keep this one short because I still have to do my write-up for work of the Portugal. the Man concert I went to last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn (Rush meets the Flaming Lips on 4/20. You can bet your ass there were a ton of people lighting doobies at that show). Also, I still need to do my song of the day post for today (no idea what song I want to do yet), plus I should probably start doing the real write up of my interview with either Electric Guest or Our Lady Peace which we’ll be running soon at work. I have so much work writing to do that it really eats into my “For Don” writing. Oh well, I’m doing what I love. Next week’s episode of Glee is going to be a Whitney Houston tribute which I haven’t decided whether I think that’s super-tacky or just mildly annoying. We’ll see if it goes well. The song selection looks pretty tight, and I hope that they do it justice.

Final Score: B

After a nearly two month wait, Glee has finally returned. During this year’s Regionals episode, it would be polite to say that shit went down. Karofsky tried to kill himself after being outed as a homosexual, Rachel and Finn were on the verge of getting married, and Quinn was slammed into by a truck (while texting and driving) trying to make it to Finchel’s wedding. Cue an epic two month wait to find out how those last two stories were going to be resolved (and perhaps expecting some growth in the first one), and I have to say that the beginning of the end of the final season ofGlee was sort of a let down. They chose a cheap cop-out for Quinn’s fate and while the last scene of the episode finally began to drive a wedge in the Finchel nuptials, the quickly glossed over delay of Finn and Rachel’s wedding seemed to convenient and cheap. I also wasn’t crazy about 75% of the musical performances, and while there was nothing horrifically wrong with this episode (no teacher’s were sleeping with students), it simply felt like an overall week effort from a show that had begun to regain its momentum in the last half of its third season.

The episode begins with Rachel and Finn outside their locker wondering if they would have gone through with their wedding had Quinn not been in a car accident. They both assure each other that it would have happened but neither seems entirely sure. As they’re talking, Quinn rolls up in her wheelchair. She survived the accident, but she’s unable to move her legs (for now). Her doctors believe that with intense physical therapy, she should be able to walk eventually although Quinn has semi-unrealistic dreams of being on her feet by Nationals (if she’s walking again by Nationals, I may swear this show off for good. End rant.) She’s buddied up with Artie who is teaching her how to become independent in her chair and when the rest of the senior class goes off to a theme park on Senior Ditch Day, Artie and Quinn bond at the local handicapped park where kids are doing extreme sports in wheelchairs and with prosthetic limbs. The two fight though because Artie thinks Quinn is in denial about her condition (which it’s left unclear just how much she’s being truthful about) and Quinn suspects that Artie wants someone else like him around. To sum up the other minor storyline of the episode, Puck tries to convince Finn to go to L.A. with him to be a partner in his pool cleaning business. Finn finally realizes that maybe he doesn’t want to be Rachel’s arm candy in NY and the two have one of their first real fights in a long time as both are accepting that the other doesn’t necessarily want the same things out of life. Oh, I almost forgot, Joe Hart (The Glee Project’s Sam Larsen) has joined the New Directions.

The main story of the night (and the one that gives the episode its name) is the arrival of Blaine’s big brother, Cooper (Matt Bomer). Cooper is an aspiring actor who stars in a national commercial but somehow equates being in a cheesy commercial as being a good actor. He’s even better looking than Blaine (if a straight man can say that) with three times Blaine’s ego (which is impressive since I’ve always thought Darren Criss played Blaine as being slightly cocky). Blaine and Cooper have bad blood because Cooper has never given Blaine the support he’s needed in life and has instead been overly critical at everything Blaine does. When Cooper shows up to help teach the New Directions how to be stars (after he signed Sue’s breasts in the school hallway in one of the undeniably comic moments of the episode), the tension between Cooper and Blaine comes to a head when Cooper begins shaming Blaine in front of the entire choir while giving everyone terrible acting lessons. The two eventually patch their wounds (sort of) when Cooper tells Blaine that the only reason he’s pushed Blaine so hard was because he believed in Blaine’s great potential. There’s another story I left out involving Sue’s pregnancy where it appears there’s some sort of complication (I’m guessing the child will have Down’s because that’s a risk when having a baby at Sue’s age).

Long time readers know my Glee reviews (the review section anyways, not the recap part) all begin with me analyzing the song selection so here it goes. Kevin McHale and Dianna Agron performed Elton John’s “Still Standing” and… meh. Kevin McHale has one of the most under-rated voices on the show and he sang as well as he could, but the beginning moments (which were clearly occurring in the characters’ head rather than actually happening) just sort of made me uncomfortable with their High School Musical cheesiness. Also, I’m never going to love Dianna Agron’s voice. The mash-up of “Hungry Like the Wolf”/”Rio” was probably my favorite performance of the episode. It A) helped to emphasize the dynamic of Blaine and Cooper’s relationship with Cooper being a glory hog and B ) the two performed the hell out of the song. Darren Criss has a wonderful voice and Matt Bomer may have an even better one (but more on him outshining Darren Criss later). The choreography was a blast and it was just a genuinely fun moment in an episode that felt cheesy far too often. ” Giving credit to Darren Criss where credit is due, he knocked Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” out of the ballpark even though I don’t like her and I didn’t think I’d enjoy that song. Still, Darren Criss sort of made me love it. I don’t remember much of “Up Up Up” by the Givers as performed by Kevin McHale and Dianna Agron. Obviously, I wasn’t impressed. Here’s the number that has me the most torn. Darren Criss and Matt Bomer closed out the episode with a duet of Gotye and Kimbra’s smash hit “Somebody That I Used to Know.” It’s one of my favorite songs of the year. I don’t think Darren Criss’s voice was ready for it. He felt strained and forced almost the entire time. However, Matt Bomer was exceptional so it was a mixed bag.

As for the episode’s plotting, once again, it was a bit of a mixed bag. I was finally happy that Finn realized he didn’t have to be Rachel’s lap dog but either he’s a complete moron (which to be fair, he pretty much is) or it took him way too long to come to this conclusion. The scenes that were just between Quinn and Artie were surprisingly good (the cheesy musical number aside) as you could tell that Artie doesn’t really want Quinn to get better, and they both did great jobs carrying the emotional weight of their scenes. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to like Quinn after the way she acted at the beginning of this season, but it’s nice to see Artie finally have something meaningful to do again this season. He’s the cast’s unsung hero. The stuff about Sue’s baby is undecided for me at the moment because I’m going to wait to see what path they take it down (although Becky’s line about Sue lactating was comedy gold). I never really found myself involved in the Blaine and Cooper stories. Perhaps Matt Bomer was just too good at making Cooper to be a douche, but I could never figure out why Blaine would want this jerk’s approval in the first place (I also just don’t relate to family stories very well unless they involve father/son relationships). It’s a shame because I’m pretty sure this is the first Blaine-centric storyline of the entire series that didn’t involve Kurt in some way whatsoever. Blaine is going to be left behind at McKinley when Kurt graduates at the end of the season so they’d better start developing him more since he’s going to be the series new male lead.

I probably could go on at length about other things (mainly how the show didn’t address Karofsky whatsoever), but I want to eat/watch the 2011 Christmas special of Doctor Who so that I can officially be 100% caught up with the show. It was starting to feel like I would never be able to utter that last sentence. I have no idea where the rest of this season is going. Glee has just been renewed for its fourth season and most of the main cast (even the recurring characters) have been confirmed as returning in some form or another, and I have no idea how they’re going to pull that off without the show becoming some massive jumbled mess. We’ll see though. Nationals is finally coming up and we’ll soon be seeing the return of Jesse St. James (the talented Jonathan Groff) which has me excited, but until then, I’m left basically clueless on where Glee goes from here.

Final Score: B-

SPOILER ALERTS. SERIOUSLY. SEASON RUINING SPOILERS AHOY

Holy fuck. I feel like there isn’t a more appropriate way to begin my review of the shocking mid-season finale of Glee. I apologize for the profanity, but if you’ve seen the episode, you can at least see where I’m coming from. Because the gods of scheduling hate me, I was unable to watch “On My Way” when it aired last night because I was covering a Frankie Rose concert for work (which you can read about here) which was pretty disappointing (except for the awesome openers) so I was doubly pissed that I had to miss Glee. At the show, I kept receiving texts from my sister telling me how amazing the episode was and an expletive ridden text after its final shocking twist so to say that I was on the receiving end of a torturous wait to get home from work today so I could finally watch the episode would be an understatement. The interwebs were ablaze with talk about the episode, and I had to go out of my way to avoid any and all spoilers (and since part of my job involves me scouring the internet for music related news, it was very difficult). Thankfully the wait was worthwhile because last night’s Glee was easily one of the three best of the entire series if not the very best period. It was, without a doubt, the most emotionally intense hour of Glee I’ve ever sat through and one of the most courageous and brave stories that network TV has dared to tell.

After he was spotted at Breadstix with Kurt in last week’s episode, Karofsky has been unceremoniously outed at his new high school and walks into the locker room to see the word “fag” spray painted over his locker. It’s even worse after he rushes out in shock from the locker room because he is now a victim of the same kind of hateful and vicious bullying he put Kurt through all over the internet. After hearing one hateful message after another via cyberbullying, Karofsky decides to kill himself though his attempt (by hanging) thankfully fails. Karofsky’s suicide attempt creates major waves back at McKinley, among both the student body and the faculty (even a ridiculously docile Sue who is now pregnant and being kind to everyone), as everyone wonders what more they could have done to stop this from happening. Karofsky’s suicide attempt even tempers the uber-villain Sebastian as he feels guilty for mean comments he had made to Karofsky in the past, and it inspired him to make peace with the New Directions and to help organize a fund-raiser for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” charity. After Mr. Schue has a talk with the kids about never letting something in their life get them so far down that they would consider taking their own life (because in a characteristically cheesy Mr. Schue moment, he talked about being suicidal after being caught cheating on a test), Rachel and Finn decide to grab life by the balls and get married right after Regionals.

I’ll cover the individual performances of Regionals in a bit, but needless to say, McKinley won. Had the Warblers won and ended the New Directions’ chances right then and there, that would have been ballsier to me than the big twist at the end of the episode. After the competition, Kurt went to visit Karofsky at the hospital. Kurt was still feeling guilty for rejecting Karofsky (as well as not returning his phone calls),  but Karofsky apologized to Kurt yet again for all of the hell he put him through and how strong Kurt was to deal with what Karofsky did when Karofsky couldn’t take similar treatment for even a day. Kurt agrees to help Karofsky through all of this and makes an offer to be his friend which Karofsky warmly accepts. Quinn has been re-accepted to the Cheerios by this newly nice Sue, but when she is on her way to her house to pick up her bridesmaid dress for Rachel and Finn’s wedding, she is distracted by text messages and gets nailed by a fast moving car. The episode ends and we have to wait til April 10th to find out if she’s dead or alive. Are you fucking kidding me?

This is going to be a long review. You’ve been warned. Darren Criss started out the episode with “Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant. While I can’t make up my mind on whether or not it was a completely asinine idea to stylistically cut this performance back and forth with footage of Karofsky’s decision to kill himself, it remains one of Blaine’s most impressive performances of the season and arguably one of the most haunting moments of the series. It will be with me for a long time. Darren Criss sang the hell out of the song, and there’s going to be a whole paragraph about Max Adlers’ performance later and why he need’s a special guest star nomination at the next Emmy awards. The Warblers were in my complete and honest opinion better this year than the New Directions who I’m hoping are giving their one mediocre competition performance of the year. Whether it was Grant Gustin’s silky smooth delivery of “Stand” by Lenny Kravitz as well as on “Glad You Came” by the Wanted or the excellent choreography of the entire Warblers crew, they just seemed more put together and cohesive than the New Directions who almost invariably become a one person show. The New Directions had three songs but only one of them worked for me. I simply didn’t care for their mash-up of Nicki Minaj’s “Fly” with R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” or Rachel singing solo on “Here’s to Us” by Halestorm (I write about music and have no idea who this is). However, the Troubletones surprisingly brought it covering Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”.

Let’s take the twist at the end out of the equation for a second (because I feel like it’s very contrived and distracts from the main theme of the episode which is choosing life) and praise Glee yet again for being the only show on American network TV that is willing to tackle issues like gay teen suicide, homophobia and gay-motivated bullying. I have known so many kids over the years that have struggled with the issue of sexual identity in our close-minded and intolerant society, and the recent spurt of gay teen suicides that are tearing apart so many households in this country is finally drawing attention to the issue, although it still often seems like the road to a society where gay kids can live openly and without fear is impossibly far down the road. Ever since it turned out that Dave was actually gay, he quickly became one of the most interesting characters on the show. Max Adler played him so well, and if ever TV  has had a perfect representation of the confused, gay jock, it’s Karofsky, and I’ve been calling a Dave suicide attempt since last season (I thought it was going to happen after prom). The writing during the lead-up to his attempt was simply phenomenal. It was almost too painful and honest and raw to watch. I was sitting there crying and yelling at my TV for Dave not to do it (I thought he was really going to die). Then, they topped it off with the most heartfelt and sweet scene between him and Kurt. If you can watch this series and still be a homophobe and think gay kids deserve treatment like that, then you can kindly go fuck yourself and stop reading my blog. I don’t want your traffic.

I hope that Max Adler returns to a more consistent spot in the main cast after his powerhouse performance last night. There was such a raw power to those moments right before he hung himself. Like I said in the last paragraph, it simply felt so real that I could barely stand to watch it. Max Adler is responsible for much of the strength of those moments. When he wound up in that locker room, you knew things were going to be bad, but watching him go from shock, to tears, to doomed resignation was such powerful television. Virtually every single second that he was on screen this episode had me in streams of inconsolable tears and the quick shots of his father (Daniel Roebuck) trying to resuscitate his son were among the most difficult to watch. The whole notion of what needs to be done to help young homosexuals in this country realize that they aren’t alone and that we as a society love them and care about them (rather than be like Rick Santorum and want to get rid of them all) is a very important issue for me, and Max Adler and Chris Colfer (as well asGlee’s writing team) need recognized for the courageous battle they’re waging against homophobia.

I have plenty of other things to say about the episode. I could talk about how I still hate the idea that Finn and Rachel are getting married (and how it could possibly cause the death of Quinn!) or how it seemed ridiculously sudden that Sebastian became a good guy because he felt guilty for bullying Karofsky (though he had no remorse for blinding Blaine) or how any respect I had for Mr. Schue at the beginning of the show is gone because the writing for his character has gotten so unbelievably terrible over the years or how the show can’t seem to consistently pick good competition numbers for the New Directions, but I really need to watch last night’s Justified as well which I also had to miss for that awful Frankie Rose concert. I hate how angry it makes me when I think about homophobia. Like, I preach a message of love and peace and understanding but then the ignorance and hate in other people’s hearts just tears me up inside and drives me crazy. I could opine on all of these topics but I’ll spare you reading any more of my inane ramblings and simply say that “On My Way” was easily one of the best episodes of the series and it gives me hope that with enough work, Glee can remain on the right track.

Final Score: A

Alright, Glee. You’re back on the right track. Last week’s episode wasn’t bad, but it wasnt’ as goodas  “Yes/No” or the excellent “Michael.” Well, we still haven’t captured the magic of “Michael” again yet, but this year’s Valentine’s Day themed episode was a fun reminder of why I love Glee where three new characters were introduced, one old friend made a return, and in addition to generally strong performances, we got one knock-out solo from Amber Riley that rivals the best numbers of the whole series. I may not have had the most exciting Valentine’s Day in real life, but returning to all of my friends at McKinley High made it a little better. While I’m still not happy with the fact that the story is continuing to go down this Finn/Rachel getting married route, that still makes for more compelling (and less hair-wrenching) drama than the shit that was happening earlier in the season. Next week is Regionals (seems like it’s happening much earlier in the season than last year), and we are seriously entering crunch time on this season which has the potential to be one of the most important of the series as we say our farewell to several characters.

(I apologize in advance for any haziness in this review. I watched the episode Tuesday and I’ve been sort of busy since then) The episode began with Rachel and Finn getting notes telling to meet in the school’s auditorium (paid for by a Miss April Rhodes that we haven’t seen in far too long). It turns out the notes were from Rachel’s gay fathers, Hiram (a hilarious Jeff Goldblum) and Leroy (Broadway’s Brian Stokes Mitchell) who had been informed (as it turned out, by Kurt) that Rachel and Finn were planning on getting married and they gave their approval. Their only request was that Rachel and Finn tell everyone else (since if they honestly believe in their decision, they should be proud of it) and they invited Carol and Burt over for dinner so they could be told as well. It turned out that Hiram and Leroy’s (and Finn’s parents’) plan was to force Rachel and Finn to live together for a night so they’d learn how hard it is being in a couple but it backfired when Rachel and Finn’s first post-engagement fight (over Rachel not wanting Finn to have a BM in her bathroom) cleared up pretty quickly

That may have been the main story of the episode but this is Glee which means there were around 4 or 5 other stories going on as well. We met a new kid at McKinley, Joe Hart (The Glee Project co-winner Samuel Larsen), a dreadlocked but super-religious kid, who was part of the school’s religious club with Mercedes, Sam, and Quinn. They sang Valentine love songs to raise money in the episode and eventually decided that there would be nothing wrong with them singing a love song to Brittany from Santana (cue crazy angry Christians). Speaking of Mercedes and Sam, she felt guilty about kissing Sam last week and told Shane (who cried!) and they broke up but now she feels too guilty to be with Sam (am I the only one who doesn’t care about this ship at all). Sugar (well her father) paid for the New Directions costs for regionals and also threw a massive Valentine’s day party at Breadstix. Artie and Rory spent the entire episode trying to one up each other in the romance department to impress Sugar and to be her date to the party. Eventually, Rory’s story about being deported back to Ireland at the end of the year pulled at Sugar’s heart strings enough that she chose him, but the series also gave slight hints that he might have been lying. Kurt kept getting notes from a secret admirer that he assumed was the AWOL Blaine. It turned out to be Karofsky who declared his love for Kurt, but of course, Kurt turned him down because… Darren Criss. Come on!

We had some really great performances this week. Mike and Tina sang “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole, and Harry Shum Jr. shows us yet again how much his voice has grown over the course of the series. Also, it was just nice for Jenna Ushkowitz to have a chance to contribute to the show at all. It’s a problem when one of the original members of the club gets less screen time than the incredibly grating Sugar. Kevin McHale knocked out Mario’s “Let Me Love You.” He’s consistently had one of the most under-appreciated voices on the program and that was just a great soulful rendition. We got to hear Samuel Larsen sing for the first time on Gym Class Heroes “Stereo Hearts” and he was great as well. I hope he joins the New Directions as well. He’s just a sophomore. They’ll need him next year. There are way too many great male singers at that high school. Damian McGinty performed Michael Buble’s “Home.” He sounded as good as he always does, but they should consider letting him sing a happy song every now and then. His character is just starting to make me sad these days.

In a crazy and eerie coincidence (the episode was finished before Whitney Houston had died), Amber Riley simply brought the house down with “I Will Always Love You.” I’m not prepared to say it was better than “Try a Little Tenderness” or “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” yet, but repeated listens may change my mind. Perhaps partially because of what happened this weekend, Amber Riley’s stunning performance gave me chills. Jeff Goldblum (who can’t carry a tune at all), Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Lea Michele sang “You’re the Top” fromAnything Goes which wasn’t supposed to be a show-stopper but a cute vision of this family (that explains so much about Rachel’s personality). Quinn and the rest of the “God Squad” (Mercedes, Joe, and Sam) performed a mash-up of two songs called “Cherish”, one by Madonna and one by the Association. Blaine returned momentarily to end the episode with a really fun version of B-52’s “Love Shack” and Kurt nailed the sillier spoken word parts of the songs with his intentional campiness.

I would love to devote some time to the actual writing of the episode, but I still have to review Tuesday’s episode of Justified as well as The Goodbye Girl which I watched last night with my roommate’s friend (loved it!). So, I’m going to try and not exhaust the writer in me and bring this already long-winded review of Glee to a close. This was a move back to the kind of Glee that I can actually allow myself to enjoy and not have to wonder why the hell I still watch this show. I don’t think the show’s “jumped the shark” yet (though it came close at times last season). Glee may not always be this pleasurable to watch (actually that Tuesday’s New Girl was so much better. I love that show if you aren’t watching it yet), but I know I’m here for the long haul. I’m a committed gleek and it would take a pretty catastrophic series of events for me to give up on her now.

Final Score: B+

Glee… this wasn’t a full on free-fall into abysmal storytelling territory (because certain moments of the episode rang incredibly true), but you’re backsliding a little bit from the highs of “Michael“. None of the students have started having sex with Sue or Mr. Schuester and no one is trying to get anybody’s baby taken away, so we’re definitely not in crisis mode. But this is how it begins. I’m going to partially put this off to the episode mostly being filler material as no potentially show-damaging story arcs were introduced. It just seemed light (except for some of the more stand-out scenes) and didn’t contribute enough to the story arcs of characters who will shortly be leaving the series. Ricky Martin’s appearance didn’t add much to the program, and it seems to recall the stunt casting that plagued much of Season 2. Maybe I’m simply being too hard on the episode after I enjoyed “Michael” so much, but this wasn’t one of Glee‘s best weeks. It certainly wasn’t anywhere near one of its worst though.

Apparently the writers on Glee finally realized what every single fan of the show who speaks even an inkling of Spanish has known since the pilot which is that Will, despite being the school’s Spanish teacher, can barely speak a word of the language. When a tenured teaching position opens up at the school, Will is competing against Sue for the post and decides to brush up on his Spanish when a student anonymously (later revealed to be Santana because of Will’s unintentionally offensive teaching style) complains about his teaching. He attends a night school Spanish course taught by David Martinez (Ricky Martin), a former tooth model who now wants to teach for a living. When Will invites David to the school to get his students excited about Spanish, he realizes just how inauthentic his ideas about teaching Spanish are (which often involve outrageous matador costumes) and decides to become the school’s new history teacher and lets Martinez teach Spanish instead. Emma ends up getting the tenure position when her pamphlet (oh were her pamphlets hilarious last night) about cleaning out your jock strap get picked up by schools around the nation. There were also subplots involving Sue wanting to become a mother (and requesting sperm from not just the New Directions boys but also Mr. Schue himself) and Rachel and Finn being confronted by their friends about their proposal. There was an especially well-written scene between Kurt and Finn where Kurt accuses Finn’s proposal of being a way for Finn to throw in the towel of having a life of his own. Also, there was some Samcedes stuff but I just can’t buy that couple at all.

Even though the writing was sort of “meh” this episode, we did get some good musical numbers. The first song though was a disaster. “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO was a terrible choice for Ricky Martin’s first track on the show and it really just didn’t work well. He barely had a chance to sing. He was just sort of rapping and it all seemed terribly cheesy. Mercedes  hit a home run with “Don’t Wanna Lose You” by Gloria Estefan. She has a gorgeous voice and she’s gotten much better at controlling it in more low-key numbers as the series has progressed. Chord Overstreet did a mash-up of “Bamboleo” by Gipsy Kings and “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias. Take the ridiculous shoes out of the equation and we get to hear how Sam is back to being the best male singer in the group now that Blaine is on the injured reserve (cause Darren Criss is on Broadway). Naya and Rivera rocked out with Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita.” Naya Rivera has really become one of the most valuable assets in the cast, and I’m very glad they’ve found some way to incorporate her into Season 4. I loved the little like Selena thing she had going on with her hair for the number. Will’s Latin version of “A Little Less Conversation” was fine vocally, but when you added in his awful matador suit and Mike and Brittany as bulls, it was completely horrible as a total package (though it was meant to be so).

I could probably spend some more time examining my feelings about the writing of the episode but I also have to review last night’s Justified (which was much better), so I’ll draw this to a close. We get to meet Rachel’s two gay fathers next week (I’m a friend of the gays so I don’t think it’s at all homophobic to say that has always explained so much about her), and one of them is Jeff Goldblum! That should be a real treat. Plus, at some point Kurt is singing “Love Shack” which should be fun. All in all, this is one of those forgettable episodes of Glee. It didn’t have any massive glaring flaws; it just didn’t have much going for it either (except for the scenes with Kurt and Finn). We’ll see if the show can find itself again next week.

Final Score: B