Tag Archive: Chris Colfer


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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)

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

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-

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

I swear to god, Glee if you are teasing me, it may permanently ruin my relationship with this show. The first half of season 3 of Glee was, to put it lightly, problematic. Characters were acting in absolutely insane ways, stories that no one in the fandom enjoyed were lasting way too long, and the show was just starting to not feel like the Glee we knew and loved anymore. The mid-season premiere was a strong (if not amazing) return to form for the series as every character seemed to be operating in the frame of reference of how these characters have been behaving all series rather than just during their manic detours. Well, it’s the time of year again for the show’s “tribute” episode, and without a doubt, this was the best tribute episode of the series because it managed to tell several vastly important tales that contributed to the season long arcs of the show (unlike say “The Power of Madonna”) and it was actually a good episode with awesome performances (unlike “Brittany/Britney”). All in all, “Michael” was a resounding success and maybe Glee has finally found its footing again.

After the New Directions decide to do Michael Jackson numbers at Regionals (after kicking so much ass with Jackson family songs at Sectionals), there plans are ruined when Blaine accidentally lets slip to Sebastian the New Directions plans and the Warblers decide to do MJ tracks (since they’ll be performing first and they want to steal the New Directions’ thunder). The New Directions decide to challenge the Warblers to a sing/dance-off in a parking garage that takes a turn for the worse when Sebastian splashes a slushy in Blaine’s face filled with rock salt. While the gang initially wants to return violence with violence, cooler heads prevail and instead Santana tricks Sebastian into admitting what he did with a hidden tape. For whatever reason (that I’m literally unable to comprehend), the New Directions decide not to release this information of felonious assault to the police and instead just use it to show the Warblers (who are mostly good people) just what kind of man Sebastian really is. Since Sue has taken such a minor role this season (especially after losing her election to Congress), Sebastian seems to be the new villain in town, and even Jessie St. James wouldn’t have stooped so low as to hurt one of the New Directions.

That may (with the exception of the Sebastian stuff) seem very self-contained but it was the episodes various subplots that tied it all together with the season’s biggest stories. After Finn proposed to Rachel last week, Rachel needed time to think about it (which Finn gives her because even if he’s dumb, he’s a nice guy). When Rachel consults Quinn, we discover that Quinn has been accepted to Yale and Quinn gives Rachel some cold, hard truths that if she ever wants to achieve everything she’s wanted in life, she’s going to have to break up with Finn. It looks like that’s Rachel’s plan when suddenly Burt Hummel arrives at McKinley with Kurt’s NYADA acceptance letter. Kurt’s a finalist (that scene with Burt reminds me why Burt is my second favorite TV dad of all time behind Phil Dunphy), and when Rachel finds out, she can’t be happy for her friend because she now believes this means she didn’t get in. In her grief (and this is truly what I believe caused this decision) and insecurity about her future in life, Rachel accepts Finn’s proposal (after a genuinely romantic duet). Trouble looms though because the very next day Rachel gets her very own letter from NYADA and this can only spell trouble for Finchel.

Time to grade the musical performances. For the first time in a while, Blaine got a legitimate solo with “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and it was like being reminded of why we all fell in love with him in the first place. He’s got the voice and the moves to pull off this iconic number, and Darren Criss was just awesome as usual. The choreography and the singing for their rendition of “Bad” was fun, but that whole scene of them having a West Side Story dance-off in the parking garage was just a little too ridiculous for me to take. We got to see Kevin McHale dance this week! Artie and Mike Chang took on the Michael/Janet duet “Scream” and it was awesome. Kevin McHale can dance nearly as well as Harry Shum Jr., and it’s really a shame his character is in a wheel chair. Diana Agron sounded beautiful on the Jackson 5 number “Never Can Say Goodbye.” She doesn’t get many solos and her character was Queen Bitch for most of the season, but she sounded fantastic last night. Mercedes and Sam had their first duet with “Human Nature”, and now I can’t wait for the chance to hear them singing together some more. I couldn’t get into the performance of “Ben” because A)it’s about a mouse and B) it was just so boring and stale compared to everything else from the episode. The best performance of the night (and almost of the season) was Santana and Sebastian with “Smooth Criminal.” This was the season that Naya Rivera truly came into her own, and the performance was just on fire. Also, the cellists playing during the number almost stole the whole show as well. It was just phenomenal. Lea Michele and Corey Monteith sang a wonderfully romantic version of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” that helped sell me on their love story a little more than in the past. The episode ended with a show-stopping rendition of “Black or White” that managed to incorporate the face-morphing tech from the actual video and it was all very cool and well done.

There were plenty of laughs this episode and Glee struck that perfect balance between comedy and drama that it rarely seems to nail. Whether it was Santana comparing the different reactions between taping a hidden mic to her “underboob” and what would have happened if Kurt had taped it under his junk was a laugh riot (really Naya Rivera has become an all around talent for the show). Matthew Morrison was able to make lines about slushie injuries with a completely straight face (which I would have been physically incapable of doing). Naya Rivera’s line about the “Bitch Town Express” was also great. Yet, the episode also managed to effect me emotionally. I nearly cried after Kurt got accepted as a finalist for NYADA (thanks to Mike O’Malley’s performance) and when Rachel accepted Finn’s proposal, it was very, very obvious why she was doing it thanks to Lea Michele’s nuanced and powerful performance.

Glee is a lot like True Blood and The Walking Dead. It can build up a narrative head of steam, but it seems almost inevitable that it will shoot itself in the foot at some point. I’m getting into a groove with the writing, acting, and song selections for now, and I just want Glee to keep things up. I don’t want any Sugar Motta, Shelby sleeping with students, or splinter show choirs cropping. Our time with these characters who have come to mean so much to me over these years is starting to come to an end, and I just don’t really know how the show is going to survive once they leave (though it’s rumored they’ll be back in some capacity in the future). The show just needs to stick to basics and be the Glee we fell in love with until it clears this senior year stretch. That’s all I’m asking Ryan Murphy.

Final Score: A-

So after a lengthy hiatus (where my not so secret desire for musical theater was going unfulfilled), Glee has finally returned. While I’m reviewing this several days late, I’ve spent enough time on previous posts explaining why I’ve been especially busy this week in a way that finally has nothing to do with Star Wars: The Old Republic. The first half of the third season of  Glee was a distressingly uneven affair with some of the highest moments of the series (“The First Time”, Mike Chang’s portion of “Asian F”, and Jackson family medley during “Hold on to Sixteen”) alongside several of the worst over-arching plots in the series’ history (Shelby and Puck, Quinn trying to take away Beth, the Troubletones fiasco). Season 1 had weak episodes but there were rarely moments when a poorly written story was able to drag the entire series down (mainly because no story lasted more than a couple episodes back in Season 1), and Season 2 introduced longer-lasting stories but they were almost all good (the Nationals disaster excepted). If the mid-season return is any indication, Glee may not be at the top of its game, but it’s managed to leave the trouble from last fall behind us, and there’s not much more a gleek can ask for.

The episode begins with an immediate callback to the musical Grease (a personal favorite from my youth that hasn’t necessarily aged well with me) as Sam and Mercedes reminisce on their summer romance and that eventually segues into Sam’s early attempts to win back the heart of Mercedes who is still dating Shane, the brick wall of a linebacker. In order to impress Mercedes, Sam tries to rejoin basketball, but it is full and he’s forced to join synchronized swimming to try and receive his letterman jacket. Mercedes ultimately realizes she still has feelings for Sam though the episode gives no real closure as to whether they’ll get back together. The main plots of the episode though involve Will trying to propose to Emma and Finn learning some unwanted truths about his father. Will spends much of the episode trying to figure out the perfect way to propose, and ultimately settles on an elaborate synchronized swimming number (which is much cooler than it sounds) and Emma says yes. Finn finds out that his father didn’t really die in Iraq. He was dishonorably discharged from the military, and when he came back, he developed a drug problem and died of an overdose. Finn battles with this new image of the father he previously idolized. At the end of the episode, Finn realizes the only bright spot in his life is Rachel and he (stupidly in my opinion) proposes marriage to her but the episode ends before we hear her answer. There’s also a story about Artie going on a couple of dates with Becky but it has little overall season importance.

Let’s get to the musical numbers which I was not as crazy about as everyone else in the fandom (especially Rachel’s supposedly show-stopping number). Grease is one of my favorite musicals for mostly sentimental reasons, and while I’m not normally a fan of those moments when the numbers aren’t realistically occurring within the context of the show, Chord Overstreet and Amber Riley did a great job with a classic tune, and seeing all of the choreography from the musical was a guilty pleasure. It was nice to hear Emma sing again for the first time since Rocky Horror, and while she sounded fine on “Wedding Bell Blues”, the ridiculous costumes were a little over-the-top even by Glee standards. “Moves Like Jagger”/”Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was a great excuse to see Mike dance while Artie sang like last season’s rendition of “P.Y.T.” but I’m not crazy about Maroon 5, and this is one of their more annoying tracks of the last couple years. The girls did a beautiful job of singing Roberta Flack’s “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”, and it never ceases to impress me how much Santana’s voice has improved over the years. Lea Michele sanga a slowed down version of David Guetta’s “Without You” which quickly shot to #1 on iTunes the day after the episode aired. It was good but I can name at least ten Rachel performances that I’ve preferred. The big number that Will uses to propose to Emma was Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” I wasn’t crazy about the song but the choreography was ridiculously fun and the number had me choked up by the end.

For the first time in ages, there weren’t any stories in this episode that made me want to bang my head off the wall because they were so terrible. On that same note though, nothing about the episode seemed particularly memorable. The big twist about Finn’s father seems sort of forced and ridiculously unexpected (that’s not a compliment), but Cory Monteith and the actress that plays Carol really made it work. It’s the first time in ages that Finn has had more weighty material to work with, and he reminded me that even though he’s not an excellent singer, Cory Monteith is still a decent actor. I’m glad that the show has decided to stop the “will they or won’t they” antics with Emma and Will. Emma’s increasing descent into crazy town was one of the weakest aspects of Season 2 as her OCD went from being cute and adorable to more annoying. Their initial flirtations were a high point of season 1, and its good to know that all of the emotional investments in their relationships over the year will pay off. I wasn’t shocked by the Finn proposal and I hate that they’re taking Finchel down the same path as countless other high school couples like Corey and Topanga or Eric and Donna. We’ll see how they handle it.

I could write more about how Sue’s scenes with Becky made me cry (because any time that Sue is in serious mode and kind she makes me cry) but I’m ready to draw this review to a close. Next week is the two hour Michael Jackson tribute episode and obviously I can’t wait to see it. Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, and Glee has a pretty exceptional record on covering MJ (and other Jackson family) songs. I hope that Rachel says no to Finn’s proposal because I really can’t stand the thought of Rachel throwing away her dreams to marry her high school sweet heart. Also, there wasn’t nearly enough Kurt in this episode. He had something like one line the entire time. As I understand it, Blaine may be leaving the cast soon for a while so that Darren Criss can perform in Broadway’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I’m obviously going to miss his presence during his hiatus. All told, this episode gave me hope that the second half of this season can avoid the potholes of the first half because I want to love Glee. Sometimes, it just makes itself unloveable.

Final Score: B+

Call me the Grinch, but I’m not a fan of holiday specials. Outside of Doctor Who (which begins each season with a Christmas special), holiday specials almost universally seem like awkward fits into a season and more often than not, they bring any season long stories to a grinding halt. On Glee, last season’s Christmas episode was one of the worst episodes of the series (only bested in the bad department by “New York,” “Rocky Horror Glee Show,” and “Mash Off”). It had exactly one good (admittedly fantastic) moment which was Kurt and Blaine’s unprecedented and show-stealing duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, and the rest of it ranged from forgettable (a Wham! cover) to absolutely miserable (Brittany still believing in Santa, Sue dressing up Becky as a reindeer, 90% of the musical numbers). When I found out that Glee was doing another Christmas episode, I wasn’t surprised. I worked at a record store and I remember how many of the Glee christmas CD’s we sold last year, and I figure Glee has put up similar numbers again this year. While, on the whole, the musical performances this year’s Christmas special were a considerable improvement from last year (the awful original number and Band Aid cover excepted) and the scenes where they parody the Christmas specials of the past are hilarious, this episode didn’t do much to convince me that Glee wouldn’t have been better off by just continuing the main story of the Troubletones returning to the New Directions and the mysterious absence of Idina Menzel and Sugar Motta (not that I’m complaining about the latter) from the entire episode.

The only connection this episode has to any of the events of the season is the return of the Troubletones and Sam as well as the presence of Rory along with a throw away line by Sue referencing her failed Congressional campaign. Rachel is back to her diva antics after a mostly diva free season (or at least relative to the Troubletones). She provides Finn with a list of 15 expensive Christmas gifts and expects him to buy her 5 which he obviously can’t afford. Also, Kurt, Artie, and Blaine agree to help Sue out at the homeless shelter (this is the first appearance of human Sue all season as this is her first Christmas without Jean and she’s obviously having trouble dealing with it) on Christmas Eve. However, Mr. Schue arrives at the choir room letting the Glee kids know that they’ve been booked to put on a Christmas special at the local PBS station. Artie is directing and he wants it to be an effervescent and cheery throwback to the black and white Christmas specials of the past (as well as with nods to the unbelievably atrocious Star Wars Christmas Special. I wish I had the link for the xkcd comic strip about how bad that special is). Rory is homesick for Ireland, and he is taken under his wing by the equally lonely Sam, and it is Rory’s moral guidance that makes the Glee kids realize they should help out with the homeless shelter gig after all. Also at the end, Rachel realizes the error of her material ways and she and Finn use the money they had spent for Christmas for Charity and help Sam and Rory ring the Salvation Army bells.

There were nine songs this episode (I was exhausted by the Christmas spirit by the end and not in a good way), and I’m really not in the mood to analyze all of them. So, here are the highlights. Once again, Kurt and Blaine stole the Christmas show with their fun and up-tempo cover of Frank Sinatra’s version of “Let It Snow.” Those two almost always sound fantastic together and this song was no exception. However, perhaps my favorite number of the evening was Damian McGinty’s heartbreaking and mournful rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas.” Damian continues to be an under-utilized presence in the cast as his voice is simply angelic and he has a much more impressive vocal range than any of the other guys in the cast. Rory may not be the most memorable character yet as his schtick consists of being Irish and lonely (and possibly bisexual. Am I the only person who gets that vibe from him. Especially in that last scene with Sam), but Damian is a talented kid and if they give him time to grow, it should be interesting to see where this character goes (providing they keep him past his original 7 episode contract). The only other really memorable performance for me was “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Rachel did her best Julie Andrews impersonation and it was fun. The other songs weren’t bad (Mercedes did a good job covering Mariah Carey); I just really don’t enjoy Christmas music at all. I know; I’m a terrible human being.

I’m tired and I really don’t want to do another one of my 2000 word Glee reviews. So, I’m drawing things to a close early. The black and white segments were an absolute hoot. They were so intentionally bad and over-acted (and the line about Kurt and Blaine being “best friends” and “holiday roommates” had me in stitches) that you couldn’t help but find yourself enjoying it. The rest of it was the sort of mediocrity that happens during 75% of the Christmas specials I’ve ever watched. At the end of the day, this wasn’t a bad episode, and it wasn’t an especially good episode either. It was just what Glee is like when there’s no great stories or terrible stories (which is not normally the case for the show which will showcase one spectacular story an episode and then about three or four awful ones for good measure). I can’t wait until the second half of the season finally begins. We’re nearing the end of the time I’m going to get to spend with these kids, and the members of the New Directions have become a pretty big part of my life these last two years (I started watching Glee after the first season ended). Knowing that they’ll be gone soon is pretty sad and it will be akin to the sensation when people finally left the cast of Friday Night Lights (except Glee will never be close to being that good).

Final Score: B