Tag Archive: Darren Criss


Long time readers know that I am not so closeted Gleek. The new season premiered Thursday but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until today. It was really good and gives me hope that maybe Glee has finally learned from the sins of its past two seasons and is returning to the show we all fell in love with in the first place. It’s also really making me regret my decision to stop reviewing TV because now I just want to rave about how much I love the new girl Marley or how great it was to have a whole episode of Glee without Finn in it. Alas, I just don’t do TV anymore. I don’t remotely have the time. Anywho, I forgot my jacket at work tonight. It has my iPod in it, so instead of being able to listen to my iPod on my drive home (which generally consists of a playlist of my Songs of the Day), I actually had to put a real CD in. I put in my Warblers Glee CD since it’s easily the best out of all of the glee soundtracks. And I pretty much had their cover of “Teenage Dream” on repeat for the entire drive home. Yeah, I know I’m Mr. Indie music. But I love that song, and it’s infinitely better when Darren Criss is covering it. So, here’s my first Glee cover as a Song of the Day. I’m sure it won’t be the last. Judge me if you wish.

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

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-

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

 SPOILER ALERTS

 As a critic, I’m going to have to learn at some point that just because a book, movie, or a TV show makes me cry like a little school, that does not necessarily make said work good. I’ve inherited my father’s weepiness when it comes to emotional moments (put Rudy on and my dad and I are going to need several boxes of tissues between the two of us). So, just because the Christmas episode from this season of Glee had me in tears does not make it good, although I actually still think it was a good episode. I enjoyed it more now than I did when it first aired (probably cause working in retail had made me incredibly cynical and tired of Christmas around that time).

This disc was only two episodes long and brings the first half of Season 2 to a close. The New Directions have lost Kurt to the Dalton Academy Warbler’s since he transferred because of Karofsky’s bullying. However, Kurt finds that the Warblers won’t be any easier for him to stand out in since Blaine is nearly as talented as Rachel. Sectionals finally arrives, and despite tumultuous personal problems amongst the group, they manage to tie with the Warblers and make it to Regionals. Finn and Rachel break up after Rachel learns that he had sex with Santana while Rachel was dating Jesse St. James and Rachel decides to cheat on Finn with Puck to even things out. Emma has married her dentist, Carl (John Stamos), and broken Will’s heart in the process. Lauren Zizes (Ashley Fink) joins New Directions to fill the missing spot of Kurt and begins to date Puck.

The other episode is the Christmas episode. The two main stories are Sue taking on the inevitable role of The Grinch and trying to steal Christmas away not just from the Glee kids but from homeless children that they had been buying presents for. The site of Sue and Becky re-enacting scenes from the Grinch is a pretty funny visual gag. The other story involves the fact that Brittany still believes in Santa Claus, despite being in high school. It gets even worse when she asks the mall Santa to let Artie be able to walk again. I spent the last ten minutes or so of this episode in tears. There was also a duet between Kurt and Blaine of Frank Loesser’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and it’s one of the most sincere and romantic moments between two gay characters that I’ve ever seen on network television and was the high point of the whole episode. It was so flirtatious and effective that I’m still shocked it made on network TV. Maybe we’re finally maturing as a nation.

Sectionals had some really good music numbers this year. While I dislike the original song, I thought that the Warblers did a great job with Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister”. I wasn’t a huge fan of Sam and Quinn’s duet of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” but Santana did an exceptional job with Mark Ronson’s “Valerie” and it was topped off with Mike and Brittany’s sensational dancing during the song. There really needs to be more Mike and Brittany dancing on this show. They’re amazing. Tina and Mercedes rocked out with Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” as well. Much like “Defying Gravity” in Season 1, Kurt and Rachel did a fantastic duet version of “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” from Evita.

Tomorrow brings another new episode of Glee. A major character is supposed to die. I doubt it will be any of the New Directions, but that would be really ballsy if that’s what happens. My money is that it’s going to be Karofsky who commits suicide over guilt of his bullying of Kurt and his inability to come out of the closet. That’s going to take the show to an incredibly dark place, but I think it will make for compelling television and will bring the show’s anti-bullying story arc full circle in the most effective way that I can imagine.

 Score in Progress: A-

 SPOILER ALERTS

 Season 2 of Glee has finally introduced pretty much the best story lines the show has ever had. I talked and talked about the mythical time in Glee‘s second season when the quality finally jumped into greatness, and it has finally happened. After starting season 2 off a little bit slower, the show finally found its stride again (the Rocky Horror debacle aside but I’ll get there later). However, this is the time that the show firmly plants itself on the dramatic side of the fence with comedy still present but as a less important afterthought which makes me yearn for its more satirical days.

With the exception of the first episode where the kids perform numbers from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and with one exception, they’re universally terrible, this is the moment that Glee begins it’s anti-gay bullying story arc and introduces Kurt’s future love interest, Blaine. The harassment that Kurt receives from school bully Dave Karofsky comes to a heated head when it turns out that Dave is a closeted homosexual that bullies because he is afraid of who he is. He threatens to kill Kurt, and when the school board does nothing about it, Kurt transfers to an all-boys school, the Dalton Academy whose glee club, the Warblers, are New Directions’ rivals at this year’s sectionals. Kurt is joined at the Dalton Academy by Warbler star Blaine who Kurt is immediately infatuated with.

The message of these story arcs is an incredibly important and courageous moment in network TV storytelling. The anti-bullying story came in the wake of the myriad gay suicides that had surfaced in the news and how the media was finally giving the issue the attention it deserved. It inspired me to write the essay that I had re-posted on to this blog that I had written on Facebook back in November. No kid should have to live in constant fear and terror because of who he is, and Glee had the balls to be one of the biggest hits on TV and yet still tell a story with a meaningful political message. I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, atheist, or Buddhist. If you don’t think all of our country’s children have a right to a safe and welcoming learning environment free of constant harassment, then you’re a cruel and heartless bigot.

Musically, this stretch had some great numbers. I hated the Rocky Horror episode, but Emma’s version of “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” got me hot under the collar. The Warbler’s provide a stirring acapella rendition of Kay Perry’s “Teenage Dream” that I have jammed in my car radio far more times than I’m proud to admit. Gwyneth Paltrow briefly joins the cast as substitute teacher Holly Holiday (and is awesome), and she belts out a stellar cover of Cee-Lo’s “Forget You”. Will and Mike do a memorable version of “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singing in the Rain. My dad liked their mas-up of “Singing in the Rain” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella” but I wasn’t a fan. I think I’m too attached to that song to be an unbiased critic though. Finn sings Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” to Kurt and every time I hear it, it makes me cry.

I cried in two out of these four episodes. I actually spent most of “Furt” in tears when Kurt’s dad and Finn’s mom get married. And the scenes between Coach Beiste and Will in “Never Been Kissed” remind you of how great a guy Will can be when his relationship with Emma doesn’t turn him into Mr. Creepy which he can be sometimes this season. Gwyneth Paltrow was a delight as Holly Holiday and I can’t wait to re-watch her episodes from later in the season. The next review will only be two episodes long; it will be this year’s sectionals and the Christmas episode. I can’t believe how much Glee I’ve been watching lately. As much as I love this show, I’m probably going to be happy to be done with it and move on to a different show for this blog. Although before I know it, season 3 will be airing in the fall. I’m still super-excited for Nationals though.

 Score in Progress: A-