I once loved Glee. Season 1, I was completely enamored with the show. There was no denying its flaws—those two terrible pregnancy plots; the sudden and unexplained changes in characterization from episode to episode—but it more than made up for it in originality, heart, and wonderful music and dance numbers. At least for that year.
In Season 2, I still watched every episode, albeit with less enthusiasm. But somehow, the season finale episode just did me in. They’re at Nationals, in New York, the day before—and they still haven’t even written, let alone rehearsed, the original songs they’re going to perform?
Even for the bizarro world of Glee where a high school show choir can sing and dance every new song perfectly from the first take, it was too much. I couldn’t buy it anymore. I couldn’t watch it anymore. Just like that, Glee was off the PVR list and out of my life.
Til Cory Monteith. Now, Finn was never my favorite character, I was never that taken with Monteith as an actor (thought Mark Sailing, who played Puck, was hotter), but it was just so sad when he died. He was so young, and he seemed like such a sweet person, and the fact that he was actually dating Leah Michelle (“Rachel”) in real life… I had to tune in to see how Glee would handle it.
“The Quarterback”, Season 5, was ten-hanky episode for sure (music—it’s an emotional mindfield), but I thought it was a lovely handling of Finn’s death. It was set a few weeks later, cause of death never specified, and focused on how the character’s dealt with his loss. Which, being Glee, was mostly by singing.
And then I stopped watching Glee until—you’re probably thinking until the series finale, but no.
Earlier this month Netflix US made season 5 of Glee available. So I decided to watch the five episodes featuring Adam Lambert.
The first of these turned out to be the one right after “The Quarterback”, called “A Katy or a Gaga”. Auditioning for Kurt’s band (though mind boggles at the thought of Lambert actually auditioning for Colfer, but whatever!), Adam does this incredible cover of Lady Gaga’s “Marry the Night”. It so good it allowed me to forgive the rest of the episode, which wasn’t exactly bad so much as rote. So rote the characters themselves make snarky, ironic asides about the lack of originality. Sue somehow still hates the Glee club. Glee cast members might be new, but it’s still slut vs. virgin for the hunk’s attention. And so on.
Next up, however, was “Puppet Master”. And it has to be said that this episode has two terrific musical numbers: one a re-creation of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” / “Rhythm Nation” videos, another a black’n’white rendering of “Cheek to Cheek” featuring Will and Sue, of all people.
But it’s as though, having put so much energy into these two scenes, they had nothing left for the rest of the episode, which was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. With Muppets everywhere. And characters who seem completely different in personality from what they were on the previous episode I’d watched. And finishing off with that ridiculous “What Do the Fox Say” song. Why? I don’t know!
(And one has to say that Angel has proven you can absolutely do an excellent episode of television based on Muppets! Having seen and loved “Smile Time”, I think, just made this awful Glee episode even more awful.)
As the AV Club said (not nearly scathingly enough, in my opinion):
It’s like “Puppet Master” is so embarrassed of this plot that it just wants to get to the fun stuff.
That discord is what really feels lazy. There’s no meaning in the mix of songs in this episode or the way these plots have almost nothing to do with one another, even though three vaguely revolve around leadership.
To make it even worse, Adam Lambert’s part is teeny tiny in this episode. (But at least the badness doesn’t rub off on him so much.)
So what was most shocking about the next season 5 episode I viewed, “Frenemies”, was that it was actually a quite decent episode of Glee. Artie and Tina; Kurt and Elliott (that’s Adam’s character); and Rachel and Santana try to maintain their friendship despite their rivalry, with mixed results.
Two more eps to go. (Then Adam left the show to tour with Queen. Good move!)
Meantime, I did in fact watch the finale, after the fact, on City-TV’s website. (Which featured far fewer commercial interruptions than I was expecting.) And much like “The Quarterback”, and much for the same reasons, it worked for me. The first half harkened back to the first season in 2009, filling in the storylines not featured then of how Rachel, Artie, Tina, and Mercedes came to join the Glee club. The characters began discussing Finn only near the end of that half, and then—there he was on-screen, as they replayed the “Don’t Stop Believin’” scene from episode 1.
Cue the Kleenex, but very effective.
The second half occured now and in the future, and everybody is happy as their dreams come true, except there is this sadness over everything—because, Finn. Based on the AV Club comments, this was not very satisfying to those stalwarts who actually stuck with this program for six seasons.
But for fair-weather friends like me, it was just about perfect.