Spoilers for last night’s Glee coming up after the jump:
Though other episodes may have had more signal musical numbers (Don’t Stop Believin’, e.g.) or memorable single scenes (Kurt’s coming out to his father), “Throwdown” may have been the best single episode of Glee, as an episode, since the pilot. Glee is an odd show to watch and follow because structurally it’s simply not like much else on TV.
In particular, it seems to be embracing the fact that it is not just a show about music, but it’s a full-fledged TV musical, the way Viva Laughlin attempted to be: a show in which sometimes singing is integral to the action, but other times characters go into song to reflect their emotional states. (I also liked that “Throwdown,” intentionally or not, acknowledged some weaknesses or ticks of the show: not giving supporting characters like Mercedes enough to do, and Rachel’s habit of storming off in a huff about something in pretty much every episode.)
Quinn’s number last night was an example of the straight-ahead musical approach, and the show is lucky that it cast someone as good as Dianna Agron in what could have been a stereotypical bitch-queen role. Scratch that: Quinn is a stereotypical bitch queen, but like several other characters, she began as a type and is developing into a person.
All this makes it more frustrating that Jessalyn Gilsig’s Terri continues to be the show’s weak link, showing no kernel of humanity that would suggest a reason that Will might have fallen in love with her in the first place. (Terri is sometimes pitiable, but that’s not the same as sympathetic.)
At msnbc.com, Andy Dehnart wrote a very good critique of the show in which he extends the comparison to creator Ryan Murphy’s Popular, which had over-the-top characters, but was ultimately able to find a way to connect with even the most villainous of them. That’s one direction you can go with a show like this, and Agron’s Quinn is a great example of it. Terri, on the other hand, is an example of the road taken by Murphy’s Nip/Tuck, which returned to FX last night, and over the seasons has let its characters become so grotesque as to be unwatchable.
Glee is mostly making the right choices; but it’s a good enough show for us to expect it to make those choices more often. In the meantime, any episode with as much Sue Sylvester as “Throwdown” is a winner.