Tuned In

Glee Watch: Meet the Parent

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Spoilers for last night’s Glee coming up:

It was at around the 23 minute mark of Glee last night that Mrs. Tuned In pointed out that there had not yet been a single song in the episode. She was right; and the fact that the show had restrained itself from cramming in more soundtrack numbers early, and that the storylines were absorbing enough that I didn’t notice, is a credit to the episode.

“Furt” focused on two weddings, both of which (this being a musical) went from engagement to nuptials in an hour, one of which (this being Glee) involved Sue Sylvester marrying herself. First wedding first: Kurt and Finn’s parents have long been among the strongest elements of Glee, because unlike most of the other adult characters, they manage to root the fantastical plot developments in something like the realities of family commitments and small-town life. This was no exception; though there was the sentimentality you’d expect in an episode about a wedding, it felt real, and unforced, a genuine moment of happiness for two struggling single parents trying not to be lonely.

Of course, this being a high-school show, we saw the wedding largely from the perspective of the glee club, particularly the relationship between Kurt and Finn as it related to Kurt’s bullying. One thing I’ve always liked about Finn’s character is that, where he could have been a simple stand-up protagonist, he’s instead an essentially good kid who’s simply not always strong enough to do the right thing—at least at first—and not always aware of his own selfishness.

I still feel as if the whole bullying storyline would have worked better had Glee approached it in reverse, letting it build up gradually to the explosive conflict we saw in “Never Been Kissed.” But Finn’s closing toast to Kurt—which really was not just about the bullying, but the whole uncomfortable process of merging their families over the past year—felt honest and true to the story.

I also appreciated, however, that the show didn’t suggest that Finn had made Kurt’s problems go away with his change of heart. I can’t imagine anyone thinks Kurt is permanently lost to the Dalton Academy, but his leaving put an interesting twist on the glee club’s response to Karofsky: on the one hand, Finn and the rest of the club recognized that they had to stick by one of their own when the larger community wouldn’t, but Kurt’s leaving recognized that, while that’s a nice gesture, it’s not necessarily enough if you’re the one being threatened.

As for Sue’s storyline, yes, it was ridiculous, and yet I was surprised how affecting it was for all that. Sue’s self-wedding was absurd, but in a way that I could just about see: I had to wonder if on some level she didn’t know it was ridiculous, and if she hadn’t engineered the whole thing to provoke the confrontation with her mother. (Actually, the self-wedding didn’t throw me as much as the idea of Carol Burnett as Nazi hunter, which took a plot about abandonment issues and made it weirdly comical and hard to take as seriously.)

Silly though the subplot was, I thought Jane Lynch and Burnett really sold it, and their “Wonderful Town” duet managed to delineate their emotions and history like a—well, like a real musical would. Moreover, their history managed to tie in organically with her support of Kurt in his bullying, which might have seemed jarring if not for the fact that Glee has established that, howver megalomaniac she is, Sue is serious about her job as an educator. (I was especially impressed that Sue had some strong, and believable, emotional moments in an episode written by Ryan Murphy, who conceived her character but often tends to draw her especially broadly.)

I’m still waiting for a knockout episode from this season of Glee, but I’m pretty happy with what we got last night. On to sectionals!