Spoilers for last night’s Glee up next:
See, now that’s the Glee I would have liked to share with that Super Bowl–sized sample of America Sunday night.
I can see why the producers went with the kind of episode they did. The story didn’t require more than the most general knowledge of the series and its serial plots. It involved football. And it spotlighted a couple of the show’s most publicized, accessible draws: Sue and songs.
But what we saw in “Silly Love Songs” to me is what makes the show special. Music, yes, and some far-fetched story twists. But all of it—or most of it—rooted in things that, with some dramatic license, a group of kids in a small Ohio town with a mall would do.
That’s not to say that “Silly Love Songs” didn’t throw the audience any curves. Puck’s attraction to Lauren, for instance, was a surprise coming from him—as Puck acknowledged himself.But it was the kind of twist Glee can sell, partly because of the way the characters are established (in retrospect, you can see how a really strong woman who rejects him is a turn-on for Puck) and because of how well it’s cast (Ashley Fink has been killing it as Lauren, and sells her confidence and abrasiveness in a way that makes her a person, not an engineered positive-body-image model).
And while Glee sometimes stretches to pick on-the-nose song choices, “Fat-Bottomed Girls” was just a perfect choice and performance—not just on topic but actually in Puck’s musical wheelhouse. (What’s more, the glee-club reactions in the scene, often an awkward part of the in-class songs, worked in this one because the group were like audience surrogates, first seeming to think the song was some kind of inappropriate joke, then realizing Puck was dead serious.)
One very likely, and obvious, reason so many of the stories worked so well this week was the almost complete absence of the teachers—a fact that, unfortunately, is a common thread of Glee’s better episodes this season. (Excepting Kurt’s dad; Mike O’Malley gets grandfathered in on this one.) Given some room to develop, the high-school storylines didn’t feel overcrowded, or feel as if sections of them had been snipped out in the middle.
Case in point: The Dalton Warblers, ladies and gentlemen! Darren Criss has had some of the musical highlights of this season, but the entire arc at Dalton has felt disconnected. (Sunday night, the Warblers’ song seemed like a random video dropped into the episode—which, essentially it probably was, to introduce new viewers to a part of the show that had no natural place in that story.) And as charismatic as Criss is, Blaine’s character has suffered, seeming like a perfect teen descended from heaven to teach tolerance and perfect pitch. Tonight, he borught the music and the lyrics, showing that Blaine is, in his own way, an inexperienced kid figuring things out—and showing us that Kurt has reason to be into him other than his eyebrows.
Even Finn’s subplot, which worried me (the menschy Finn of two nights ago suddenly became an egotistical jerk), came to make sense, as it became clear that Finn was acting out his issues with Quinn, and lingering feelings for Rachel. The thing is, a high school comedy/drama has some leeway for characters to act mercurial; lurching between different personalities is, in a way, the job of adolescence. The show just needs to have some grounding in the kernels of each character, and its own giddy emotional logic, and it can work as well as this Valentine to raging hormones did. XOXO, “Silly Love Songs.”
Quick hail of bullets:
* There were almost too many good moments for the big cast to mention here, but props to Naya Rivera for maybe her best episode yet as Santana, in which she not only had some of the night’s funniest scenes but actually made her bitch-on-heels character into a person. That’s how we do it in Lima Heights-Adjacent!
* And one more: “Finn only wears that gassy-infant look when he feels guilty about something.” Who would have thought Santana would have a more quotable night than Brittany?
* Speaking of Rivera, by the way, I’ve watched a lot of teen soaps in my day, and there is almost always at least one memorably awful actor. Glee, whatever its inconsistencies in writing, is really remarkably well-cast, down to small roles—which makes me mad on the actors’ behalf when they don’t get material as good as this.
* Have we hit the Katy Perry limit on Glee at this point? Has television in general?
* I realize this evening that I have in the past been spelling “BreadstiX” without the “X.” My apologies to the BreadstiX chain. Also, Sunday night I neglected to welcome to the Glee business community, for I believe the first time, The Lima Bean! (A local-café name just corny enough to work.)
* For all the O.C. / Damages fans out there, this episode was directed by none other than… Tate Donovan! Congratulations, Jimmy Cooper!
* Finally, I would be remiss to write about an episode where someone visualizes fireworks after a kiss without citing this Brady Bunch classic. This one’s for the old people!