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Glee Watch: The Bully Becomes the Bullied

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Spoilers for last night’s Glee below:

I will say this for the way Glee handled Karofsky’s suicide attempt in “On My Way”: the beginning of the episode was a very effective 15 minutes or so of television. The problem: it was very effective television—for about 15 minutes or so.

I’m willing to accept that, in a story about bullying and depression involving a supporting character on the show, there will be a certain amount of dramatic compression. So, yes, maybe it was a very quick process by which Karofsky came back to the show’s attention, was inadvertently outed before his classmates, and tried to hang himself in his bedroom. Regardless, the way the episode showed him readying himself to die and intercut the scenes of his torment with the McKinley High characters wondering if they could have done more to stop it was arresting and–in a heightened, TV sense–rang true.

But it’s ironic that we first met Karofsky in an arc last season abut his bullying of Kurt, a storyline that was notable for not trying to dispense with a big issue in one Very Special Episode, but instead let the story build and dealt with its consequences at length. “On My Way,” on the other hand, gave us his suicide attempt, his reconciliation with Kurt and then–moved right on to Regionals, Sue’s pregnancy storyline, Rachel and Finn’s wedding and Quinn’s don’t-text-and-drive cliffhanger.

It all made for a Glee episode that was whiplash-ier than usual, and even further constricted by needing to fit in an entire Regionals competition  worth of performances. I imagine Glee’s fans would never let the show get away with it, but I wonder if it would be better if the show flipped our expectations and let the entire Regionals competition happen entirely or mostly offstage. As it was, the showdown felt oddly out of place and—the nods to Karofsky notwithstanding—unconnected with the episode we began watching.

I used the term “Very Special Episode,” above, the way we usually do nowadays, as a pejorative, something to be avoided. But the way this episode played out makes me wonder whether Very Special Episodes don’t get a bad rap; that is, maybe if a significant character begins the episode by trying to take his own life, the rest of the episode should be very special, or at least get across the sense that it’s not so easy to pick up and get on with life and plot complications as usual. (The episode did at least use Sue well in connection with the story, having her show some real empathy and sense of responsibility as an educator—even if it did write off her behavior to hormones, I assume to make it easier for her to become Funny Mean Sue at the next convenient opportunity.)

As it was, the episode seemed all too easily able to flitter on to the next thing—or things, setting up several cliffhangers for the midseason break. (Does Quinn survive? Do Finn and Rachel marry? And—to the extent that you care—who’s the father of Sue’s baby?) But I have a hard time believing that Karofsky—or all the real-life Karofskys out there in our high schools—can move on so quickly.