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Glee Watch: The Mature Thing

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Jordin Althaus/FOX

Glee only occasionally gets accused of realism–musical, dramatic or otherwise. But at its best, the show can be emotionally real and raw; it finds ways of capturing truths about growing up that teen shows rarely notice. Its season three finale “Goodbye,” I wrote last spring, caught something familiar about the rushed feeling of graduation—how it “feels like something that happens to you, suddenly and all at once, like going over a waterfall.” And “The Break-Up,” the best episode so far of season four, was a kind of companion piece that showed how, even after saying goodbye, moving on can be a a messy, painful process.

The episode was structured around three student couples—Finn and Rachel, Kurt and Blaine, Brittany and Santana—as well as Will and Emma. Even before knowing the title of the episode, it did not take much story-sleuthing to know that these long-distance (or soon-to-be long-distance) relationships were in trouble.

And yet the Ryan Murphy–written episode, in a simple, straightforward way, made each of these reckonings achingly real and specific. In part, it was the structure of the episode: the stories were neatly parallel, there were not too many plots jammed together in the hour, and there was some of the best use of the soundtrack in a long time. After too many episodes, for instance, in which Blaine spoke two lines and burst into song because we needed Darren Criss to sing, his raw, voice-cracking ballad version of “Teenage Dream” was possibly the most affecting acting-through-the-song on Glee since “Defying Gravity” in season one. I’m seriously misting up here typing about it. You’ll have to excuse me for a second.

As Linda Holmes wrote yesterday in a preview of the episode at MonkeySee, another neat trick “The Break-Up” pulled off is to make the characters’ dilemmas parallel Glee’s, as many of its characters have graduated: What’s next? What matters? Can we really stay connected to Lima in the same way? Who will stay with us, and who is going to fade away?

I’d missed Naya Rivera, and it was Santana’s breakup speech and serenade to Brittany that really captured that feeling. It was about more than how she loved Brittany and hated that she couldn’t be with her. It was, like many goodbyes at this stage of life, a kind of taking leave of her childhood. She grew up and changed with Brittany, she still loves her and she hates the idea that their love would ever decay with time and distance—but she also knows that it will happen, can feel it already starting to, and she has to cut things off for the sake of both their memories. This is very Glee: it’s a joyous show (hence the name), but with a running sadness, like a minor chord in a pop song.

So the closing montage of flashbacks, to that wonderfully spare on-stage version of “The Scientist,” was more than just a clip reel of Glee greatest hits, or a way of sentimentalizing its characters. It felt, in an earned way, like a goodbye to the first three seasons of the show.

Like a kid going off to college, I don’t know what comes next for Glee. I don’t know if it can tell stories in New York and Lima and keep them equally compelling. (Last week, for instance, the show was rifling through its own hand-me-downs, telling another class-election story.) I’m not really sure that it can sustain interest in the new McKinley characters, however well written.

On the other hand, I was truly impressed to see Will and Emma actually have a believable, grown-up relationship problem, about diverging ambitions and careers instead of OCD and wedding plans. And while I don’t know where or how Finn will fit in to the new Glee, the hour emotionally sold his not-fitting-in–his journey from New Direction to no direction. From the beginning, his character has been as essential to Glee as Rachel’s: if she’s there to show the power of reaching for dreams, he, with his constant fear of ending up a “Lima loser,” is a reminder that simply having a dream doesn’t automatically lead you somewhere better.

“The Break-Up” showed that Glee still can do what it’s best at, working through simple, real conflicts and paying them off in three-minute explosions of transcendent pop emotion. For an hour, it set aside the stunts and did, as Santana called it, “the mature thing.” Like many mature things, it was painful and necessary, and it hurt beautifully.

14 comments
EvenMoreron
EvenMoreron

Cory Monteith is really good at the subtle moments, like when he glanced at Kurt while Blaine was singing Teenage Dream.  

Orrin Konheim
Orrin Konheim

I thought the episode was one of the worst.  The show just feels that shipping and hooking its characters up with each other in random combinations is what will keep people interested in each other so,therefore, they decided to break everyone up. I don't think any of them made sense and I felt like it was all transparently forced.  They obviously want to break Santana amp; Brittney up b/c they feel that a guy and girl in HS being friends is too unrealistic and that they have no choice but to hook Brittany amp; Sam up, which I think would have ruined a good thing. With Blaine and Kurt, I just don't see Blaine cheating on Kurt. If it happened, could we have at least been shown it and build p the drama? I don't question Kurt breaking up with Blaine when it happened, but the build up. Rachel's reasoning for breaking up with Finn was worse, she cheated on him, not the other way around. I thought her speech about wanting him to be her last love was convincing and the 180 and the "I have to break up with you" part was shoehorned in just to fit the episode's theme.

Angelina La Salle
Angelina La Salle

No, Holy Moly, please stop with the Brittana forever closure (leaving behind childhood) talk. Please. That only works if we're going to assume Brittany will forever be a child on this show. I believe we will see Brittany grow and blossom into an adult, and Brittana will be reunited. That scene was almost too raw, and now so many people are taking it as over when it doesn't have to be - not if Brittana (both together and individually) were given the care and attention in the show that they've deserved since the inception of this show.

Brittana have a chemistry that can't and shouldn't be overlooked (even if the writers want to sell the premature closing of their storyline as "mature."). Their love is pure, and sweet, and magical, but that doesn't have to be left behind as they grow - they should learn how to grow in it, around it, with it, and beside it. I don't believe Santana is completely trying to close it either; Brittany taught her how to love herself and she also taught her about the possibility of emotional magic. She still is very much in love with Brittany. Yeah, she sees that they're at different places right now, but she wouldn't really give up on them.

Season two had scared Santana, and I actually think this season is about scared Brittany coming to the surface. My only worry is that the writers won't walk the very fine line necessary for Brittany's personal growth and Santana's role in it. Brittany is probably scared of the future and her place in it, especially with her track record with people understanding her. The thing is that in season 2, the writers found a strangely good balance of Santana needing to exorcise her own demons, making mistakes, and Brittany being subtly adamant and supportive of her the whole way. I really want the writers to flip the roles; I think that the potential Brittana have to support one another is the best part about their relationship.

I don't want to get prematurely mad at Santana, but Brittany worked hard with Santana to get her to see that the worries inside her head didn't have to be real if she believed in herself. She was wise and gave all of her love and wisdom to Santana, knowing that if Santana didn't want to liberate herself, she could end up very hurt. I know that Santana has her life she needs to go on with, but I need to see Santana wisen up to Brittany's panic the way Brittany did with her. Brittany flung herself into Happyville, trying her best to cherish the too real love she found, and ignoring all of the very real worries she needed to work on, until she woke up in Senior Year 2.0 - a nightmare in which her sending her girlfriend off to college is actually a reality in which she no longer will be there to just implicitly understand her and be there. I'm still just so bummed we haven't seen Santana realize that. It's one thing to recognize that you're girlfriend is hurting, and another to understand the causes of it. I need to see this more ~mature Santana see that, and initiate at least one serious conversation about it; I need Brittany to fight against her own urges to ignore reality until she can have active control over her imagination; I need Santana to support these changes; I need Brittany to work on her grades; I need Brittany to graduate early; I need Brittana in NY with fresh-faced but serious dreams, both for their love and their futures.

Ala Nerwen
Ala Nerwen

Not a fan of Cory or Finn but he played it really well last night and I think Lea was excellent in that last scene. The material she got was good, which is a bonus but she elevated it. Probably her best work on Glee for me. The Brittana scene was heart breaking and while Naya was Naya, Heather matched her and together they created magic in that scene. I am not even a Brittana shipper and I was teary eyed in the end because that hurt. Wemma, I don't even know, went by really. Klaine was short-changed for a resolution scene, even if no words were to be exchanged, but Darren Criss made me sob with that Teenage Dream performance. Raw, gut wrenching performance where Blaine comes undone, accompanied by a song, which really shouldn't be appropriate for this but he made it so. Chris Colfer shined in the park too and overall I thought when it comes to acting, Darren, Chris, Lea, Cory, Naya and Heather all brought it. There wasn't a bad apple in the bunch, on the contrary, we got some amazing performances. Stand out to me was Teenage Dream for the simple reason that it embodied a combination of acting, singing, playing and as I hear, the arrangement was also his. Incredible. Glee needs to give him more things like these.

Claire Abraham
Claire Abraham

While I think the script suffered through some moments of emotional manipulation, the cast really delivered on this emotionally charged material. Highlights: the final monologue in which Rachel officially breaks up with Finn; Blaine's emotionally bare version of "Teenage Dream" (Darren Criss' best work on the series to date), Santana's gentle decision to let Brittany go.

One quibble: I would have given up the entire storyline with Jake and Marley to get a little more perspective on Kurt's feelings during this episode. For such an amazing actor given such a painful story, he was underutilized compared to some of the others. 

EvenMoreron
EvenMoreron

I haven't watched Glee since the Super Bowl episode, but last night I was really impressed in the little subtleties that Cory Monteith has as Finn.  My favorite moment was when he took that brief glance at Kurt while Blaine was singing Teenage Dream.  

AdamWill
AdamWill

I felt kind of sad Tina and Mike weren't up on that stage... and that made me miss Mike's crazy dance moves and how nothing has really taken their place... and then I saw him in next week's preview, so... yay.

As for the break-ups... Glee does parallels.  That's nice. But some couples do stay together, forever. And even more realistically... some stay together, long distance, four years of college... then get back together, thinking they're gonna start their life, and then break up, having grown apart without knowing it, not able to fully live their lives or to remain together.  It would be interesting if Glee could show the breadth of possibilities, and not make everyone's story mimic everyone else's.

Julie
Julie

The most affecting moment, for me, was Rachel's final speech to Finn. It showed a girl who is growing up, maturing, and really coming into her own. She took charge in the situation, because it was clear that Finn was floundering, but she didn't degrade him; Rachel helped build him up, at least a bit. Bravo to Lea Michele and Cory Monteith. The actors and their characters take a lot from the fandom (see other comments re: other couples' screen time and kisses for examples), but it is obvious why they are leads on the show -- they both were phenomenal.

sarah
sarah

Cory Monteith totally killed this episode and I could have watched even more! He is so nuanced and you feel every emotion. I actually felt shortchanged of his army story and his break down with Will, because as the reviewer pointed out he is every bit a cornerstone of Glee for me as Rachel. I don't want him treading water at Glee club, I hope he has a really well thought out arc instead of the bits thrown at him last season. 

Amanda Michelle
Amanda Michelle

This episode was so real and the acting was so raw that I almost felt intrusive. Cory Monteith and Lea Michele were phenomenal. I actually walked away seeing both of their points of view. And, now I am rooting for Finn Hudson, who I already adore, harder than I ever have. He has been so much to so many and now it's his turn to find out how to make his own dreams come true or what they even are. Finn's is the story I am most hooked on and I hope it's completion is of epic proportions.

Jillian Wyman
Jillian Wyman

There were alot of hype to this episode and in many ways it did live up to the expectations. However there were many moments when I questioned what the writers were doing. 

I definitely did not appreciate how much screen time was given to Finn. I do not hate Cory, but he isn't the best male actor on the show. He can't carry this show with that much screen time. I did not appreciate how Glee spend a whole segment of the episode only focusing on Finchel and Klaine and then it went to commercial. Yeah that gave them time to develop their story lines, but what is so disrespectful to Brittana. Brittana wasn't focus on as much prior to their breakup so it seemed rushed. 

That little scene at Breadstix? about the not getting left behind made no sense. It was funny at first, but their it just got weird and Santana's expression during the whole thing matches mine. Only Brittana from that scene made sense. What I also liked  is how Brittana is next to each other. I know its not a surprise, but its just really nice to seem them sit together as a couple, outside of school. 

The first performance is definitely the weakest out of all of them. 

I feel really bad for Klaine fans. I personally do not ship Klaine, but I know that this couple is really special and for them to end up the way they did tonight because Blaine cheated was very heartbreaking. The "Don't Speak" performance was awkward though. I thought it was too cheesy. I rather Klaine talked more about it rather than even doing this number. 

Give Your Heart A Break was a really nice performance, but I thought it was weird how Rachel said it works better as a duet, when the original was sung by a solo artist. 

I wished this episode didn't focus on Jake/Marley/Kitty because clearly the truth is they are the characters viewers focused on the least in this episode. So why even bother? 

As good as The Scientist was, I didn't like how it cut off so that Finn was the last person. 

My favorite performance of the night is definitely without a doubt "Mine" by Naya Rivera. As she kept singing you can see the tears, that I had tears in the beginning so imagine what I was like by the end. Brittany's facial expression was also heartbreaking because you can really see how much they love each other. This whole performance and their conversation after and their kiss stole the episode for me. I love them so much. 

I just have to say that, that girl in the library was very unattractive so if the writers wanted Santana to feel an attraction, they should have picked someone that is attractive! That girl was not. Compared to Brittany? NO WAY. 

I just want to lastly say that Ryan Murphy said once that Brittana would kiss as much as Finchel would. In this episode, Finchel kissed 4 times, and Brittana kissed twice.Hmm so that's definitely no the same amount. So two reason would be he basically lied to us OR the episode he is talking about was not this one but one in the future! 

albert
albert

 Wow what odd things to nitoick, this is glee you should know how it works by now.

Rachel said it worked better as a duet so Brody and Rachel could sing a duet to build tension and drama.

Finn was the last person because it was fantasy he started the song on the stage by he himself so he finished the song by himself.  Most of the songs aren't "real".  All the people weren't really on the stage.  OMG.

It doesn't matter if the girl was attractive enough she found Santana attractive anyone is flattered by that.  All she did was get Santana thinking why if I am attracted to someone else, she has needs. etc...

Also this show is not a true ensemble I don't get how people don't get this yet.   There are leads, who have on going story arcs. i.e Rachel.  you have main character who have little arcs all season like Kurt and Santana, then you have supporting characters like TIna, and Artie,he might gt a storyline line in  a episode or 2.

JessieJ76668
JessieJ76668

You do realize this is the FIRST episode Finn was back? So of course his story and story line was given more attention! We had no idea where he was for 4 months!

Brittana's entire relationship has been rushed so you expected their break up to be any different? Heather Morris is by far the weakest actress on the show (now that Dianna is gone!) so the less scenes they have her in, the better. 

And you are so annoying counting kisses. Get over it!! It's creepy the way everyone has to sexualize every encounter. Be GLAD you got an episode dedicated to your couple breaking up. Tike is my OTP and we got nothing, nada, zip. A passing line in the premiere. 

heyyronnie03
heyyronnie03

dianna is an amazing actress, she just had a crappy storyline to work with, with them throwing curveballs every five seconds. shocked at your negativity but then again you're favorites were only supporting actors so I guess I understand.