21 October 2010
The show is wildly inconsistent, don’t get me wrong, and that leads to some painfully bad episodes/moments. But it also means that even when I think I’ve seen exactly what this show is, it can come along with a little episode in between two ginormous theme episodes that helps to redefine the characters and the show for me, and gives the other episodes more emotional resonance than they deserve.
Last season, Finn dropped the F-bomb when dealing with Kurt, and although the moment was inexcusable, it was also frustrating for me that the show did not seem to see Finn’s side. He was facing unwanted sexual advances from someone who he was now living with. Imagine if Finn had been a girl, and Kurt her new step brother.
Now at the end of the day, that wasn’t the case and there are more differences in that scenario than a simple switch of genders, but I liked the retcon in this episode that there were in fact two sides to that question. Finn isn’t a cut and dry bigot, and Kurt isn’t a cut and dry victim.
Wow, for an episode I loved so much I just spent a long time talking about a previous episode. What I mean to say is that I think Glee lives in an emotionally grey universe where people are just people, and sometimes they act like jerks, and sometimes they have moments of grace, and sometimes they put on embarrassingly transparent performances of Britney Spears songs in order to try and win back an old lady-love, but they’re all still essentially kind human beings. Not every episode plays with this, and sometimes this world-view is substituted for easy jokes and BIG musical numbers that overshadow the emotional resonance of this world view, but in tonight’s episode “Duets” that was in full swing.
All the plots were firing on all cylinders tonight*, from the surprisingly resonant Britney and Artie storyline, to the sweet and endearing Quinn and Sam one, to the fun Rachel and Finn one. But the heart of the episode, much like last episode, belonged to Kurt. There were also nice mini stories for Tina and her new beau (who had my favorite duet of the night) and Santana and Mercedes.
Lets tackle those one by one, shall we? Britney, spurned by Santana, decided to team up with Artie, which in Britney world means deflower Artie. This could have been a throw away storyline (like Finn last year), but instead was an interesting meditation on teenage sex and the consequences of same. Artie’s final speech to the dumbstruck Britney was as heartbreaking as any the show has had to offer.
Sam and Quinn’s cute flirtation brought Quinn’s issues post-baby to the forefront, which was good, because it seemed a little too easy for her to give up the baby, get back in pre-pregnancy weight, and start parading about in that cheerleader’s uniform again. I know this show is pretty low stakes, but that doesn’t fly right.
And Rachel and Finn… what can I say? Last season, I really couldn’t have cared less about whether or not these two crazy kids ever got together, and yet I find that I enjoy them much more as an odd couple scheming along through every episode than I ever did when they were the will-they-or-won’t-they couple powering this show. and this week was a good example as to why: the two of them scheming to figure out how to lose was priceless, as was their offensive musical number. On top of that, the Finn toss off lines (such as his response to Rachel saying she was selfish was, “Yeah, but I love you anyway,” doesn’t stop being adorable for me) about his feelings for Rachel are played to perfection by Cory Monteith.
But Kurt, poor bitchy, ostracized and overwhelmed Kurt, who just last week had his dad almost taken from him, who secretly pined for Finn all last season, and who now saw the highlighted Sam as his chance out of small-town-homophobia-induced loneliness, remains (when used correctly) the most beautiful member of this ensemble. Whether it was in his heartbreakingly self-affirming Victor/Victoria “duet” or that episode ending duet with Rachel (actually, Rachel had a particularly good episode in general), Chris Colfer’s expression and grace, even when Kurt is wrong, remains the biggest talent on this show.
All in all, this week’s Glee was far more emotionally satisfying than the rest of this season has been. I don’t expect the same from next week’s “GLEE DOES ROCKY HORROR!” fest, but that’s okay too.
*Okay, I said all storylines worked, but actually Puck getting arrested for steaing an ATM was pretty stupid, especially given the fact that next week I’m sure Mark Salig will be back and his recent incarceration will barely be mentioned.