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Glee Review: Messy Love, Storytelling

by at . Comments

New year. New Glee! Following a Christmas episode for which I could not hide my disdain, that was the attitude I adopted heading into the winter premiere, "Yes/No."

It lasted about .07 seconds, I'm sorry to say.

Within the first five minutes, this was the random sequences of events thrown our way: an immediate cover of "Summer Nights" from Grease; the announcement that Beiste and Cooter eloped; a Becky-based narration by Helen Mirren because people with Down's Syndrome can apparently sound however they want to inside their head and because, hey, isn't it hilarious to hear a British Oscar winner say the words "bitch" and "reals?!?"

Oh, and the most ridiculous, hardest to believe storyline of all: that Will Schuester plays fantasy football.

Singing While Swimming

Look, I get the argument that Glee is simply meant as a fun distraction for an hour. It's just about singing and laughing and dancing and people like myself shouldn't bother to analyze its lack of storytelling or direction because that isn't what the show is about.

I don't buy the argument - because Ryan Murphy and company have come out many times and said they have grand, societal messages in mind when it comes to the show, meaning the creator himself has said this is really intended as the polar opposite of a carefree, mindless experience - but, hey, I have no problem with those who want to sit back and let the music wash over them.

But an episode such as this made one haphazard effort after another to try and tell multiple stories, to try and develop various characters. It wanted fans to be fully invested in supposedly heartfelt moments... but I couldn't have been the only viewer shaking my head when the plot wanted me to be wiping my eyes.

You know how we're always talking about moving toward marriage? Emma asked Will at one point and I wanted to scream: NO! WE CERTAINLY DON'T KNOW THAT AT LEAST! THE SHOW GOES WEEKS AT TIMES WITHOUT GIVING US A SINGLE WEMMA SCENE! WHY WOULD WE HAVE ANY CLUE YOU TWO WERE HEADED IN THAT DIRECTION?!?

After spending two seasons actually planting decent seeds for this potential couple, Glee held down the fast forward button, just got them together in the offseason, ignored them for months and asked us to believe they were each other's soulmates. I was incredibly impressed by the choreography of the proposal scene, but I couldn't have cared less about the proposal itself. You can't just decide to tug at my heart strings one week, Glee. You need to earn it.

Moreover: come on. Are we meant to believe that Will really doubted his future with Emma because of her disease? Or that he has zero friends? (What about his pals in his fantasy football league?!?) Finn takes him ring shopping? Finn is his best man? Why not develop Will as an actual human being, not just a prop through which New Directions can sing and whine? That's really all this proposal was about, an excuse for the club to take on a new assignment.

Yes, Will used his proposal as a school assignment. What a complete tool.

Relatedly, Finn asked Rachel to marry him. Some may have taken his gold star-inspired speech as beautiful; I took it as pathetic. It's not a romantic notion to propose because the only meaning you have in life is your love for someone else. Your love should not define you, it should complete you (right, Jerry Maguire?). Yes, it does make sense that Finn would feel so lost and confused after hearing such news about his father, but about that:

WTH?!? I see no reason to believe everything about this story wasn't written the day before shooting. From Finn wanting to join the army, to the out-of-left-field admission by his mother, to his question for Rachel... again, no build-up, no investment. Just an utter lack of quality storytelling all around, and all in the name of trying to shock viewers with an ending they can talk about the next morning.

When was the last time Finn even mentioned his father? Now he wants to follow in his footsteps... wait, now he learns some seriously horrifying information... wait, now Kurt is somehow turning this into a sob story about his future at NYADA... and wait, now Finn is proposing. Seriously, that ALL happened in this one episode and that was just one of maybe six storylines the show spewed forth. What's the rush, writers?

This could have been a fascinating arc for Finn if the show possessed a shred of patience. It could have felt like actual character development, stretched over the course of multiple episodes, instead of a series of random events crammed into one hour at the last second.

It's just the same for everything else about the episode. We literally saw Mercedes holding Sam's hand for one second at the end of one episode. Now she's singing about him and fantasizing about him and Glee wants us to root for these two because... because it's in the script, that's pretty much the only reason.

And did NeNe Leakes really make a pun about 40 Acres and a Mule, the post Civil War act that provided land to former slaves? What the heck is going on here?

I know it isn't fun to read a critic bashing a show you like. And my intention is not to belittle those who still get enjoyment out of Glee each week. But it's my job to write an honest assessment and, my goodness, the wheels have fallen off here faster than whatever storylines the show will burn through in two weeks when it returns... with a random Michael Jackson tribute episode. Sigh.

What did you think, Gleeks? Did your heart burst at Will's proposal? Or do you wish we had spent more time with this couple prior to the big development? And what about Finchel? Will Rachel say yes? Should she? Debate these questions now, browse through my favorite Glee quotes from the hour and also check out the following Glee music from the episode:

  Song Artist
Glee cast moves like jagger Moves Like Jagger Glee Cast iTunes
Glee cast wedding bell blues Wedding Bell Blues Glee Cast iTunes
Glee cast we found love We Found Love Glee Cast iTunes
Glee cast summer nights Summer Nights Glee Cast iTunes
Glee cast the first time i ever saw your face The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face Glee Cast iTunes
Glee cast without you Without You Glee Cast iTunes

Review

Editor Rating: 1.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (396 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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the only thing I thoiught was too brushed over was that the coach got married. NOt cool. It was like I had missed an episode.

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Glee is a musical, but it is not a variety show (Dean Martin Show, Judy Garland Show, Smothers Brothers Show) -- and musicals have plots. Besides, the songs are not what makes Glee special, the story is -- OR, Ryan Murphy is rich and guaranteed he'll be producing shows that will get one of the networks to air them because of the original 13 episodes of Glee, which were plotted like a 13 episode mini-series. To say now that the show is something else than what made it a hit is really giving Murphy a pass. And why did he even bother hiring writers? There's a saying that goes something like, "Dance with who brung yuh," or something.

C f ohara

While I did love the pool side proposal highlighted by Artie rolling into the pool, it did seem like there was an awful lot crammed into this episode. It felt more like 2hrs. The development of Becky is a valid choice and I liked the voiceover scenes, but it did her character disservice to have her story sandwiched in between all the other scenarios. Sue caringly consoling Becky was one of her best scenes of the year. You had to like seeing “Coach� let her guard down like that and show some vulnerability. Getting back to the proposal,I thought Will's speech was very touching as was Emma's reaction and answer.(BTW when did we find out Emma's parents hated him? Maybe I missed that episode.) Each storyline could have and probably should have been its own episode. Trying to fit them all into 1 was almost too much to process. Gleeks have been jonesing for a new episode but like a fiending addict who finally got his hands on his drug of choice, I felt like I almost OD'd.

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Screw the plot development or the lack thereof. WHY WAS BRITANNY NOT GIVEN ANY LINES?

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Your review is perfect. You said everything that I'd like to say as a former Glee fan.

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I think the reviewer makes some pretty valid points. The storylines were totally random--none of the existing arcs seems to have advanced much and Sue was uncharacteristically sweet, which only frightens me for what she might be planning. And as funny as Nene "Pookie an' 'em" Leakes' character was, it seemed like a desperate attempt at ratings. If you want some input about the music, I thought we were headed for an episode loaded with dated tunes after "Summer Lovin'" and "Wedding Bell Blues"--good performances these kids weren't even ALIVE when these songs were popular. Good save with "Moves Like Jagger" though I could have done without the "Jumping Jack Flash" mashup. The synchro swim number was well done though if you wanna talk dated.....And as for the upcoming MJ tribute, WHY?!?!?!!?!?

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Being the mother of a disabled child I found Helen Mirren's brillant performance of Becky's inner voice both beautiful and inspiring. Who are you to say that a Down's child doesn't have the most perfect inner British accent regardless of the words they are saying?

Matt richenthal

@Lea: Yes, I want build up that is actually spread out through a season. Why must six characters be featured each week? Imagine if we actually had one episode that focused on Finn's desire to join the army... and then one where he learned about his father and struggled with that reality... and then one where he proposed to Rachel.
That's how, you know, actual TV shows are written: with storylines planned out well in advance and given ample time to develop.

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I loved it. Have no idea why you are so sour about it, I thought it was the best ep of the season!

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@Matt: I don't get it. Really. You hate everything being crammed into one episode yet you want build-up for everything? Like your first reply, you took an example at Beiste not getting 'a build-up' moment? Seriously? Beiste is just a guest-star and you want them to focus on her? What's wrong with you? Have you seen Artie, Brittany, Tina and Damian? They are underdeveloped and you want them to build up a moment for Beiste's elope? Oh please.
And Glee is special for its 'music' yet you find no single place in your review to actually review the songs they cover? But you just decide, "Ooh, let's bash on the storyline and bash and bash!"
And what's with that attitude in your review, "When it returns...with a random Michael Jackson tribute episode. Sigh". You bash at the episode even before it airs. very cute.

Glee Season 3 Episode 10 Quotes

Is that a mohawk, Puckerman, or did someone glue a squirrel to your head?

Betty: I, Betty Faye Jackson, am the hottest bitch at McKinley High School... you may be wondering why I sound like the Queen of England. It's simple: in mind, I can sound like whomever I want. So lay off, haters.