I liked Glee's Michael Jackson tribute episode a lot more than I thought I would. A backward compliment? Sure. But, hey, it's still a compliment.
Unlike past tribute episodes - to Britney Spears, to Christmas - this one managed to weave in a few key developments, mostly basing its MJ covers around ongoing storylines and legitimate character realizations...
... with the exception of Artie's totally random moment of anger, which resulted in an imagined "Scream" performance and an imagined few minutes of Artie walking around that served as an example of everything Glee can do so wrong: ignoring all logic and continuity for the sake of a song it can sell on iTunes.
But I'll ignore that - and also ignore the fact that these kids are 16-18 years old, and Jackson last released an album in 2001, and, as harsh as it sounds, until he died, his music was NOT what most people talked about any time the icon came up, making it hard to believe today's high school kids would really worship the guy and constantly talk about "WWMJD?" - in order to focus on the positive aspects of the episode. They include:
Sebastian. Give it up for a true villain! We all love Sue Sylvester, but she's really just a quote machine at this point. Viewers can't take her seriously. Certainly not when compared to a guy that fills a slushee with rock salt.
There's been talk of making Grant Gustin a series regular on season four and I'd be all for it. Just don't even try to soften him up, Glee. There's nothing wrong with having a sincere antagonist for the group to rally against, especially when it leads to Santana threatening to go "all Danny LaRusso" on his ass. That was awesome.
Finchel. They clearly should not get married, not when each of them is essentially saying they need the other person in their life because, well, they don't have much else in their life. That's not a healthy outlook on love.
But I definitely appreciated the extra attention given to the proposal here; the duet they sang; Finn's commitment to making the most important question he'll ever ask more memorable than a quick, unexpected speech in the auditorium; and what can only be described as a hesitant yes from Rachel, at least once she realized how she shared the huge NYADA news with someone else prior to her fiance. Heck, what she even thinking of Finn at the time?
Quinn's negative advice to Rachel - you don't want an anchor from the past holding you back from the bright lights of the future - is pretty much magazine-spewing nonsense. If you love someone, you love someone. Period. But is this true love? Or is it high school love? Would Finn complete her, or hold her back?
The performances. They were great. That's never my issue with Glee. We all know how talented the cast is; I just often take exception when Glee comes across more like a concert (or, even worse, a PDA-inspired concert) than a television show and I vehemently disagree with those who somehow claim we shouldn't expect strong storytelling just because the characters sing.
(Watch Smash on Monday. Trust me, you can have both.)
So I'm happy to give props to my favorite covers here, which were led by Santana and Sebastian's simple, cello-accompanied "Smooth Criminal" and which concluded with the whole group nailing "Black or White," including a version of the face morphing MJ made famous in that video.
What didn't work for me? Anything involving Quinn. Sorry, the show ruined her forever in my book when she went all nutso in an attempt to get her daughter back.
Similarly, I feel no emotional attachment to Sam and Mercedes. As I said in my last review, we saw these two holding hands once, and we've barely seen more of Mercedes and Shane. It's times like these when my irritation grows because it wouldn't have been challenging to have built up an actual love triangle, or to actually have given Mercedes something to do outside of New Directions. That way, a duet such as the one here would have felt earned, not contrived.
Also: Did the group really choose to perform a number instead of go to the police with evidence of the rock salting? (And wouldn't remnants of the slushee also be pretty good evidence? Wouldn't doctors have picked up on the substance in Blaine's eyes?) That might be the most Glee-ish storyline ever. I don't mean that as a compliment.
But there I go being negative again. So I'll turn this over to the readers. What was your favorite cover? Is it believable that kids born in 1995 would be this into Michael Jackson? Will Rachel eventually turn Finn down? Should she?