Glee Review: From Past to PrologueMatt Richenthal at .
Glee went back to 1977 on "Saturday Night Glee-ver," paying homage to the film that made John Travola, white suits and spinning disco balls famous.
But the episode really used the past to pen a prologue for three key seniors, as Finn, Santana and Mercedes made major decisions regarding their future. Each has a much clearer idea now of what it will bring.
When season three started, it appeared as if Glee would tackle the daunting challenge of senior year, of truly figuring out what one wants to do with one's life. But somewhere between tribute episodes, Christmas specials and car accidents, that theme got lost. Until tonight.
I was mostly pleased with how it was handled, with the exception of the same complaint I make every week in this space: the random nature of storylines and the lack of character development. Take Mercedes, for example.
As she delivered her inner monologue, along with a great version of "Disco Inferno," I put on my Carrie Bradshow hat and couldn't help but wonder...
What do we know about her outside the choir room? What hobbies does she possess? What class does she excel in? Were you aware her father was a dentist (what an arbitrary throw-in, too: why wouldn't a dentist support a singing career?) before that nugget was dropped?
I also thought back to how Mr. Schuester described the trio of seniors featured - Finn as talented, but lacking self-esteem; Mercedes as lacking vision; Santana as lacking focus - and thought: really? Are those descriptions truly apt? Or did the writers toss them in just to fit this episode, this motif.
I'm sorry, but Finn doesn't really possess talent, not when compared with other club members. Going to acting school is perfect for him, Rachel believes? Does anyone else believe this? How does that, in any way, jibe with what we know about Finn Hudson? Except to give the writers material for season four?
And Mercedes without vision? She seemed to lack confidence more than vision here, and even that didn't seem consistent: since when does Mercedes Jones need an ego boost?!? This is one strong young diva who has always asked for more time in the spotlight.
That video Sam made was nice and all, but it only seemed necessary because Glee chose to shape Mercedes in a certain manner, for one week only, to make this storyline work.
And Santana received a full cheerleading scholarship? I mean, did she even apply to Louisville?!? Where did that come from? And what the heck have you been doing, Emma Pillsbury? Please spend less time cleaning grapes and more time acting like an actual guidance counselor for next year's class. These kids need you more than three weeks prior to graduation!
(Or not, I suppose, when magic scholarships and acting studio acceptances appear out of nowhere. For shame, James Lipton.)
The sad truth is that most of these characters - Mercedes, Brittany, Santana, Quinn (who, ummm, I guess was taking wheelchair lessons somewhere else?), Artie, Mike, Tina, Puck - stopped being human beings ages ago. They were turned into mechanisms through which the show could sell tracks on iTunes - there was A LOT of Glee music this week - or deliver Public Service Announcements.
And that's depressing, isn't it? It's almost anger-inducing. We've sat and watched the show for nearly three seasons and, just as many students are about to graduate and we're asked to feel something about them, we're left asking: wait, who are these people?!? What can we say about them outside of the nauseating assignments Will doles out each week?
(Perform a song from Saturday Night Fever and then share your hopes for the future. He actually said that. He also said: It's not the broken dreams that break us. It's the ones we don't dare to dream. I really hope Matthew Morrison at least had trouble getting these words out.)
Yes, I know: it's a musical. What am I doing asking for less music? But that's my point: I wish the show had strived for more as a whole. I wish it had used music as a way to more fully develop well-rounded characters (or just to be fun!), not as the sole way in which we know the characters.
And not just as their sole hope for the future. I'd love to have seen Mercedes acknowledge that she loves singing, she'll always include it in her life... but you know what? She's gonna strive to be an architect! Or perhaps a nurse or an interior designer. The arts are great, but making a career out of them is next to impossible and also - as much as it would pain Glee to admit - it's perfectly okay to plan on a more realistic, attainable major or profession.
That doesn't mean you don't have dreams. It just means you're growing up.
All that said, the episode in and of itself was fine overall. But it simply served to remind me of all Glee could have been if it dedicated an entire season to the journey of these seniors, not slapped most of it together faster than Will and Sue slapped together the concept of a Saturday Night Fever tribute.
I will, however, leave you with a few of the best Glee quotes from the week, as Sue and Brittany were especially on fire. I'll also ask: What did everyone else think? Do you feel like you know these seniors well?
Sue: Her chagrin is limited only by the fact that she has a brain the size of a toddler's fist.
Brittany: I can show you the MRI. | permalink
Brittany [on a bull's testicle]: It tastes just like a chicken testicle. | permalink
Puck: Two dudes in one bed is, like, confirmed gay. | permalink
Sue: Let's be honest, William. You've been out of ideas since Madonna week. | permalink
Rachel: While we applaud your proper use of the terminology, but we told Mr. Schue: we do not support disco. | permalink
Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.