Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Glee: "Special Education"

If you've been reading my Glee recaps (and seeing as they're among my most-read posts, I know you have been), you know that I've felt the first part of this second season has been a bit of a disappointment. Sure, there have been a few terrific episodes, but they've mostly ranged from decent to god-awful. So what a surprise, then, to see "Special Education" (which is thankfully not about what it sounds like) is more than just the best episode of the season so far; its the return of the show Glee should have been, the one it was at the beginning of its run.
So here's the gist of what's happened. Will decides to shake things up and spotlight some of the other kids in the club at Sectionals, which greatly infuriates "stars" Finn, Rachel, and Mercedes. Also, Rachel finds out about Finn and Santana's tryst from last year, before they started dating, and Artie and Tina become convinced that their respective partners, Brittany and Mike Chang, are romantically involved with each other. Kurt is having trouble adjusting to the conformity-minded Dalton Academy, and of course, there's the actual Sectionals competition.
Relationships have always been difficult for this show. The most organic are friendships, such as Kurt and Mercedes, while romantic relationships like Will and Emma or Finn and Rachel, and especially Artie and Tina, have felt shoehorned just because they needed them to be together. However, something unusual has happened: the various pairings picked up some resonance in this episode. The show obviously want Will and Emma, which has not fared well this season, to be together, and last night, despite Emma's Vegas wedding to Carl, there was an earned moment of heartbreak that worked well. I actually hope that the two don't end up together, in keeping up with the show's theme of losers who don't necessarily stop losing because they have twinkle in their eyes and a song in their hearts. And the Artie/Brittany pairing really didn't make any sense, but its evolving to a rich and strangely sweet pairing.
Then there's Rachel and Finn. These two are together because they're the "stars," and that's what has to happen. Thankfully, we got to see them behave like a real high school couple: immature, self-centered, and, despite their desire to be the star couple, can't really work out. The differences in their personalities are too great for them to work. In the process of this collapse tonight, something incredible happened: Rachel became a character again. There were still moments of egotism and megalomania, but there were some genuinely sweet moments as well, particularly when she was with Kurt. It was a terrific reminder that Lea Michele is more than just a song-belter, and I hope against hope that Rachel will continue to be the multi-dimensional character that she was for a good portion of last season. Its really nice to have her back.
The actual competition was a fun bit of entertainment. I know eventually Kurt is going to leave Dalton to return to New Directions, but I hope he stays for while so that we can get more stunning a capella performances like "Teenage Dream" and this week's Train cover "Hey, Soul Sister." The Hipsters, a group of senior citizens, were cute but forced out quick, doing half of "The Living Years;" if you want to see a wonderful film about this sort of thing, check out Young@Heart. New Directions took on "(I've Had the) Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing and Mark Ronson's "Valerie." It was a fun, energetic set of performances, which have always been Glee's strong suit.
I really do wish Glee could do an episode of this quality every week. This is what the show should be, and I hate that I know it won't last. It was a terrific episode, and, for the moment, gives me hope for the rest of the season.
- I really love how the show has been poking fun of itself in recent episodes. In the prologue, Emma perfectly predicts Will's set list, making him realize how predictable he's gotten. Hopefully, this bit of self-awareness means that the show's creators realize the issues and are working to fix them.
- I'm glad they chose to feature Heather Morris and Harry Shum Jr.'s incredible dance skills. Those two can really move!
- I wonder how many hipsters are going to dump Florence + the Machine now that "Dog Days Are Over" was featured on the show? I'm sure a bunch of them already have, since they were all over the VMAs, but I'm sure they're "overrated" now that they've "sold out" and "gone mainstream." Hipsters. God bless 'em.
- Remember in the season premiere when Charice was introduced, and Cheyenne Jackson was her manager, and she left New Directions to go to another school? Whatever happened to her? I thought for sure we'd see her again by now.
- Train was never really my favorite band, but I do like the hokeyness of "Hey, Soul Sister," and last night's version was incredible. (Side note: Grammy nomination concert tonight at 10 pm on CBS. Train will be there.)
- Looking on the message boards, I just found out that a Puck/Rachel pairing is called Puckleberry. Really, people?
- No Wit 'n' Wisdom tonight, since Sue was nowhere in sight.
- Next week is a Christmas episode. As always, guarded optimism, people.

1 comment:

Simon said...

I hated every single number of the a cappella guys. That is all.