Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Glee: "Silly Love Songs"

Christmas must have come early this year, because we got two new episodes of Glee in the same week. The real gift is that tonight's Valentine's Day-themed episode, which sounded so dangerous on paper (check out the show's track record of theme/holiday episodes), turned out to be one of the season's best hours. In fact, it was a refreshing glimpse at the show that Glee threatened to be in its a pilot, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Here's what happened: its Valentine's Day, and love is in the air. Puck is infatuated with Lauren, which he claims to be because she's the only person "more badass" than him, though Lauren is nonchalant at best. Finn, full of confidence and swagger now that he's lead the football team to a conference championship, decides to open a kissing booth to ostensibly raise money for New Directions to go to nationals, but he really just wants to kiss Quinn again. This doesn't sit well with Rachel, who's still trying to get over him, or Sam, who's concerned that Quinn is cheating on him with Finn (and he's correctly so, it turns out). Meanwhile, at Dalton Academy, aka Magic Tolerance Wonderland, Blaine wants the Warblers to sing with him to the guy he loves, which turns out to not be Kurt, much to the latter's dismay. And Will, thankfully, doesn't have a sure-to-be-stupid romance with anyone, but rather just wants the kids to sing their favorite love songs.

So let's break this episode down by its title:

Silly: This was one of the show's more straightforward comedy episodes (and written by Ryan Murphy, that's not too surprising). And a lot of it was silly, to be sure. Finn's kissing booth? Ridiculous, yes, but it wasn't groan-inducing. In fact, the payoff there was quite rewarding, as we got some of Finn's best moments so far, and if we're being honest, I rather liked this version of Finn: more confident bravado, but still able to put on his earnest face. For the first time in a while, Finn seemed like a real high school quarterback, not the empty vessel that he's been for too long. Blaine's desire to sing to his love, Jeremiah, at the Gap (corporate sponsor?) was also silly, but the flash-mob mind-set made the piece work much better than it could have. And Santana's mono plot worked brilliantly for me, with a great emotional payoff in the end. Throw in the various comic snippets thrown in throughout (such as Finn's kissing booth not only being in the middle of the hallway and resembling Lucy's psychiatry booth in the Peanuts comic strips, or Santana's wannabe-tough girl fight with Lauren), and it was a solidly funny episode.

Love: Thankfully, in regards to love, the show focused exclusively on the kids, refusing to throw in anything for Will with, well, anyone or especially Emma and Carl, who have been missing for so long that it seems that the writers have completely forgotten about them (oh, one can only hope). The love...rectangle (?) between Rachel, Finn, Quinn, and Sam is certainly an interesting plot development that was handled well here, particularly in making all of the characters seem like they could actually be attracted to each other (the exception being Sam, who still doesn't have much going for him apart from his looks). The Kurt-Blaine relationship took some interesting turns as well, avoiding too much stereotype and allowing their budding romance to mature naturally, though experience tells me that the next episode will probably derail that kind of development. I particularly enjoyed Santana's arc this year: Naya Rivera gave the episode's best performance, underlining her urge to exact revenge with a subconscious desire to be loved, since she's one of the only New Directions members without a significant other. Puck, too, had an interesting subtext: methinks his infatuation with Lauren comes more from the fact that she rejects him, something that he's obviously not used to. All in all, the treatment of love in this episode was shockingly different from how the show generally treats the subject, which was refreshingly excellent.

Songs: Ah, the songs. There was only one performance that I wasn't impressed by, and that would be Tina's bizarre rendition of "My Funny Valentine," which started as an ode to boyfriend Mike Chang but ended with her sobbing hysterically, "overwhelmed by love." Seriously? From the beginning it was a pedestrian performance, but then it just turned into something that was actually really difficult to watch. Not to mention, I like Mike Chang as much as the next guy, but he doesn't seem like the type to be "overwhelmed by love" for. Otherwise, the performances were great, from Puck's best-love-song-ever selection of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" (a classic) to Blaine's "When I Get You Alone" to Rachel's "Firework" (unlike Katy Perry, her boobs don't sparkle). What really made these performances work, for me at least, is that they were staged and shot in new, fresh ways. Artie and Mike Chang doing "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" while rolling down the hallway, complete with slow motion, was an interesting choice, and I particularly liked the staging of the "Firework" number. Credit director Tate Donovan (perhaps best known as the voice of Hercules in the 1997 animated musical of the same name) for bringing an new take to the show's visual grammar.

"Silly Love Songs" was easily the show's best episode since "Duets," and may even be the best episode of this season. Its episodes like this one that remind me of why I started watching this show in the first place.

- Speaking of directors on this show, nobody ever really gives much mention of them, and I think its time they earned some recognition. For the most part, co-creators/co-writers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk handle directing duties, but there are several episodes that were handled by hired-guns such as Paris Barclay and Joss Whedon. I imagine for some of those hired-guns, this is their first time shooting a musical, which makes for some interesting comparisons from episode to episode. I know this was Tate Donovan's first time directing a musical, so the fact that he was able to bring something new to the performances is really a feat worth recognizing. So bravo, Mr. Donovan. Please come back soon.

- Last week in an interview with The A.V. Club, co-creator/co-writer Ian Brennan announced that they're hiring a full writing staff for the show's third season, rather than continuing on with the current three-man team. This is certainly a significant development, since it could very well change the show radically. Currently, the show is wildly inconsistent, namely because it seems that each of the writers want to make a different show, resulting in three Glees within a single show. With a full writing staff, the show may actually land on a single vision, and pursue it through scripts written by writers other than Murphy/Brennan/Falchuk. This could either be exactly what the show needs or it could completely ruin the show, depending on what happens and which vision is chosen. I suppose we'll find out.

- I liked the opening narration in the "here's what you missed" referencing that, now that Quinn, Brittany, and Santana have left the Cheerios, we'll get to see them in street clothes. Are there schools out there where the cheerleaders always wear their uniforms, no matter what? Because I've never been to one like that.

- For the record, when it comes to love songs, my personal favorites are: "God Only Knows," the Beach Boys, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," the Beatles, "Transatlanticism," Death Cab for Cutie, "Sweet Child O' Mine," Guns 'n' Roses, and "Wild Horses," the Rolling Stones. For what its worth.

- There were some interesting shots in the final performance of "Silly Love Songs," namely the one of Santana and Sam. Foreshadowing? If so, that's a very sophisticated move for Glee.

- "The Warblers haven't performed in an informal setting since 1927, when the Spirit of St. Louis overshot the tarmac and plowed through seven Warblers during an impromptu performance of 'Welcome to Ohio, Lucky Lindy.'" I love this line so much.

Wit 'n' Wisdom of Sue Sylvester Santana: "Please, I've had mono so many times, its stereo now." Or maybe that she had told Rachel that she was destined to land the lead role on Broadway in Willow: The Musical. Honestly, Santana was on fire.


Kalli said...

I only got to watch half of this episode because I got home late from work, but I enjoyed the half that I saw! I want to watch the rest of the episode. I'm liking Finn more now, too.

Jason H. said...

Its about time Finn became a real character!