Thursday, April 21, 2011

Glee: "A Night of Neglect"

I've written extensively before in my previous Glee recaps (Gleecaps?) about my difficult, often conflicting feelings about the show. I've griped about holes in both plot and logic, and the way that characters' personalities will change from one episode to the next while celebrating the show's darker themes and praising some of its finest musical performances and choices. Last night's episode, "A Night of Neglect," was essentially everything that I can't stand about Glee wrapped up into a single hour, with a few moments that reminded me of everything I love about the show as well.

Coming off of their victory at Regionals, the New Directions are faced with the problem of raising the funds for their trip to New York. Will wants to sell saltwalter taffy, but new flame Holly convinces him to hold a benefit night instead, "A Night of Neglect" for all of the neglected kids in the club. Mercedes decides to become an uncontrollable diva when Rachel decides she's doing the closing number of the night. Will and Holly try to figure out their relationship now that Emma is newly single again, and Sue unites Terri, Sandy, and Dustin Goolsby to form the League of Doom in order to take down the glee club once and for all.

The plot description alone tells you that this is an episode stacked to the brim with silliness, which is something that the show can do very well sometimes, including tonight, such as the way the saltwater taffy came back into play in the third act. But for the most part the silliness tonight was flat-out ridiculous. Sue's Legion of Doom was a prime example of how far she's fallen as a character, going from terrific comic creation to cartoony supervillain with no attachment to the reality of the show (which, considering this is a musical, really says something). It wasn't funny, nor was it even entertainingly bad. It was just stupid, the work of lazy writing and a huge disservice to Jane Lynch's talents.

If there is one thing that drives me crazy about Glee, especially this season, its the way that characters are introduced, disappear, and then randomly show up again as if they were never gone. This happened A LOT in this episode, as Dustin, Sandy, Terri, Sunshine Corazon (whose absence I've pondered several times), Emma, and Carl (indirectly). Honestly, I had completely forgotten about Dustin and Sandy, two characters that have only made brief appearances in the past (and played by two terrific actors, Cheyenne Jackson and Stephen Tobolosky, respectively). In the case of Carl, the writers either got bored with the character or lost touch with John Stamos (or got bored with John Stamos), and simply bid him adieu in passing by mentioning his divorce with Emma. Terri, meanwhile, is the most vile creation this show has ever presented, a character that needs to be written out completely and forever. Sunshine, though, is the most egregious of this problem tonight. She made a brief appearance in the season premiere, before Rachel sent her to a crackhouse after dueting "Telephone" with her. She's back here looking to perform at the benefit and bring all 600 of her Twitter followers, supposedly as a gesture of goodwill but obviously not, as she and her followers abandon them at the last second. She does get a chance to perform, though, with a rendition of "All By Myself" that reminds us she has a powerful voice. But her preceding scene proves that Charice is the worst actor to come on the show yet, reciting her dialouge so woodenly she must have been reading off of cue cards. One can only hope this is the last we've seen of Sunshine.

Emma's return is also problematic, but for two very big reasons. One, the writers have never found anything interesting for the character to be other than an OCD love interest for Will. Which is the second problem: the show is still trying very hard to make us care about Will's love life, and they still haven't made it remotely interesting (namely because Will himself has very little depth as a character). In fact, its usually a momentum-killer, which is made worse here in that most of the episode is built around Will's relationships with both Emma and Holly. Glee has always worked better when it's focused on the kids rather than the adults, and this week there was just precious little of them.

Even the musical performances were less than stellar for me. Sunshine's "All By Myself" was a great reminder of her vocal chops, but that's all it was: a reminder that this character exists, and she can sing. I really wanted Tina to finish her version of Lykke Li's "I Follow Rivers," but it never happened. Holly's "Turning Tables" was lovely, though, and I personally loved Mercedes' rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way" (I have a soft spot for Franklin and full gospel choirs) and Mike Chang's dance to Jack Johnson's "Bubble Toes" (if Rachel is this show's Barbara Streisand and Mercedes is Aretha, then Mike Chang is Fred Astaire). But otherwise there wasn't enough music this time around.

Honestly, this episode was way too heavy on everything I don't like about the show and too light on everything I love. Sometimes I think the show does this just to make me appreciate the great episodes, but then I realize how selfish that sounds. It's just an episode that tried to make things work that haven't worked in a long time, if at all. Give it up, guys, and keep the kids in the picture.

- The quality of this episode does not have me stoked for next week's, titled "Born This Way." I have a very strong opinion about that gem of a song, so expect a lot of Gaga talk in that recap.

- Also really annoying: Jacob Ben Israel. We get it: he's Jewish and he has an Afro. That joke got old a very, very long time ago.

- Carol Banker is credited as the director of this episode, and I couldn't help but notice how many close-ups of faces were used in this episode. It was an interesting motif.

- Wit 'n' Wisdom of Sue Sylvester: "Sandy, how do you manage to enter a building without setting off all of the fire alarms?"

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