Yeah, yeah. I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve mustered up the energy to review an episode of Glee. But something must be done. This week’s episode, unlike the two fabulous, glamorous and energetic episodes that preceded it, was more than just a small disappointment. It’s the episode that nearly sucked the wind out of the show’s proverbial sails. For Ryan Murphy and the creatives behind this mainstream splash, it’s about to be comeback time.
The show centered on an out of the blue performance from the Glee Club’s rivals, Vocal Adrenaline. In the opening scene, not only did Rachel (Lea Michele) get dumped by her background beau Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff), but Vocal Adrenaline “funked out” our heroic choir nerds with a not-so-rousing rendition of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Coach Will Schuester and squad then spend the rest of the episode trying to get out of their “funk” by putting together song and dance from the most obvious musical genre possible. This week in side stories: Will finalizes his divorce with the scheming Terry, and uses his tight jeans to woo Sue Sylvester into a stupor, only to later try to break her heart in his most twisted revenge scheme to date.
There are several problems here. The most prevalent of which is the fact that much of the musical numbers didn’t work this week. For a show that made something special out of the “Safety Dance” (my own personal favorite moment of the entire series thus far) and followed with an episode that expertly integrated the work of Lady Gaga into their narrative, going to funk wasn’t the best choice this late in season one. When Quinn (Diana Agron) performed James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World” with background dancing from the local chapter of future high school moms, it was excruciating. Not that Diana Agron can’t sing, but the entire bit was all wrong. And it served only to set up a contrived, meaningless subplot in which she and Mercedes bond over being fat, leading to Mercedes asking her to participate in a permanent sleepover. Boring.
Moving on, there was a rousing rendition of “Good Vibrations” that featured the oft-overused Finn (Corey Monteith), Puck (Mark Salling) and the aforementioned Mercedes (Amber Riley). That had all of the style and substance that we’re used to seeing from Glee, despite being buried in a throwaway episode.
It was an in-episode reminder that this show is a lot of fun when it embraces some of the silliness and doesn’t try to get overtly serious with its subject matter, as it did with the Sue Sylvester storyline of the week. What’s going on here, I must ask? I have to agree with Dustin Rowles over at Pajiba, who eloquently explains that “we don’t want a vulnerable Sue Sylvester, willing to throw herself at Shuester to avoid loneliness only to have her heart broken when he reveals it all to be a mean-spirited diabolical plan. Not cool. Sue Sylvester is the diabolical planner. Let’s keep it that way.”
If my gut instinct is right — and when it comes to Glee and cheeseburgers, it usually is — Sue Sylvester will return to form next week for the season finale, when the club goes up against Vocal Adrenaline at Regionals. And perhaps that’s what we’re waiting for. You, me and the show’s writers, too. We’re waiting for the big, theatrical finish of season one. And while that will likely be a lot of fun, this “Funk” episode does begin the conversation around how much this show really has to say. And whether or not its running out of catchy material.