By Meryl Gottlieb| firstname.lastname@example.org| @buzzlightmeryl
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox
Instead of immediately dishing out hatred for Glee as I usually do, I’m going to begin by saying this week’s episode, “City of Angels,” was at least better than last week’s “Trio.” By no circumstance does that mean it was good. It was just better than some of the other insanely disappointing episodes this season has been full of. The tribute to Cory Monteith was the best episode so far; every other episode was trash. At least in season four, there were some ups to help soften the blow of the terrible downs. This year, they just can’t seem to manage to dig themselves out of the hole left by Monteith’s passing.
Speaking of Monteith, this is the first time the show has really addressed him since the tribute, let alone said his name, and they really overdid it. The entire episode was about what Finn would have done at Nationals, what he would have said to the glee club and how he would have handled the outcome.
The episode opened with Will (Matthew Morrison) putting Sam (Chord Overstreet) in charge of stepping up as the leader Finn used to be. Burt (Mike O’Malley) and Carole (Romy Rosement) stop by the choir room and are chaperoning their trip to Nationals in Los Angeles. The couple tells the gang of how coaching them to Nationals would have been Finn’s best moment and continue on to preach about what he would have said to them, etc.
But before they go, they “need some mood music.” With Nationals set in the sunshine state, it’s required they sing Randy Newman’s “I Love LA.” And what fun they’re having! They’re on a double decker tour bus — hoping around like they own it nonetheless, those hooligans — taking pictures and eating sloppy hotdogs. Fun!
This was my major issue with the continual inclusion of mentioning Finn. As I said, they really haven’t talked about Finn since the tribute, so to have him be mentioned dozens of times was an overload. Had they done an episode or two where they showed the group actually prepping for Nationals and not just singing for the heck of it, they could have included segments about Finn wanting to have coached them to that point and what he would be telling them in that moment. Instead, they throw it at us all at once, and it’s too much. As is the new Glee way, there are zero clever transitions before the songs. They are either too obvious or non-existent. One second they are talking about Finn and the next they are singing a song that makes me think it’s the reason Nationals was set in LA.
I did like the LA setting for one reason: It allowed us to see Mercedes (Amber Riley) once again. The girl is going places. Kanye West’s housekeeper bought her album, which she was selling in a parking lot, and gave it to Kanye who gave it to Kim Kardashian who gave it to Ryan Seacrest who gave it to Sony Records and, voilà, she’s on her way to stardom.
An even bigger Glee fault was shown tenfold tonight as they finally had the minor characters speak a line of dialogue again. Typically, Unique (Alex Newell) gets to throw around her sassy one-liners, but everyone else has remained silent since last season essentially. Now, we’re supposed to care about Marley (Melissa Benoist) again. News flash: No one should ever care about this character; she’s played terribly and written even worse. There’s some nonsense about her being sad no one likes her original songs, so Ryder (Blake Jenner) and Jake (Jacob Artist) give them to Mercedes who then takes thirty seconds to convince Marley to continue her dream and not join the accounting club.
I think I would rather watch sports than this show sometimes.
The New Directions’ newest rival is Throat Explosion. I’ll ignore how terrible the name is because they’re lead by Skylar Astin, whom I love. But like the black hole Glee is, Astin doesn’t shine much in his guest spot as Jean Baptiste. I think his character is supposed to be a funny villain, but everything comes off flat and dry.
It’s time for the show.
First up is The Amazonians who perform “Vacation” in Vegas showgirl costumes. If you’re not going to even try to make the third group decent, don’t waste our time with a mediocre song and idiotic presentation.
Throat Explosion does a mash-up of “Mr. Roboto” and “Counting Stars,” two songs that do not mesh well and should not have been put together. “Mr. Roboto” was just a strange song choice and relied too heavily on bad robot dance moves. “Counting Stars” was a typical Glee cover and was fine. High points: Astin’s vocals were spectacular, and those blue suits for “Counting Stars” were fabulous.
Though the other groups only sang one song, the New Directions sing three. I don’t mind the show does this but at least do songs that transition well from one to the next or are mash-ups. This year, they chose “More Than a Feeling,” “America” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which Carole says were Finn’s favorite songs. OK, now there’s reason to be doing this set list, but explain that before the performance begins. Otherwise, it seems like an awkwardly and uncaringly put together group of songs.
To add to the celebration of Finn, they show old clips of him from past seasons during “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” It’s great to see Monteith again, but it honestly was overkill at this point. They seriously spent so much time talking about what Finn would have said to rally them all and how he was there with them that it was too much to include the flashbacks. Had they toned down the amount of Finn call-to-actions, mention how their set list was his favorite songs earlier and then include the flashbacks, it would have been a fine and fair remembrance of the star. It was a nice touch though to have Sam throw up Finn’s drumsticks at the end of the song. The idea that “less is more” would have really worked well for the show tonight. When someone passes, we don’t typically flood every conversation with comments about the deceased. There are little moments and memories that come naturally and create a better overall feeling. Instead of being swarmed with comments about Finn, little moments of remembrance would have gone much farther.
Throat Explosion and the New Directions’ performances weren’t bad, but they were just fairly underwhelming for Nationals. I remember being absolutely blown away by season one’s Regionals, which featured Vocal Adrenaline doing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the New Directions’ Journey medley, and also for the New Directions’ Nationals winning performance of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” in season three. Those were GREAT performances, and these new ones failed to even come close.
Also, nice try New Directions on trying to sneak in three random female dancers to fill up your club roster for the competition. I saw them and don’t appreciate your attempts to cheat the system. Luckily, the camera cuts away so much that you can’t three seconds from the same point of view, so these mysterious ladies are fairly well hidden.
In the end, Throat Explosion wins and the New Directions look around with blank faces as they are showered in confetti. They feel they let Finn down, though another monologue says otherwise. The hurt is even worse when it’s revealed this is the end of the glee club. Sue (Jane Lynch) doesn’t have a last minute change of heart. The bet she and Will had that glee club would stay only if they won Nationals is final. They came in second, so they’re out. Apparently, any team at McKinley that didn’t place first is disbanded. This is not how schools work. You can’t just disband clubs because they didn’t win, and you can’t hold a competition for Valedictorian. Try to be realistic.
Cut to New York City where Kurt (Chris Colfer) informs Rachel (Lea Michele) and Santana (Naya Rivera) of the terrible news. “It’s over,” he says.
I now see the lead-in to next week’s 100th episode: The whole gang gets back together before they turn the choir room into a computer lab. I also see this as an attempt for the show to literally close the door on the high school storylines. If the New Directions are no more, there’s no reason to talk about McKinley. Sue actually put it best, “You and your team did phenomenally well. … You didn’t lose, the game is just over.” Glee’s high school moments had its glory days but now it’s time to say goodbye and move on.
Here’s hoping the transition comes soon!