TV: ‘Glee’ soars with Sondheim but falters with the bigger issue at hand

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox
Rating: 2.5/ 5

Glee-Bash-Episode-1I’m very pleased to note Glee’s permanent move to New York has helped the show tenfold. It still is nowhere near where it used to be in season one, but it’s struggling through an uphill battle to escape from the trenches that were the end of season four and the majority of season five so far. Naturally, in this transitional period of climbing from those murky creative areas, the show still falters. However, it at least is able to deliver acceptable episodes now.

Sam (Chord Overstreet) is set on getting back together with Mercedes (Amber Riley). There’s a lot of playful banter involving pokes at The Facts of Life, Star Wars fan fiction and a faux-fur coat, while these two figure out what to do. Mercedes even sings “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” to prove how great she feels with Sam. Aren’t you convinced they’re in love? Because I’m not. There is chemistry, and for once I don’t find Sam as annoying, but I’m still not pulling for this to work. I think I could maybe get behind this, if only because it would give Riley extra screen time, and I love her. However, Mercedes’ back-up singers don’t approve of the interracial relationship because they think it will hurt her reception in the black market. People, these days.

tumblr_n3qkl0FT4N1qhek11o2_250It’s the mid-winter critique at NYADA, and Rachel (Lea Michele) was only just able to convince her Funny Girl producer to let her make time for it. Thank goodness they are finally addressing the fact that not only is Rachel a full-time student and waitress, but she also is starring in a Broadway revival. It’s physically impossible. Anyways, Blaine (Darren Criss) and Rachel do a spectacular duet to “Broadway Baby,” for it’s a Sondheim theme! This was amazing. I loved the song (obviously) and the whole performance. It’s been a while since I’ve felt the need to download a Glee cover, but I know I need to listen to this on repeat. Criss and Michele are my two favorites on the show, and they have sang together since season two’s “Don’t You Want Me.” It’s been too long, and I’m so happy to have this in my life.

However, Carmen Tibideaux (Whoopi Goldberg) — yay Whoopi is back! — is not pleased because the assignment wasn’t for a duet. Initially, she’s just going to flunk them, but she gives them a chance to reschedule later in the week. This would be fine if Rachel weren’t going into technical rehearsals for Funny Girl. Thus begins the dynamite fight between Rachel and Tibideaux. Whoopi kicks butt in saying how she’s failing and shouldn’t deserve a handout. She needs NYADA because while she may have talent and drive, she has no direction. Ultimately, Rachel says she is quitting NYADA because it is just holding her back.

Last week’s episode put Rachel two steps forward in my eyes. I finally liked her again! This week managed to knock her back a step. She went from being fun and likeable again to cold and nonsensical. I understand this as a logical step in her storyline; however, you need to figure out a way to play the character! Having her switch this dramatically between episodes is off-putting.

Kurt (Chris Colfer) realizes this is a dumb decision and calls Rachel out on it during their dinner date. She lashes out saying college isn’t for everyone and that he’s only staying in NYADA because it’s safe and that he’s afraid of being an adult. She leaves him.

The episode began with everyone singing “No One Is Alone” at a candlelight vigil for their neighbor’s friend who was gay bashed. From last week’s promo, I knew what was going to happen but hoped I was mistaken. I was not. Kurt attempted to stop a group of men from beating up a guy in an alley, so they turned their anger onto him. He was attacked and had to go to the hospital.

Bash_still_4For a while, I felt relieved Glee had stopped simply being a pedestal for issues to be discussed one week and forgotten the next. They’d done it with school shootings, eating disorders and so much more (check out this list Vulture compiled), and now they’re going to do it with gay bashing. As per usual, the show simply just doesn’t know how to handle all the issues it wants to discuss. I would be perfectly fine if the show discussed gay bashing if they did it correctly. Kurt shouldn’t be attacked, but if he is, then don’t throw it in the middle of an episode that mostly talks about a pending relationship and Rachel’s future. Give it enough airtime so we can believe it, and so it will not be so jarring. This can also work much better if they continue with it. Have this moment spark Kurt’s passion to be an activist or something so I can accept this random storyline. Glee, please do something with this. If I come back next week and you don’t mention how he got those scraps and bruises on his pretty face, then I may seriously write you a strongly worded letter.

Blaine sings “Not While I’m Around” to Kurt and also for his re-do mid-winter critique. Surprisingly, I was not as big a fan of this cover as I was of the other Sondheim covers. Something just didn’t fully click for me even though I love Sweeney Todd a little too much.

After Kurt’s incident, Mercedes realizes how foolish it is to not date Sam because of his race, so to make it up to him she sings her own song, “Colorblind.” This is Riley’s own song, and it’s magnificent. The lyrics are beautiful and it is a great first record for Riley’s career. Go listen and buy it.

Burt (Mike O’Malley) even comes to the city to yell at Kurt, but ultimately ends up still being one of the best fathers on TV as he says next time Kurt can only do it if he is standing there with him. Thank you for always being a little ray of sunshine in what is usually a cloudy storyline.

Everyone goes to support Kurt for his mid-winter critique, in which he sings and closes out the episode with “I’m Still Here,” a personal favorite and a great anthem.

With Sondheim, the show soared, but that may just be the Broadway enthusiast in me talking. They weren’t the most compelling television but the Samcedes and Rachel storylines were acceptable. This episode is definitely average at best, but it could have been better received had they done the gay bashing storyline better. Feel free to discuss these issues; they need to be discussed. But do it properly. You’re not helping any cause by only giving it ten minutes of attention. Make it the storyline of the night and make sure to show the repercussions. Issues don’t just come and go in our lives. Kurt was right when he said he’d been fighting those guys all his life. Continue that fight. Don’t let this just be some freak thing that happened. Make it useful and show you had a purpose in doing it.

Has anybody seen Artie? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl

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