September 22, 2010

Episode Review: GLEE, "Audition"

Last night, I shared some of my knee-jerk reactions about Glee's season 2 premiere, but I thought I'd expand my review now that the episode has sunk in.

Like I mentioned last time, Season 2 pretty much started the same way Season 1 ended: with way too much going on. To be honest, I can't even pinpoint what the A-plot was. If I had to choose, I'd go with the Unholy Alliance of Sue & Shue, who teamed up to take down new football coach, Shannon Beiste (Dot Jones), after she siphoned funds from both the Cheerios and New Directions. The duo decided to bully Beiste until she left, but Will quickly realized that picking on her didn't make him any cooler or get him what he wanted. He made amends with her and was back to being the good guy, which of course upset Sue. Alliance over.

New Directions was also one man down after Shaft transferred, so in order to recruit the gleeks stage a lunchtime performance of "Empire State of Mind", which flopped but they were able to pique the interest of two potential members: Sunshine Corazon (Charice) and Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet). Rachel & Finn's story revolved around the recruitment of these two. Needless to say their efforts backfire, which was appropriate since they live in Ohio; home of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The rest of the gleeks were wrapped up in their own little mini-dramas as well. Quinn wanted back on the Cheerios, and was able to convince Sue to let her back on the squad by exposing Santana's new boobs (not literally, unfortunately despite a cat fight). Asian and Other Asian (aka Tina & Mike) hooked up at Asian Camp, which left Artie wanting to prove his manhood to win her back. The only two who didn't have a substantial story were Mercedes and Kurt, although they were an effective Greek chorus.

Man, a lot was going on at McKinley High. There were a few too many plot lines introduced during "Audition", and it was hard to keep up with everything, but at least they all had a connecting thread line. All of the stories focused on people wanting to hold on to something that's important to them, and how they'd do what was necessary to hold on to it.

Shue wanted to keep what little funds he had, and was willing to run Coach Beiste out of town. Rachel wanted to remain the star, and put Sunshine in serious danger. Finn needed to remain popular, and even tried out for the Cheerios in order to maintain his status. Quinn wanted to be HBIC once again, and threw Santana under the pyramid to get back her throne. Artie wanted Tina back, and was willing to be used as a battering ram on the football field. All desperate acts, but all understandable. The use of these commonalities was more effective than only having songs with "hello" in the title or the overuse of the word "funk".

What Worked
Even though "Audition" suffered from the familiar tendency of having too many balls in the air (not in Sam's mouth) that afflicted some of the season 1 episodes, the episode was still good and it introduced some interesting plot lines that will pepper the rest of the season.

Coach Beiste has the opportunity to be a really complex character just as long as we're not constantly laughing at her. She could be a formidable foil for Sue and a good ally for Will. Oddly enough, she feels like one of the most realistic characters and I found myself actually caring about her. I think Ken Tanaka's character was easy to get rid of because he was so one-note. Now, the show has another teacher who could add a lot to this world.

I'm all for with the Tina and Mike relationship, and not because Asians are a tight community. This relationship could really bring both characters out of the background. Hell, Mike had more lines this episode than he did all of last season. I don't think they're going to be at the level or Rachel/Finn or even Quinn/Puck, but they're already more interesting thanks to their coupling. Plus, Artie's always been a jerk and didn't deserve Tina to begin with. Unfortunately, I see a "Artina" reunion in the near future. Poor Changster.

A lot of people really, really disliked Rachel after this episode, but that was the point. I think the back-9 episodes veered away from Rachel's overly ambitious nature, and made her the sadsack everyone loved to kick while she was down. The character we saw in "Audition" was the Rachel of old, and I missed her. Lea Michele was also back to comic form, and watching her shout at Sunshine because she thought she didn't understand English was too funny.

What Didn't Work
I'm still not quite on board with Quinn going back to the Cheerios. Out of all of the characters, she grew the most last season. She went from Queen Bee to outcast to caring friend to soulful sister. I'm afraid that having her back in her cheerleader outfit will be a giant step back, but I'm willing to be surprised.

Some of the song choices were also a miss for me, not because they didn't add something to the story or characters, but because I didn't recognize most of them. We all knew "Empire State of Mind" was coming thanks to the previews, and the performance was good, but I wasn't a fan of its placement within in the episode. I felt they pulled it out too early. The Rachel & Sunshine version of "Telephone" would've been better if the music didn't just start up from nowhere. I had never heard "Billionaire" before Tuesday night, but the guys' jam session was fun to watch. Rachel singing "What I Did For Love" might have been too obscure for most viewers, which took away from its overall appeal.

Odds and Ends
  • The meta-heavy, TMZ style opening was great on so many levels. I love it when shows can poke fun at themselves.
  • Brittany continues to be the unsung hero: "Stop the violence"
  • Finn's Cheerio audition = priceless
  • Who didn't see Sunshine joining Vocal Adrenaline from a mile away?
Wow, that was a longer write-up than I was planning on, but like I said, there was a lot going on in "Audition". The first episode of the new season was not as strong as some of the show's earlier installments, but it wasn't a failure like so many people were expecting (or hoping for). Yes, the storytelling is still all over the place, but you could also see Murphy & Co. righting the ship, which is encouraging.


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