October 12, 2010

Episode Review: GLEE, "Duets"

"Duets" could have been another sub-par episode of Glee that focused way too much on the music and very little on actual story, and to some extent it was, but I really enjoyed most of it and it was one of the better Season 2 episodes.

This episode wasn't devoid of plot, and it actually had a lot of story lines going on (per usual), but at least this time around most of them were coherent and plausible. For some reason Puck's in juvie, which was used as a way to introduce Sam to New Directions. Shue decided to get the competitive juices going by proposing a duets contest, and the winners got a gift certificate to Breadsticks, which apparently is the place to be in Lima, OH because everyone goes nuts.

The competition dominated the plot, but every team had their own little side story going on. Some of the pairings made sense; Finn and Rachel, Mike and Tina, Kurt and Kurt, some were a little more creative like Santana and Mercedes, and some were just odd (Artie and Brittany).

Finn and Rachel's story revolved around them throwing the competition in order to boost Sam's confidence, and it was fun watching them scheme and have fun for once. The honeymoon period for Tina and Mike seemed to be over because everything they do has to focus on their Asian-ness. I was a little bummed to see the writers pulling them apart so soon because they're relationship has actually made them interesting. Santana and Mercedes were in it to win it, and it was nice watching them put their differences aside to bring the house down.

While all of this was going on, Sam was trying to find his place in New Directions and we got some pretty good character moments. Kurt was instantly smitten with Lady Lips, which Finn noticed and he asked him to back off to avoid scaring Sam off. Sam agreed to sing with Kurt despite Finn's objections, and it took another good conversation between Kurt and Burt that helped the younger Hummel realize how pushy he can be when it comes to crushes. Kurt let Sam out of their agreement, which led blondie into the arms of Quinn, and a new power couple was born.

One of my biggest gripes about Season 2 has been the almost criminal lack of Quinn. Not only did she get one of the craziest stories last season, not to mention some of the most awkward musical moments, but she was relegated to the background for the first three episodes back. It's like Murphy & Co. are punishing Dianna Agron for being perfect. Quinn's partnership with Sam gave us some more character development because we learned why Quinn's in New Directions and a peek at what she's been dealing with since giving birth. While I wished Quinn's reintroduction would have been a part of a stronger story, I like the idea of her with Sam, which could lead to some great tension between them and Finn/Rachel.

The one pairing and plot that just didn't work for me was the whole Brittany/Artie stuff, which was a shame since I'm in love with Heather Morris. I got that she teamed with Artie because she was spurned by Santana, but seeing them together just didn't feel right, and her taking his virginity was unsettling. Despite the cringe worthiness of them hooking up, it was cool seeing Brittany realize how her actions could hurt others. More character development?!?!? What's going on?!?!

Another small quibble about "Duets" had to do with the fact that some of the songs featured weren't very accessible. For example, "Le Hot Jazz" worked for Kurt from a character standpoint, but for viewers who have never heard of Victor/Victoria could have easily been confused and turned off by the performance regardless of how great Kurt was. Finn and Rachel's version of "With You I'm Born Again" was just out there, which was the point, but I had never heard of the song prior to tonight's episode, so I didn't know what was going on.

That being said, most of the other songs did work. I loved the Diva's (Mercedes and Santana) rendition of "River Deep - Mountain High", and it was great seeing Naya Rivera getting her Tina Turner on. I also loved Asian Fusion's version of "Sing!" mostly because it worked with their storyline, and I'm always a fan of more Harry Shum, Jr. I also loved it when Rachel reached out to Kurt, and they actually sang together rather than competing with one another. I really hope they can become friends.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • I'm go glad they finally addressed the "f-word" debacle from last season. Sure, it was a few episodes too late, but hopefully we can all but it behind us.
  • Team Asian Fusion for the WIN! We definitely need more Mike Chang on our screens. Although I could do with less Tina.
  • From a heterosexual male viewpoint, seeing Brittana making out was awesome. From a storytelling standpoint, it just felt forced.
  • Finn and Rachel need more team captain moments like tonight, and it wouldn't hurt if we got to see Rachel's softer side a little more often.
  • I didn't realize that Sue wasn't present at all until the episode was over, which was proof of how good the episode was.
  • Sam and Quinn's "Lucky" wasn't as good as Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat's, but it was a decent effort, and more of a plot device than anything else.
  • Brittany's Lady and the Tramp homage was too cute for words.
  • Speaking of Brittany cuteness, am I the only one that loves it when Finn agrees her silly answers? They're soulmates!
  • Character development is never a bad thing.
"Duets" felt like an old-school (can a show with only one season under its belt have an old-school?) episode of Glee where we had the chance to see the students perform in a somewhat natural setting. We didn't get big production numbers (even Kurt's performance felt more realistic than past numbers), we got some good character moments, and it was just fun with not too much angst. Tonight's episode reminded me of why I started liking this show to begin with. Good job Glee. Now bring on Rocky Horror!


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