November 30, 2010

Episode Review: GLEE, "Special Education"

PLEASE NOTE: This episode and write-up really wiped me out, so I didn't edit it. I apologize in advance.

Wow, tonight's Glee was a pretty entertaining clusterfrick because there was SO much going on even by this show's standards. With so many stories, it was hard to process everything, so I'm probably going to have to watch "Special Education" a few times in order to fully appreciate it. For the sake of this write-up, my initial reaction was torn, but I'm leaning towards the not so great end of the spectrum.

Cramming way too many plotlines in a small amount of time is not new to Glee, but there was just so many this time around that watching it became a chore, and it didn't help that the pacing was so frantic. Also, for some reason they picked this episode to give every character something to do which just added to the messiness. While I hate doing long recaps, I just had to try to encapsulate everything that went on tonight:

Will and Emma
Will asked Emma to go with him to Sectionals, and she agreed but also called him out about his set list because it was the exact same routine they've been doing since day one. He decided to shake things up, probably to impress her yet again, and all hell broke lose amongst New Directions. Right before leaving for Sectionals Emma said she couldn't go because she got in a fight with Carl over the whole ordeal. To add salt to the wound, she ended up getting married in Vegas instead. The final nail in the Wemma coffin.

At first, Will and Emma were cute together, but this pairing quickly became tiresome during last season's back-9 episodes. It really shouldn't be so hard for these two to be together, but they had to be kept a part because this is television. Cue the contrived roadblocks, and I lost interest. Not to mention that the combination of Terri's lying and Emma's moving on turned Will into the Douchester. Maybe, just maybe, he'll finally move on as well and get back to being a somewhat likable guy. Fingers crossed.

Finn and Rachel
At the very start of the episode Santana dropped the bomb and told Rachel about her tryst with Finn, which kicked off all of the angsty relationship drama. Of course Rachel was upset that Finn didn't tell her because he was trying to spare her feelings. Plus, he's scared of her. The two fight for the rest of the episode until the end when they kissed and made up...until Rachel admitted to him that she made out with Puck to get back at him. Finchel's officially over.

I try to not get swept up in all of the shipper stuff, but I kind of liked Finn and Rachel together when they weren't constantly bickering. They were actually cute when they were happy and/or scheming together. Unfortunately, there was nothing to like about them as a couple this time around. Rachel was back to her high maintenance ways, and Finn just came off as a jackass (more Schusterization). Plus, their whole break up was so cliche that it was hard to care by the end of it all.

Their split will probably be temporary, and they'll be back together within a couple of episodes, but I hope Murphy and Co. explore the idea of pairing Finn with Santana because there is a tiny spark there. Hell, even put Rachel and Puck back together for all I care...just make these couples interesting.

Kurt's New Digs
Kurt's attendance at Dalton Academy was a mixed blessing. On one hand, there's the whole no bullying policy so he doesn't have to fear for his life, but he learned that the Warblers operate in a very different fashion. The shine has already started coming off of the apple because they don't appreciate his individuality like New Directions did. Despite Blaine's words of encouragement, it was clear that Kurt didn't feel comfortable with his new glee mates, but he was given the chance to audition for a solo. In order to get some help, he went to Rachel who convinced him to bust out "Don't Cry For Me Argentina". It failed to impress, but it allowed the two former rivals to bond.

Out of everything that was thrown at us tonight, the Rachel and Kurt moments were my favorite. The writers have been toying with a friendship with the two since last season, and they planted the seed earlier this year. I'm glad to see that it's been growing slowly, and they're cute as friends. With Rachel being dumped and Kurt's transition to Dalton, it'd be cool to see these two lean on one another over the next couple of episodes.

The Artinchantany Quadrangle
My worst fears from last week were confirmed, and we got a love quadrangle involving Brittany, Artie, Tina, and Mike. During Schue's massive shake-up, he decided to showcase Brittany and Mike's dance skills since the Warblers and Hipsters cannot step up to the streets. Since the two had to rehearse alone, Tina became suspicious and accused them of cheating. Artie was bought into the paranoia and called Brittany out, but it was all a misdirection because nothing happened between them.

I've been very honest about my displeasure with the idea of Artie and Brittany as a couple, but I was won over tonight. For once, Artie acted like a caring boyfriend (before he called her a slut), and him using his magic comb to help her get over her stage fright was a sweet moment. Too bad Tina and Mike were only plot devices during this storyline, but luckily Asian Fusion was back to fusing by episode's end.

The Am-Badass-ador
With New Directions being a man down, Schue tapped Puck to be the New Directions recruiter, and he surprisingly was on board with the assignment. While Puck's a badass, he's not the brightest star of the bunch, and his big mistake was trying to convince some football players to join up. This led to him being trapped in a port-a-potty for 24 hours. He was saved by the female wrestler (not by Buddha, Allah, or Satan), and he was able to convince her to join by spending seven minutes in heaven with her.

"Special Education" was by far the best Puck episode to date because he was given some great lines, but he was also given the chance to grow as a character. For once, I got the impression that he really enjoyed being a part of the glee club and was actually proud of being a gleek. Even when he was making out with Rachel, he bailed because he couldn't betray Finn again. Puck may have become one of my favorite characters thanks to tonight's episode.

The Rest
I want to know what Amber Riley and Dianna Agron did to piss off the Powers that Glee because they were once again sidelined tonight despite having prominent roles during two of the musical numbers. Schue gave Quinn and Sam the duet thanks to their win a few weeks ago, and Mercedes and Tina were given a pity song at the end of the episode. In all reality, Mercedes was just there to make smartass remarks the entire time. Santana was also given a solo during their Sectionals performance, but I can't tell you what she sang for the life of me because I was too busy watching Brittany and Mike dance.

I think that's everything! See how much they tried to put in a 40-minute time frame? While I didn't have a problem with each individual storyline, putting them all together was stressful, and it would've been nice if some of them were introduced a few weeks ago instead of all at once. It's called pacing people! I'm all for giving the rest of New Directions the chance to shine, but not at the same time. When you let everyone have a piece of the pie you get the hot damn mess that was "Special Education".

Jumbled-ness aside, what really irked me about the episode was how the characters were handled. Will was STILL pining over Emma and once again used New Directions to impress her. If she hadn't pointed out how every ND performance was the same, he wouldn't have arbitrarily changed everything at the last minute. But then we wouldn't have had a reason for all of the drama. He then went off on his students, and kept telling them how disappointed he was in them after they became unhappy about his audibles. Sure, they needed a kick in the ass, but he totally negated all of the love they showed him two weeks ago.

After weeks of trying to convince us that Rachel's less selfish and a team player, it was all thrown out of the window and she was back to her diva ways. Why even try to humanize her if they were just going to make her into a spoiled brat all over again? Then she shifts gears yet again and starts bonding with Kurt, making it hard to hate her. Usually, I'm for characters showing their true colors because I don't think real people change all that much, but going back and forth so frantically was annoying.

Last week, Finn was painted as a weak leader who only cared about his popularity, and this week he was a lying, emotional cad. While I can understand why he didn't tell Rachel about sleeping with Santana (he didn't cheat and didn't want to hurt her feelings), having her out him was a dick move that only made him seem more pathetic. Still, I felt bad for Finn more than I disliked him, but they need to whip him back in shape fast.

Not all of the character moments were letdowns though. Like I mentioned earlier, Puck pretty much saved the episode with his one-liners and maturation. Brittany also had some genuinely sweet moments as she once again showed her vulnerable side. She even made Artie come off as likable, and I thought that was impossible.

On the music front, the song selections were once again hit or miss for me. The Warblers version of  "Hey, Soul Sister" had me actually liking the song for once, and it's clear that Darren Criss is bound for stardom. While I like it when Rachel and Kurt sing together, their Evita duet didn't seem to fit within the context of the episode. The songs New Directions sang at Sectionals ("(I"ve Had) The Time of My Life" and "Valerie") were passable, but nothing special. The final number, "Dog Days Are Over", was supposed to be a classic, fun, Glee number, but it felt insincere after all of the drama.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • It's obvious that New Directions have trademarked the "Start Singing at the Back of the Auditorium" routine because they've used it at every competition. How much you wanna bet Puck and Santana get a similar entrance during Regionals?
  • "Buddha, Allah, Satan! Help me!"
  • "I have to say, she kinda rocked my world."
  • Were the Hipsters the elderly choir that they made a documentary about?
  • The boys dressed up as Patrick Swayze from Ghost was a nice little shout-out. I miss him.
  • We definitely need more Brittany & Chang routines.
  • After having to endure all of the spectacles we got a freaking tie! Seriously?!?!?
  • Asian Kiss!
While "Special Education" had way too much going on, and it relied too much on silly high school drama, it did remind me that these characters are supposed to be immature (with the exception of Will). The thing is, watching thirteen people bitching and crying at the same time gets old fast. Frenzied story telling and pacing led to an uneven episode, but there was still enough highlights to prevent me from disliking it completely.

ANOTHER NOTE: "Special Eduction" was much better the second time around when I was prepared for all of the crazy drama that was going on. It still had some weak spots, but it was a lot more enjoyable and felt less like chore.


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