February 21, 2012

Episode Review: GLEE, "On My Way"

Well, Glee did say that everything was going to change after "On My Way," and I'm pretty sure it will not be the same show when it comes back in April. The thing is, part of me is worried about what, if anything, will truly be different when the show returns from hiatus. Other than that, the episode was a mixed bag that I mostly enjoyed.

Regionals are coming up, and Sebastian wanted to get the upper hand by blackmailing Rachel with a doctored nudey picture of Finn. He threatened to put it online unless she agreed to drop out of the competition, and this powerplay brought up the raw emotions that New Directions had been feeling ever since Blaine's operation. Then everything changed when Dave Karofsky was outed at his new high school, and he tried to commit suicide. From that point forward, everyone tried to put things into perspective since life can be fragile sometimes. Kurt could not help but feel somewhat responsible for what happened to Dave since he avoided him since Valentine's Day, but he was able to talk to him and convinced him that things can get better even if life sucks sometimes.

In a lot of ways, Glee has a very fine line to walk when it comes to the kind of show it wants to be. Should it purely be a musical satire about high schoolers or should it take a stand and deliver a message since it does reach so many young people? At times, it tries too hard to be one or the other, and sometimes it even tries to be both at the same time. This multiple identity disorder has created a situation where leaning in one direction over the other can be challenging for Glee, and that's when it get's labeled as an after school special or a public service announcement. When it wants to send a message, it sometimes stumbles over its own sequenced feet, but I thought that the Karofsky storyline was told rather effectively.

I can see how some would think that it was a little too preachy or heavy-handed, but teen suicide is such a challenging subject to tackle, and the fact that Glee was willing to try was admirable in my opinion. This plot was also proof that this show can be good when it wants to, and the fact that Dave got actual character growth and an arc that made sense was encouraging. The message that suicide can touch everyone, and that someone you know has probably had similar thoughts was also handled relatively well, although I'm a little worried that people stopped paying attention because it was Will sharing his experience. Ultimately, I felt that Glee took on a very serious topic and was able to treat it with care and respect, so I commend the show.

After Dave's drastic actions, Rachel decided that she and Finn shouldn't wait until May to get married, so they pushed up their wedding date to the upcoming weekend. Quinn realized that she wanted to leave high school on top, so she asked Sue to rejoin the Cheerios but was initially denied. After a New Directions win at Regionals, Sue had a change of heart because she remembered how much she respected Quinn in the past, so she allowed her to rejoin the squad. Even Quinn had an epiphany and decided to support Rachel and Finn's marriage. Unfortunately, she did not have her bridesmaid dress on the day of the wedding, so she had to rush home to get it and got into a car accident because she was too busy texting while driving. Cut to black.

While I appreciated the Dave story, the rest of the episode was somewhat problematic. It made sense that such a tragedy would cause people to re-evaluate their own lives, the directions that some of the characters went in didn't quite land for me. First off, this whole wedding storyline has to stop, and I was a little upset that it wasn't resolved by the end of this episode mostly because it's such an asinine idea, and the fact that the parental figures were still allowing it to progress was beyond frustrating. Now, I seriously doubt that the wedding will actually happen after Quinn's accident, but that twist is problematic for a whole bunch of other reasons.

As much as I love Dianna Agron, Quinn has to die if Ryan Murphy and Co. want to maintain a shred of creative integrity. First off, it's been clear for sometime that the creators have no idea how to use Agron or her character, so writing her off would not be the end of the world, but if she can somehow contribute to powerful and emotional stories through death, then why not do it. Secondly, they've once again written themselves into a corner, and how they respond could make or break Glee. If it turns out that Quinn's accident was just a cheap trick to keep people on edge until April, and they put in her in a coma or paralyze her, then that would be a huge cheat that could destroy the small amount of good will some have for this show. While it would be tragic to lose Quinn at this point in her life, that move would be bold and could be the groundbreaking development that could get Glee back on track. We'll just have to wait and see.

Poor life decisions and car accidents were not the only issues that I had with "On My Way." Like most of the competition episodes, there were some pacing problems. We started things off with very emotionally, then we took a 20 minute break so we could squeeze in Regionals which didn't leave enough to time to address the wedding, and then there was that final shot. This episode just went from sad to boring to silly to sad again so quickly that it all felt clunky. Honestly, the Karofsky and Quinn storylines should have had their own episode instead of being used as bookends for a lackluster Regionals performance.

Speaking of Regionals, I'm just going to skip the "On the Music Front" section because most of the songs were forgetable, and the fact that they took away from more deserving plotlines kinda bummed me out. I'm also a little irked that the writers have also wasted an opportunity to make Sebastian a true villain by giving him a conscience. While I think that having him be evil throughout this episode wouldn't have thematically or tonally meshed well with everything else that was going on (another reason why Regionals shouldn't have been involved), it will be hard to have him go back to being a bad guy after this one. It's like they didn't learn their lesson with Sue.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Going back to Sue for a moment. I can't believe they're going through with this baby storyline, but I can see it being salvaged. I'm predicting that she will miscarry and that along with Quinn's death will have a major impact on her. I don't know if they'll be able to strike the right balance, but a grieving Sue could be mean and real at the same time.
  • Schue's story would've been more impactful if the writers hadn't tried to so hard to make him unlikable.
  • I'm glad that they kept the Troubletones around for consistency's sake, but having them show up during "Stronger" was a little jarring. Why not just have the other girls from New Directions join Mercedes, Santana, Brittany and Sugar?
  • While the clown and vampire were just silly, it's kind of cool how they've helped build the world of Lima
  • They made Quinn a Cheerio ... again!
  • "His thing is not that small ... or brown."
  • "You're going to come down with Asian bird flu or whatever Tina Blowin-Wang just had."
  • "I just want a song."
Glee needs to remember that the combination of realism, joy and a little bit of crazy was what made this show successful during its first season. Even though it wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, "On My Way" showed us that Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan can recapture that magic if they really want to. Maybe they will come April.


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