A Not So Glee-Ful Return: Hell-O
It’s been awhile since the mid-season hiatus of Glee, and in the interim I’ve fallen in love with some other television (I know, it feels like cheating). Therefore, when I settled in last night – I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from a series that I had been quite in love with earlier this season.
I wasn’t really expecting to find it as distasteful as last night’s episode: Hell-O. It wasn’t terrible, just…bonkers. The pacing of the show has never been its strong suit, and last night it was out of control.
Fast-pace works well for parody, and it works well for legal dramas. Both of these things Glee is not. It’s a comedy with snippets of drama tossed in, and its always a shocker when the drama works well. There were only two moments last night that the show felt even remotely authentic, and those were outside the musical numbers (which usually have more impact and contextual meaning). Those moments were articulated by Rachel Berry and Emma Pillsbury to their respective partners. They felt real and poignant – something that I’ve come to enjoy about Glee. Despite all the meth-ed out, over-the-top musical numbers – there has always been a striking element of reality or some kind of dramatic soul lurking beneath.
If nothing else, at least the motivations of the characters have felt fairly authentic up to this point.
But it seemed like last night was an attempt to undo all of the effects of the previous 13 episodes, and in a single hour bring back Sue Sylvester as a nemesis, destroy two fledgling relationships and introduce two new love interests for the main characters. None of which was really believable. Especially Will Schuester making out with the opposing choir director, and Finn Hudson suddenly realizing that Rachel is the most annoying girl on the planet. Musicals are best when they can capitalize on their few moments of believability. Last night, did not have much success in convincing me.
It feels that perhaps the writers, producers, and directors are not as adept at handling an ensemble cast as they would like us to believe. We still haven’t spent much time with many of the side characters, yet are continuously thrust into the relationships of the main characters, Finn and Rachel, as well as Schuester’s many tangled affairs.
But the show, for me, is at it’s best when it’s telling simpler stories about some of the quieter, more relatable side characters. As a show that promises to revel in the marginalized, it’s minority characters are often just that – kept out of the spotlight so we can bask in the glory of the fancy singing white people.
Even my DH, Dan, noticed that the asian guy, Mike Chang, who dances in the background has never had a speaking part. What about the romance that was developing between Artie and Tina? Why is Mercedes always playing second fiddle to Rachel, when she clearly has a better voice and more palatable personality?
Usually the show does better with inclusion, but last night’s episode was just BAD on many counts. You can’t have lightning fast pacing without losing some of the audience attachment to characters, especially if we’ve come to know them one way – and suddenly they’re acting entirely differently. It would make more sense if they’d illustrated at all that a significant amount of time had passed, but it felt like all that had transpired only a week ago, and within that brief time period, everything had changed.
Finn’s and Will’s disinterest in their romantic partners made little to no sense. Well, it did, but the show didn’t establish enough sympathy or understanding about how difficult it would be for both of these characters to suddenly end long-term committed relationships and hop right in to brand new ones. Wisdom and experience tells all of us this a bad idea, but we’ve been led to believe that Will and Finn are experiencing twu luv.
There was virtually no exploration of how emotionally distraught either male lead is. Though, I am enjoying how twisted up Finn and Will’s fates have become – Finn is like the HS version of Will, which is probably why Will seems so compelled to help him (even outside the bounds of a normal teacher).
Hour long television can suffer from the need to completely wrap up a story arch in a single episode. I like that shows such as Lost – a serial show that requires you to view every episode to keep track of the plot – have allowed some shows to relax their death-grip on the hour model. Yes, there does need to be a complete story told in a show – but an ARCH is different.
For instance: Rachael Berry slowly becomes annoying to Finn over episode #1 – ending the episode with a breakup. She meets Choir Boy in episode #2. They start dating in episode #3. It becomes an issue for the Gleeks, and they break up (but secretly still date) in episode #4. There was enough going on in last night’s episode, that stretching even this plot-line out, would have given the audience enough breathing room to buy the transformation.
I remember feeling the same way about the Pilot Episode as well. I liked it – the humor is fast-paced and electric, but I wanted everything to slow down so I could REALLY enjoy the characters and musical elements. Eventually – it did, and some pretty amazing television emerged as the series progressed through its first 13 episodes.
Fingers crossed that this half of the season will have an equally rocky start, and bloom into something much better than last night’s episode. As with many of its characters – the show has potential, but needs a gentle and nuanced hand to coax greatness. Otherwise – we get frenetic story-telling, glitzy sound and noise, without any sort of emotional resonance to really pull it off successfully.