Well, everybody has their limit, we suppose.
Most of this season, we’ve been arguing that Glee fans should lower their expectations for the show because, due to a combination of factors such as an unusually large cast, a format that doesn’t fit easily into any previous show conventions, and a dedication to showcasing a range of character types not seen as often as they should be on television, things like internal consistency and progressive character arcs that make sense should be considered secondary concerns because the show’s primary concern is spectacle, and lots of it. It’s a point of view that’s allowed us to enjoy the show, even as it routinely violates most generally accepted rules of scripting and storytelling. Last night’s sloppy, lackluster effort had us hitting the wall. In the harsh light of morning, we can’t recall laughing at one line, nor were any of the musical performances anything for us to get excited about.
Hey, remember Sunshine, who hasn’t been referred to in 15 episodes? Here she is! Pointless solo! Bye, Sunshine!
But let’s start with the basics. All good narrative storytelling has themes and motifs that enrich the story and give underlying meaning to the events and characters. That’s not what Glee does now (if it ever was). Now, Glee declares one heavy-handed theme per episode and the title, story arcs, jokes, and songs all have to reference it. It’s gotten extremely stale at this point, and truth be told, it always was a shallow way to tie an episode together. But here’s the thing that pissed us off: the writing was so lazy this time around that they couldn’t even bother being true to the stated theme, which was “neglected artists.” Aretha Franklin is a neglected artist? Jack Johnson?
They tried to make it about the less-frequently showcased members of the club, but even then they flubbed it. Is there some reason why Tina’s incredibly rare solos keep ending with her in tears? Is that funny? And as much as we love Mike Chang, he’s had quite a few dance numbers to strut his stuff. We’d have rather seen Artie get that slot. As for Mercedes, more than any other character – even Rachel – she has degraded into a set of lazy character tropes. The sassy, chubby, gospel-singing black girl. That’s it. That’s the entirety of Mercedes’ character after almost 2 full seasons of the show. For all the viewer complaints about how the show portrays gays, lesbians, bisexuals, big girls, Asians, the handicapable and the developmentally disabled, it’s truly appalling how badly they’ve developed the only African-American character in the cast. Mercedes is a character that would have been considered a cliche thirty years ago.
We actually liked the idea of Lauren coaching Mercedes on being a diva. It had a lot of story potential and we can see how these two characters might bond as friends (because her supposed deep friendship with Quinn has been totally forgotten by the writers). But it quickly devolved into nonsensical silliness and Mercedes went from having a point to being ridiculously difficult. Since New Directions never saw fit to pay much attention to her before now, it’s not entirely clear why they ever gave her demands any serious consideration in the first place. And what the hell was that bullshit Rachel was feeding her? As if it was Mercedes’ fault that she doesn’t get more solos. You know, Mercedes is a cliche for a black character, but just for that moment, we wouldn’t have minded if she got even more cliched and cut a white bitch.
And sure, it was a great performance, but far from her best. Amber revealed in a recent interview that Chaka Khan is her all-time favorite artist. Writers: get her away from the Aretha/Gospel cliche (not that there’s anything at all wrong with Aretha or Gospel music) and give this artist the material she wants to sing. We’d LOVE to see Amber tear up “I Feel For You” or “Tell Me Something Good,” rather than the ongoing characterization as McKinley High’s own little Martha Wash, brought in to do the wailing, but rarely given the spotlight or the credit.
Also, the idea that it was up to Rachel to decide whether Mercedes was good enough for the final number made us nauseous. It wasn’t Rachel’s place to bestow this gift and besides, we can’t help noticing that the only sacrifice Rachel made was giving up the opportunity to sing to a crowd of 4 or 5 people. A beatdown would have been more appropriate than the grateful hug at the end.
Also, Holly Holliday left. Why? Because she’s Holly Holliday and because Emma’s husband left (Why? Because she’s Emma) and the writers remembered that she has OCD, only now it’s not funny, and also Will still loves her. That’s storytelling. We couldn’t roll our eyes hard enough at the lecture against anonymous internet commenting and how it makes you a Terrible Person. Considering how much criticism both Gwynnie and the show get on the internet, it came off more than a little defensive.
Also, Sue Sylvester is permanently stuck in a narrative corner and just about the only thing they could do at this point is give her a head injury and personality transplant or just have her take the school hostage and die in a hail of police bullets. They’ve got one of the funniest performers on television and she’s been turned into a flat, mustache-twirling villain who would never have a job around kids in anything approaching the real world.
And look, we get – and have argued ourselves – that real world concerns aren’t necessarily going to fit in this world, but we can accept that only to explain things like orchestras at the ready at any moment and amateurs breaking into flawlessly auto-tuned songs and perfectly choreographed dances. We spent the entire last half of the episode wondering two things: why are none of the parents or family members of the Glee kids attending the show and why is a teacher allowing students AND A FORMER TEACHER FIRED FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF A STUDENT – to disrupt the show to the point that a performer would run off stage in tears? Look, this isn’t a “Where did the string section come from?” or “Who’s operating the spotlight?” question. This is the entire plot hinging on things that would absolutely never happen.
Feh. Bad all around. We almost wish they’d just do all-fantasy episodes from here on out and keep the characters out of anything that resembles reality. We’d lose interest pretty quickly, but probably not as quickly as we are right now.
Although we have to make one minor correction: we DID laugh at the shoutout to the Honey Badger, but it’s a bad sign for a show when the funniest part of an episode references an internet meme. Almost makes us want to reference another overused internet meme having to do with sharks.
[Video Credit: hulu.com – Screencap: tomandlorenzo.com]