The episode’s called “Heart,” but it really should have been called “How Amber Riley Singlehandedly Saved Glee.”
We don’t know if the show actually needed to be saved, but we’re pretty burnt out on it; there’s no denying it. The promise of the first half of the first season has not ever been fulfilled and it’s been nothing but a series of disappointments occasionally punctuated by high points to remind us of that promise. We were optimistic at the start of this season that the new writing staff would be able to inject some excitement into the proceedings and to be fair to them, they did occasionally manage it. But the show still disappoints from week to week, to the point where we’re seriously considering dropping it from our blogging roster, especially since it appears some of you need an intervention. Judging by the comments section, people only watch Glee so they can rail against how awful it is for the next week on the internet. We sympathize, because it gets harder and harder to write reviews that aren’t simply lists of the same complaints we’ve been making all along.
And given that we were awash in the world that is Fashion Week when this episode aired and didn’t get to see it until everyone else had already talked it to death, we weren’t exactly excited to sit down and watch it, and spent the first half or so bored out of our minds for the most part. Then a funny thing happened. Amber Riley opened her mouth and sang.
To say she NAILED IT or she SHUT IT DOWN when discussing her performance of “I Will Always Love You” is to do it a disservice. It was, quite simply, one of the most breathtaking performances ever depicted on the show. World-class-level talent kicking ass on a classic, two days after the singer who made it most famous passed away unexpectedly. Maybe Whitney’s passing had something to do with our emotional response, but for the first time in a long time, we actually HAD an emotional response to a performance on Glee. In short, we cried; oh, yes we did. And we don’t do that often; especially with the hetero-normative stuff. Amber not only nailed the performance, offering a slightly softer, lighter take than Whitney’s version, but with all of the powerhouse moments still in place, but she and Chord nailed the emotional aspects of that scene. We don’t really care about their future as a couple but that one moment was sheer perfection – and a reminder of what the show can be when its firing on all cylinders. It almost didn’t matter what else happened in the other 39 minutes of the episode.
But we suppose everyone wants to know what we thought of Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell as Rachel’s parents. In short, we were a bit confused by their performances. We fully admit that we may not have gotten the joke since, for once, Glee aimed its satirical cannons directly at the two of us and depicted a couple who could have been us, if you substituted fashion for theater and stuck a daughter in between us. Don’t get us wrong; we didn’t find anything remotely offensive about the depiction. We just kept waiting for something funny to happen. Goldblum and Stokes Mitchell are two incredibly charming performers but they both seemed to be as confused about what was expected of them as we were. When you introduce a parent or set of parents on this show, it serves as a way to contrast with or explain how their child became who he or she is. You can see this with Quinn’s parents, as well as Finn’s, Kurt’s, and Mike’s. A somewhat simplistic line has always been drawn connecting parent characters with child characters on this show. Watching the Berry family interact, we just didn’t get the sense that Rachel was being explained all that well. Sure, we got the theater-family aspect of it, but one would assume, given how she’s been portrayed since Day One, that she had parents who spoiled her terribly and constantly lifted her up over their heads in praise and pride. Instead, we got two parents who actually seemed like they had some common sense and didn’t automatically assume that everything Rachel does is perfect. It doesn’t really scan.
But hey, this was the LEAST heteronormative Valentine’s Day ever depicted in mass media, so we probably should be happy about that. A decent point about double standards was being made with Santana and Brittney, but again, we don’t think they quite followed through on it. We’re not saying that an evil Christian character needed to be introduced, but in 2012, if you’re going to have the gays come up against Christian attitudes in a high school setting, an entirely tolerant and happy ending tends to make the exercise a bit pointless and unrealistic. It’s nice that in the world of Glee, all the self-identified Christians have a wonderfully accepting view of gay relationships, but it doesn’t reflect the real world right now.
As for Kurt and Karofsky, this is breaking our hearts a little, as it no doubt is meant to. Suicide around the corner? It seems pretty likely – and we really, really hope the writers don’t fuck this one up. In both recent arcs dealing with Christians vs. gays and bullying that gets out of hand and sends a kid to the hospital, they dropped the ball on the final message. We have serious doubts about how well this is going to be handled.
But who cares right now? The only thing that mattered with this episode is that Amber Riley lifted this show up from its doldrums for just a few minutes and that was enough to keep us in the recapping game for at least another week.