S2E21: Well, here it is, the last stop before Nationals in New York and I still can’t decide just how I feel about Glee, and this episode is a prime example of why that is.
On one hand, I keep hanging on, looking for the show that enthralled me last season, and I’ve found glimpses of that throughout the second season. But on the other hand, I find what was once a show with just the right amount of camp laced with something real as it takes a steep nose dive into the depths of frivolousness and inanity. And that contrast is what we saw last night in “Funeral.”
We found two major arcs, one in which the death we’d been hearing about turned out to be something we never expected – Sue’s sister passes away – and Finn and Kurt help Sue with the funeral and the other in which Schue hires Jesse St. James to coach the glee club and it does nothing but cause a whole lotta unnecessary trouble. Bet you can guess which storyline worked and which one didn’t (hint: Sue’s was better).
“Honey Badger, I am lactating with rage.” –Sue
As usual, we open with a bit of trouble. Sue is particularly nasty at the outset, kicking Becky off the Cheerios for seemingly no reason and using Howard from Sheets 'N Things to reroute the glee club’s New York tickets to Libya. Whoa, Sue. Whoa.
Of course, this callous dismissal of Becky sends her to Schue to ask for a new place to belong (glee club), and while I appreciate that they didn’t pull a TV card and go around what would happen at a real high school in that situation, I have to admit, Will telling Becky she’d have to wait until next year isn’t helping me like him. This pickle forces Schue to demand an explanation from Sue who spills the beans: she can’t have Becky around because she reminds her of her sister, who’s just died. And with that, we all shut up.
After having his confidence robbed from him in one swift St. James move, Finn mans up by teaming with Kurt to help Sue grieve and to help her plan her sister’s funeral. They both know a little something about loss, because they’ve both lost a parent and they move past Sue’s past nastiness to help her mourn. This part of the story really worked for me. Yes, Sue’s evil front has been a factor throughout Glee and this story seems to have removed it, but that’s okay; it was getting old anyway. We’ve seen Sue slowly become a real person as the show’s given glimpses of her relationship with her sister and we’ve slowly warmed to the idea that she’s simply a little more complicated than we thought. Now, we see her work through a crippling loss and Jane Lynch’s performance was flawless. Sure, she’s great at spewing absurd, biting dialog, but the woman is also a seriously good actress.
When the funeral time comes, Finn and Kurt have put together something to remember her sister by: an homage to her favorite movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This scene is what made the entire episode and maybe even the entire season for Lynch. As she attempts to speak about her sister, she can’t finish, so Will helps her out. This very human, very grounded few minutes reaches a place that I knew Glee could still go; a place that reaches in and elicits a very real emotional reaction. Translation: this episode legitimately made me cry...like a baby.
Of course, this incredibly difficult, but well done scene is punctuated by the glee club’s rendition of the beautiful song from the candy-coated film, “Pure Imagination.” Somewhere deep down, this show still knows how to be great.
“Jesse, maybe you can come on Fondue for Two and judge my cat?” –Brittany
On the flip side, oh dear God why is Jesse St. James still here? (And the previews show he’ll be here for the finale as well. Gross.) Will somehow finds the money, even though the glee club is ailing for cash (sorry but that 500 bucks from Prom wouldn’t even cover air fare, so don’t tell me that took care of everything), to hire Jesse St. James, even though he betrayed the club just last year and is generally annoying. He of course, jumps right into the Vocal Adrenaline style of coaching, telling Finn he’s not good enough to lead the club with a duet with Rachel and insisting the club holds auditions for a soloist.
While I think that for once, holding legitimate auditions to find a soloist instead of just assuming it should be Rachel is actually a good idea, Jesse takes a different, obnoxious approach. Fresh off his “Reality Show Coaching 101” class, Jesse is ready to put down everyone who auditions except for Rachel, who he’s still trying to woo. Side note: this would not be okay if this were a real public school, just so you know. This gives Santana, Kurt, Mercedes and Rachel all reasons to sing unrelated solos, which was actually pretty enjoyable. I wish Kurt would move a bit more on stage, especially when singing something like “Some People,” but it was still pretty great.
Of course Rachel brings it all down with “My Man” from Funny Girl. Jesse hopes she’s singing it to him, but nope. It’s for Finn, duh. Did he forget how Finn tried to punch him just last episode? Hello? Anyway, of course she gets the solo, because that performance was amazing, as hard as it is for some folks, on the show and in the audience, to admit. But, Schue isn't happy about the way Jesse's direction is taking the club, so he brings them back together, having them work as a team to write more original songs for Nationals. Ruh-roh.
After all this hubbub and after the funeral (like immediately afterward, geeze Finn) Finn breaks up with Quinn, who I can’t believe stayed with him after his display at Prom, because he has feelings for Rachel. Quinn seems to only be upset about the fact that this means they won’t be Prom King and Queen next year – wait, seriously? Didn’t she JUST learn a lesson about that last week? Seriously, writers. Do you even watch the show? Anyway, Finn goes to surprise Rachel with a single, very pretty flower, but Jesse beats him there and tells Rachel he came back for her right before he kisses her. Well damnit. Was anyone else’s skin crawling when this happened? Rachel’s not even into it, not that Finn can tell that from the back of the auditorium. Womp, womp.
“Wow, Will. That’s a lot of vests.” – Emma
The final puzzle piece finds Will moving to New York for what I think is just the summer. He keeps saying he’ll be back, but I’m guessing that will be our big cliff-hanger next week. Emma is helping him pack, but apparently they’re still not an item…or are they? What’s going on here?
Terry is also on-hand this episode, conveniently in time to release him from his former divorce hell and to possibly leave for good. (Oh and to plug American Airlines who’s supposed to have donated 13 First Class tickets for the glee club to get to Nationals. PRODUCT PLACEMENT!) We end with one goodbye after another, and of course Emma’s ends with the classic single, mousy tear.
While this New York dreams storyline is certainly new this season, one thing seems to be certain, we’re really heading for a season finale that looks like it will have the same romantic conclusions as last year’s. And I don’t know if I’m down with that.