Marrying the conclusion of Glee‘s “bullying trilogy” with an extremely fun celebration of a wedding is one of the weirder mash-ups the series has done over its run, but despite a number of issues — doesn’t every episode of Glee have a number of issues? — “Furt” pulls things together in such a way that this episode more or less works and treats both stories with enough respect.* And considering this episode is penned by Ryan Murphy, that has to be something of a shock.
*See what I did there with “marrying?” Ha. Ha. Ha.
As the episode title suggests, this episode is primarily about Finn and Kurt, so in a way, it serves as not only the end of the bullying trilogy, but something of an end to the story really explored in “Theatricality” and continued in “Duets.” In that respect, “Furt” is a complicated conclusion, as it certainly carries a lot of water for Finn as a good person and good step-brother. However, after making sure to clarify the circumstances of their relationship pre-“Theatricality” in “Duets,” this episode tends to treat Kurt more positively than perhaps it should, mostly because of what larger story it’s trying to tell.
With their parents getting married, Finn finds himself at something of a crossroads with Kurt. He’s certainly willing to embrace Kurt as step-brother and Kurt as a person, but he’s not fully ready to display that relationship or any sort of “gay” leanings in public. Of course, it’s kind of dumb that Finn is still like that, but because the series has continuously explored the territory of Finn being terrified to lose his social status and the episode strays away from any sort of outward exclamation that Finn’s explicitly concerned about Kurt’s sexuality, I think it works out alright. But when Kurt is teaching Finn and Burt how to dance and Karofsky sees it and subsequently makes fun of Finn, the shaky ground the three of them agreed upon in “Duets” comes crashing down. Burt jumps Karofsky, pushes for his expulsion and calls Finn out for not protecting Kurt.
This event coalesces with the rest of New Directions, lead by a really, really charming version of Rachel, who have realized they somehow need to get involved in this after school special on bullying. Rachel pushes for the ND gals dating football dudes — which is everyone but Mercedes, unfortunately; seriously, can we maybe give her something to do? — to convince their men to stand up to Karofsky in hopes of keeping Kurt safe. It’s a really great moment, and one that seems fairly well-earned since Kurt is a generally well-liked member of the group. I might not buy that Rachel just wants to help someone to help them based on how she’s usually characterized, but because this is the kind of Rachel I enjoy watching, I’m totally embracing her good deed.
Anyway, because of all this, Finn’s trapped somewhere in the middle. Burt, Rachel and basically everyone else in the glee club are looking to him to be a leader, but he’s concerned that being a leader in this instance will make him lose his spot on the football team — Karofsky is an O-Lineman, after all — and it’s kind of unfortunate. A fight breaks out between Sam, who’s apparently back to be a nice person again and apparently also giving Quinn promise rings even though they’re not dating, and Karofsky and Finn continues to look foolish for not standing up for everyone because he’s the leader.
And then, somehow, this all comes together at a wedding. No, seriously. I don’t really understand how Murphy thought making the Hummel-Hudson wedding a New Directions-fest basically dedicated to Kurt as the sign of all that is good in the world would work, but for the most part, it does. The soon-to-be-Hummels both dedicate their vows to Kurt, Finn gives his best man’s speech and it’s basically all about Kurt and then Finn organizes another musical number, “Just The Way You Are,” that is also all about Kurt.
Now, in many ways, this is super problematic. Because Glee has decided that they want to tell their version of the bullying epidemic that is unfortunately taking over schools across America, they’ve reduced Kurt from a complicated, likable character to a saint of all that is holy and good in the world. “Duets” made sure to remind us that he’s not always in the right, but ever since, and particularly during this so-called trilogy, he’s been portrayed as a helpless victim that keeps getting beat down for being gay, even though he never did anything to anyone. While I don’t think he deserves what he’s getting or that the series shouldn’t explore this bullying issue — because as I said with “Never Been Kissed,” it absolutely should — making Kurt the center of attention at a wedding that is not his own just so that you can hammer home that being gay is a great thing is difficult to swallow.
However, the wedding sequences are just so infectious and feature just enough focus of other characters outside of Kurt — most notably Finn and Rachel, who are again immensely likable like they were in “Duets” — that it works. The “Marry You” pre-ceremony performance is a nice riff on “Forever” and all the subsequent internet riffs, Mike O’Malley and Romy Rosemont sell their vows and love for one another and in general, everyone looks to be having so much fun. Plus, Will just gets to sing a nice version of “Sway” and then stay the hell out of the way, which is probably where he belongs.
Even more surprising is how the episode brings everything together in the last few minutes. Finn might have finally embraced Kurt and made another large gesture like he did in “Theatricality,” the whole group might have stood up for Kurt in a really wonderful way and even Sue might have taken the bullying issue completely seriously, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation in that Karofsky is coming back to school because no one can prove he did anything to Kurt. And because he can’t deal with the fear anymore, despite all the support he has, Kurt and his newly-married parents decide it’s time for him to go to Dalton Academy, where there is an absolute zero tolerance policy on bullying. You know, because it’s the most glorious place ever.
Therefore, Murphy subverts not only the typical Glee formula but the rocky start to the bullying trilogy that came with “Never Been Kissed.” This ending depicts a (slightly) more realistic version of how bullying goes down in that the bully rarely goes away, even if they are gay too.* It also shows us a surprisingly potent critique of why bullying happens in schools across the country, through the bureaucratic and political nonsense that holds up real change and punishment for those who are doing awful things to their peers. Moreover, though a whole group of image-conscious teens standing up for their gay friend might not be the most realistic depiction of what happens in US high schools, the ending still works because it suggests that grand gestures, group solidarity and big musical numbers don’t solve all the problems. Finn’s more supportive of Kurt and Rachel isn’t just worried about Kurt because of his voice, but that doesn’t stop the school board from making the wrong decision.
And so, while still problematic — not everyone gets to run off to Tolerance Narnia, as Todd VanDerWerff has coined — “Furt” shows us a more complicated and thus realistic portrayal of something that’s happening all across the country today. The episode doesn’t rectify the issues of “Never Been Kissed” and still muddles up the aftermath of “Theatricality” in a few ways, but it’s all in all a nice way to cap off both trilogies without seemingly too heavy-handed or too reductive. From Glee, that’s sometime all we can ask for.
- I couldn’t even find a way to shoe-horn the Sue storyline into the body of this review. I can’t believe the series is sticking to this Nazi Hunter mother crap, even if both Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett did nice work in depicting the fissure between mother and daughter.
- Similarly, Sue marrying herself is probably one of the two or three dumbest things the series has ever done that doesn’t involve Will. I don’t even know what the point of that was, and I don’t think Ryan Murphy knows either. Thank goodness Lynch can make anything enjoyable to watch.
- Seriously, we can give Mike Chang multiple lines per episode but Mercedes, Kurt’s apparent best friend, gets little to do throughout this so-called trilogy aside from rant about tots? REALLY?
- As I said in the body of the review, this version of Rachel is my favorite, and it was nice to see her at least involved in the main story for the first time in what feels like forever (I’m not sure last week counts). When she’s super earnest and heartfelt it always feels like she and Finn are just going to cry in each other’s arms because they love one another so much, but somehow, it freaking gets me every time (see: “Journey”).
- Apparently, next week is Sectionals. Alright then.