By now, you know that my schedule/workload/life changes keep me from writing as much as I would like here at TV Surveillance. Of all series I miss writing about, Glee someone still tops the list (well, since Community is still trapped out there in the ether). I don’t even understand how that’s really true, but it is. I haven’t written about the series in a long time (that of course doesn’t keep me from burning up the Twitter highway with the rest of the TVitterati) and that makes me sad. Not because Glee has any good in 2012, of course. “Yes/No” was a minor disaster, “Michael” was a legitimate disaster and somehow “The Spanish Teacher” bordered offensive but still managed to be the most moving of the three. What can I say, I’m a sucker for sad Will Schuester stories.
No matter what though, I knew I was writing about tonight’s episode. Last year’s Valentine’s Day episode, “Silly Love Songs,” is one of my favorite Glee episodes ever and one of two episodes I’d ever just sit down to watch randomly (the other is obviously “Duets,” y’all). Despite all its madness, Glee still knows how to tell stories about characters in love, characters out of love, characters in between love and all variations on that theme. I’ve said this time and again, but those are the kinds of stories where the stupid, heightened emotions still work, no matter the context. With that said, I actually had really high expectations for “Heart.” And although the episode is basically Ali Adler’s attempt to do “Silly Love Songs,” only it happens to be grafted onto the series’ terrible season three EVERYTHING AT ONCE formula, “Heart” still worked more often than not. I think. Let’s not think these things through too much.
I just mentioned it, but the biggest problem this season of Glee has had is one of excess. We expect the series to be over-the-top and have a lot of songs, but this season, it has been especially jam-packed with around an average of six storylines an episode, many of them concocted on the spot (a problem the series is simply never going to overcome or even try to, frankly) and so it seems like every week, we’re left wondering about a somewhat engaging thread that was introduced in the second act that doesn’t get mentioned until a throwaway resolution in the final three minutes. Not only does that leave you wanting to see good versions of those stories play out in a theoretically better Glee, but it creates a severely jumbled, disjointed “whole” where nothing was given enough attention to be substantial and so ultimately it’s all just there.
“Heart,” unsurprisingly suffers from this problem. Let’s quickly go through the number of “plots” that this episode tackles: Reactions to Finn and Rachel’s engagement; Mercedes and Sam further dealing with the consequences of their feelings; Kurt’s secret valentine; Santana and Brittany kissing and the stir it causes; the introduction of the “God Squad” and Joe Hart, the previously-homeschooled naïve Christian boy that Quinn’s definitely to ruin (played by Sam of The Glee Project, or as I know him, the guy who pretended to love God once the guy who actually loved God quit and Ryan Murphy still just really wanted a kid who loved God [see: this character]); a brand-new love triangle between Sugar, Artie and Rory; and somewhere in there, the group was supposed to belt out music’s greatest love songs.
Depending how you count those various elements, that’s at least a half-dozen stories. I would absolutely love to watch an episode of Glee that was basically the choir-room discussion between Finn and Rachel and the rest of the group. It is nice that the series at least recognizes the stupidity of the characters’ decision instead of glamorizing and romanticizing it, but the more of that, the better, even if it means Quinn gets to espouse mega-wise advice like the World’s Greatest Guidance Counselor because YALE YALE YALE. Relatedly, I would love nothing more than to watch a serious episode about how homosexual teens deal with Valentine’s Day in a public school setting, where we follow Santana and Brittany and Kurt and Blaine (and Karofsky). That sounds awesome and I have no doubt that Ryan Murphy or Ian Brennan could kill that. I’d even watch another episode about religion, since “Grilled Cheesus” somehow worked in spite of itself.
But as part of one episode, where there are 12 other things happening at the same time? There’s simply not enough time. Certain stories get more time than others, so Finn and Rachel’s stupidity gets played out at home as well with the introduction of Rachel’s parents (Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stoke Mitchell are pretty great in their roles), but even then, Adler’s script gives the characters an out. The plan to convince Rachel and Finn of their errors by letting them have a sleepover is so dumb (even the characters admitting so doesn’t salvage it) and then to make matters worse, the two of them argue about where Finn can and cannot take a dump but ultimately get over it because, well, I don’t know, it happened during the commercial break, where the two of them also checked with FOX to make sure it was okay they got married during May sweeps.
The other two appealing plotlines aren’t even given that much burn. Santana and Brittany’s relationship is unbelievably cute (why isn’t this entire series built around them again?) and again, that conflict with religion and high school decorum could be engaging as hell, but the whole story plays out across three short scenes. Tension is introduced, Santana complains, new Jesus guy Joe considers their feelings and ultimately decides, you know what, God says it is okay for me to sing you a bad love song on Valentine’s Day, Lucifer’s children. And while I think Samuel Larsen is going to fit in pretty well on Glee because he’s a solid performer and he can sing, his introduction didn’t overwhelm me.
Sam and Mercedes’ relationship is sort of an interesting beast to me. Obviously, it’s entirely stupid that the relationship is built entirely on telling instead of showing and so we’re working backwards here as the series now tries to convince us that they have this epic love story when we didn’t see any of it (wonder why they didn’t even try flashbacks?) all the while they quasi-break up even though they weren’t together in the first place. And yet, it more or less works for me and at this point, we have to appreciate it when the series can sustain a story across multiple episodes that isn’t Finn and Rachel-related. Thus, I liked the Sam-Mercedes stuff in the last two episodes and I liked it here just the same. Sure, it’s ridiculous to hear them talk about how much they love each other as if they’re the most star-crossed lovers in high school glee club history, but those are the kind of heightened emotions I can buy because high school kids are stupid and ignorant and blissfully so. Glee is built to tell stories where characters just sing their feelings to one another week in and week out and these two have done that for four weeks. Amber Riley nailed “I Will Always Love You” about as well as she could have (weird timing there) and Chord Overstreet yet again proved that he can actually act a little bit when the series asks him to do more than take his shirt off and have weird parts in his hair.
To be fair, none of this was bad, or even really mediocre. Most of it was just all so rushed. Speaking of rushed, the plot of the episode that came completely out of nowhere (as opposed to only moderately out of nowhere), was similarly burned-through with little meditation – and yet, devoid of context, many of the individual moments worked quite wonderfully.
The Sugar-Artie-Rory triangle is likely one of the most random love-shapes of all-time and no one cares about two-thirds of the people in it, but the scenes with the two men plotting and then dueling for Sugar’s affection were actually well-executed. The montage sequence (intercut with Tina and Mike lovingly singing to one another because lest we forget they’re in love and always awesome the three minutes every four episodes we get to spend time with them) right before the first commercial break was solid, fun Glee. And I thought Rory pulling a Barney Stinson and claiming his visa couldn’t be renewed (and getting EVERYONE TO CRY ABOUT IT for some reason) just so he could maybe kiss crazy Sugar was a hilarious beat that the series could do all sorts of obnoxiously ridiculous stuff with in the future. Rory should immediately pull out that sympathy card anytime something even bordering on uncomfortable happens to him. Now, do we care about Sugar, Rory or even Artie? Absolutely not. But as a little minor story about three random single characters in the Valentine’s Day episode, sure, I’ll go with it.
If “Heart” stripped away the fluff and focused on some of the things I discussed, it could have been a perfect companion to “Silly Love Songs.” But, it didn’t, because that’s just not how Glee operates at this point. Nevertheless, the episode was still entertaining, amiable and not offensively stupid. For Glee season three, especially after a few really poor episodes in the last batch, that’s a fine accomplishment.
- Tonight didn’t make much use of the music narratively, in that after Will said find the best love songs people just performed whatever, but the song choices were both solid and well-performed.
- I know Glee loves its formulas, but ending this episode on a big Breadstix number was perhaps too obvious for me to not immediately think of “Silly Love Songs.” I get that they might not have the money to build another set, but come on.
- As always, I’m sad when the series gives us some really interesting (not necessarily “good”) Will material one week and then turns him into the human episode theme generator the next. Why couldn’t we see him and Emma spend Valentine’s Day together? Why couldn’t we see him ruin it by belittling her about a gift? Why didn’t he dress up as Cupid and kiss a student? HIS LIFE IS AWFUL. Don’t let us forget it.