‘Glee’ Double Header Fails to Match Past Glory

by Shannon Baldo
Columnist

This week marked the return of musical television sensation “Glee” — first with its post-Super Bowl episode, “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle,” and then its Valentine’s Day episode, “Silly Love Songs.”

Undoubtedly Fox hoped that, by snagging the Super Bowl’s audience on Sunday, the show would follow up two days later with greatly improved ratings; however, if that hope relied on producing two equally amazing episodes, the network was sorely mistaken.

First, “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle.” In this episode, the failure of the football team to come together has led its two coaches to a radical idea: The football players will join the glee club for one week.

It was a smart choice of plot to air immediately after the Super Bowl, and it called back some of the show’s earliest successes, such as the now classic “Single Ladies” episode. Plus, it avoided seeming simply repetitive through the plot’s ensuing complications, such as the glee girls valiantly yet miserably joining the football team.
And, yes, as many critics have noted, there were major flaws in this episode. Sue Sylvester’s (Jane Lynch) determination to endanger the life of a student was more disturbing than it was funny; the halftime number, a combination of “Thriller” and “Heads Will Roll,” was filmed with a high enough production value to fund James Cameron’s next project; and the guest appearance of Katie Couric made absolutely no sense with the storyline.

But, ultimately, these flaws fell in the wake of what made the episode great — it showed the writers returning their focus to the characters, to the rambunctious group of misfits brimming with enough talent and character flaws to keep us coming back.

Finn (Cory Monteith) returned to his role of leadership, both in the glee club and on the football team; Rachel (Lea Michele) returned to her comedic role as the socially awkward diva; and even Puck (Mark Salling) showed his rarely seen softer side when he inspired the football team to ignore high school labels and also when he protected Rachel, with whom he performed the smoldering if ill-fitting duet “Need You Now.”

In “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle,” the writers of “Glee” demonstrated that they had not forgotten what made the show great in the first season, despite its later flaws, and made a valiant attempt to return to its former glory.

And this brings in Tuesday’s “Silly Love Songs.” With this renewed hope, I couldn’t help but look for an episode dramatically centered on the characters, one without all the problems generated by awkwardly high production values.

In fact, the show actually did keep up this focus on the students, yet the characters that we saw were surprisingly and often disappointingly different in comparison to those seen in the previous episode.

Finn and Quinn (Dianna Agron) have embarked on an inescapably hypocritical, adulterous relationship which renders both of them unlikeable. Rachel shifted back into a miserable desperation for Finn that was only just rectified by her powerful, inspiring rendition of “Firework.”

Though Puck’s infatuation with Lauren (Ashley Fink) allows him a rare chance of character development, the pair’s romantic chemistry utterly lacks in comparison to the previous episode’s duet, and even the adorable development into the relationship of Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) lacked any satisfying resolution.

Despite a heavy sprinkling of special moments to keep the fans interested, this episode essentially returned to the mediocrity the show had reached before its midseason break.

With the decision for “Glee” to reduce its number of featured songs per episode in order to focus more on plot and character development, the show’s return seemed incredibly promising. And the essence of “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle” gave us, as critics and as an audience, strong hope in the show’s return to the glory of its first season.

With the regression seen in “Silly Love Songs,” it seems that the musical still has not dug itself out of the reliance on profits which governed its last run. Yet I will keep watching and keep hoping that the writers will eventually regain their previous genius.

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