I really feel the need to preface this recap with an apology. I spent most of the episode raging at Ryan Murphy, and I don't want that to translate here. I want to stay fairly positive, but this is really the closest I've ever been to completely giving up the show. I know, I know: drama queen, party of one! But maybe I can explain myself. To the RBI Report!
"The Comeback," written by Ryan Murphy and directed by Bradley Buecker.
Honestly, I don't even know what the purpose of this episode was. We had to sit through forty-five minutes of Finn and Quinn lamely covering up their kiss only to have Sam break up with Quinn anyways. We had Rachel trying to stage a "comeback" only to discover that she is actually incapable of getting anyone in the school on her side. We had Sue trying to drive a wedge between Rachel and Mercedes, only to see the forced conflict just fizzled out. We were going to get a new song from Regionals out of this episode, but instead Rachel's just going to write her own instead.
The only things that really came out of the episode were the Sam-Santana partnering, and Sue's decision to coach Aural Intensity. Sue's was the only true "comeback," and honestly, it wasn't even really a character comeback - just a plot comeback from the events of two episodes ago.
So what really happened in this episode? Ryan Murphy was at the helm, and there were some pretty classic hallmarks of Mr. Murphy tattooed over much of the execution of the storylines. The main issue I'm going to attempt to tackle tonight is the idea that RM often offers up a pretty package but in actuality his writing choices are not exactly tethered to anything meaningful about the characters. This usually results in his episodes coming off a bit schmaltzy, like after school specials.
What, pray, was the point of taking a field trip to the children's hospital? Yes, it tugged at my heartstrings, but from a storytelling perspective, that moment was completely unearned. It was emotional manipulation, point blank. It'd be like making a character walk around with a puppy all the time just to make them likeable. Nobody hates puppies! No matter that it makes absolutely no sense that anyone would carry around a puppy all the time!
I realize that by fussing at the inclusion of a touching singalong with terminally-ill children, I'm setting myself up to look like a heartless old cynic. But I just can't get over how heavy-handed it was. Was it supposed to make us like Will again? That scene wasn't about Will, so I vote no. Was it supposed to make Sue a good guy again? Even if it was, she still spent the whole episode scheming against the Glee club and throwing students into lockers - and wound up with a master plan to coach Aural Intensity against New Directions. The Sue Sylvester at the end of the episode was no different than the Sue Sylvester at the beginning, fundamentally. She just has a target again.
Ryan also suffers the problem of on-the-nose storytelling. It's gotten to the point where these characters aren't even characters anymore - they're just puppets. Each of them does exactly what needs to be done to prop up the episode's premise or message, no matter how they've behaved in the past. Quinn, the girl that came to regret telling a major lie born out of cowardice, pulled the wool over Sam's eyes in the first five minutes. And Finn, the boy that was hurt so badly by that very lie, was quick to jump in on the ruse. Why, exactly? This is grounded in nothing meaningful.
We didn't even get to see them make the choice to cover up their kiss. We could have maybe seen them feel badly, and choose to lie and protect Sam's feelings. Maybe we could have felt for them a little bit. But no - they just didn't want to get caught. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I don't know why the writers are choosing to execute this storyline this way, but it's some seriously neglectful storytelling. It's just villainizing Finn and Quinn and making Sam look pathetic. Seriously, how sad was Sam's voiceover about Quinn being the best thing that happened to him since he transferred to McKinley?
Furthermore, Will and Sue spent the entire episode spouting dialogue about Glee club that sounds more like it's just the writers delivering messages directly to the audience (and please, forgive me for not citing specific examples here). The show is not a prop for the showrunner's agenda; it's just not. This is television. Tell me a story, and tell it well. That's all I'm asking. It's lovely to be socially aware, but you can't build a two-story structure without having a ground floor first. Bricks fall on your head, guys.
And it'd be different if the show were consistent with its messages. I'm not going to complain when a television show realizes that it has the capacity to create social change. But you better be damn sure you're sending all the right messages, then. And rarely does Glee hit all those marks effectively. They're putting concrete in the air expecting to build a second level without anything underneath it.
An example of shoddy messaging: the writers seem to be suffering under the delusion that all it takes to get a girl to like you is to sing to her. The boys on this show spew generalities about how their girls are in a post-Valentine's slump, or how they're unhappy with their boys and something must be done to win them back! So they all flee to their songbooks, get up and perform, and lo! It works! Just like it's worked every other time! All it takes is a boy singing a song to make the girl troubles go away. Fight vapidity with vapidity, right? Boys are rockstars! Girls love rockstars!
I know they're teenagers; I do. And I know that I am in fact, not a teenager, but rather a cranky twenty-something who just wants to watch TV in peace without anybody bugging her. But I am beginning to really loathe the way this show presents its female characters. Quinn chose Sam over Finn in this episode not because her moral compass kicked in, but because she thought Bieber was a turn-on. JUSTIN BIEBER IS NOT A VALID REASON FOR CHARACTER CHOICE. I just can't even fathom that without wanting to throw something out the window; I just can't. What a way to completely disrespect your characters.
Can they all just have a little more substance, please? I know it's possible. The writers are capable of putting their characters in meaningful situations, in an honest way - and the fact that this is indeed true makes it all the more frustrating when it doesn't come to fruition.
I don't expect Glee to be perfect. I know that my opinions are not necessarily the opinions of other viewers. But dammit, I know when a story is being told poorly, and what's worse is when I don't know the reasons why.
Things I did like: that Mercedes and Rachel's diva-off ended in an unexpected truce! I mean, there was zero conflict there, but I stand by the fact that I will never complain when any of these characters are friends. I also loved the continuation of the Puck and Lauren interaction - he's on his way to touching her boobs, but he risks losing a hand! And, getting to see Rachel have scenes with her classmates was also a welcome change, even if I'm beginning to suspect that the club's treatment of Rachel is something that will get better and worse again infinitely. "Sing" was a pretty great musical number, and I'm loving the wardrobe department for cooking up a plaid tracksuit for Sue to wear. Also, I loved the random - and repeated! - Finn and Tina interaction. More of that, please.
Unfortunately, these little things were not enough for me to outweigh the episode's negatives, and so I find myself sitting here trying to organize my rantings into something remotely comprehensible. Thanks for bearing with me. Here's hoping next week's episode won't make me so grumpy!
The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: B
Dance Numbers: B
Episode MVP: Should I just give this to Lauren again...?