I'm on my third Glee episode in four days and it feels like my brain is leaking out my ears, so this one for "Dynamic Duets" will be brief. Cool? Cool.
"Dynamic Duets," written and directed by Ian Brennan
Is this our first episode doubled up with Ian? I can't remember. Regardless, it definitely showed - "Dynamic Duets" didn't take itself too seriously, and was firmly grounded in absurdity. The theme of the hour was "superheroes," and Ian left no stone unturned in exploiting that theme. The direction in particular was a bit unhinged, with whip-tos, push-ins, and freeze frames underscoring the devotion to comic book style. And, even though most superheroes work alone, "Dynamic Duets" went instead with the Avengers theme: there's strength in numbers.
Ryder and Jake
Finn paired up these two so they could work out their differences through collaboration. But, duetting only flared up their competition over Marley. (Ryder thinks Jake is a manwhore who's going to hurt Marley blah blah blah.) They brawled. So, Finn required them to share a secret with the other, and, after Jake makes the first move, Ryder reveals he has a hard time reading. Jake decides to tell Finn, who gets a school counselor to test Ryder for dyslexia. This was an adequate storyline for these two dudes on the outs, and it's nice to see guys on this show bonding over actual emotional authenticity instead of the "you're teaching me how to be a man" card. Jake and Ryder's bonding was specific, meaningful, and well-played.
Kitty and Marley
Meanwhile, over in Girlville, Marley and Kitty's storyline should be so lucky. The two are paired up for a superhero duet, and of course, Kitty takes every opportunity to undercut Marley's self-esteem with comments about her weight and Marley completely buys into it. Sigh! Why do Ryder and Jake get meaningful interactions when Kitty and Marley's are built on sabotage? It's frustrating! There's absolutely no reason why the girls can't overcome their boy-related opposition, especially when Ryder and Jake did just fine getting past their Marley issues. Worse still, Kitty's pretending to be Marley's friend, which makes their interactions all the more frustrating. If you remove the element of manipulation from the scenario, Kitty and Marley actually have great interactions - Kitty's kind of like Marley's sassy gay friend who says bitchy things but means well. If only that were the reality here. There's no coming back from the kind of psychological warfare Kitty's actually waging against Marley, so may as well enjoy the friendly-ish interactions while we can. If we can.
Blaine and the New Directions
So, like any hero, Blaine is tempted to go to the "dark side," aka back to the Warblers. This has been brewing all season long, since Kurt left, and it made sense for the show to explore this. I will say, though, that I'm grumpy about the Warblers singing Kelly Clarkson's "Dark Side," because it has long been a song that my brain associates with Quinn Fabray. I mean, I know the show doesn't care about Quinn enough to give her that solo, nor would it be in Dianna Agron's vocal wheelhouse, but... all I'm saying is if I had enough fannish devotion, I'd totally be making a fanvid right now.
Anyways, Blaine gives in to the encouragement from that weird dude with the cat, and Sam steps in to stop Blaine from doing something he'll regret. I did like how "We Can Be Heroes" actually showed the New Directions doing heroic things on a small scale. For as much as this episode indulged in over-the-top expressions of heroism, they still had the kids participating in volunteer work, which is a lovely display of real-life heroics. Plus painting montages are always fun.
Finn got a nice background arc where he came into his own as a glee club leader. Sure, dialogue like "be their hero, Finn" grates a bit, but I liked the underlying issue of Finn trying to establish himself as an adult to kids that are only a year younger than him. Plus, it allowed for the coffee bit, which was actually a great little moment of comedy and character insight. In the end, Finn's guidance to Ryder and Jake worked, and the team welcomed him as their leader. After all, how better to tell someone you view them as an old person than to give them a fanny pack? Congratulations, Finn. The group sees you as an eighty-year-old woman in a casino. All joking aside, Finn's leadership was actually believable in this episode: well-intentioned, a bit goofy, and ultimately very quarterback-esque, what with the huddle up and the pep talk.
In all, "Dynamic Duets" felt a lot like an Ian Brennan episode from S1. It was thematically exhausted, but wacky and weird enough to not be taken too seriously. Kind of like "Funk," which Ian cheekily name-checked in this episode as a bad idea. (As an aside, how much do I love that Tina and Artie now exist to deliver "bitch please" comments to everyone in the narrative? If they're not going to be wielded as actual characters, then this is the next best thing.) "Dynamic Duets" was certainly not the best Glee's ever been, nor did it feature anything I'm personally invested in, but it was executed with tongue in cheek and workable development.
The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: C
Musical Numbers: C
Dance Numbers: C
Episode MVP: Jake Puckerman