Is Glee's second season in trouble already? After the vacuous Britney Spears tribute last week, "Grilled Cheesus" saw the show tackle the weighty topic of religion, once again highlighting the cloying schmaltziness and preachy tone that's often Glee's undoing. Like all the episodes in this ballpark, I don't doubt the writers' intentions to do something inspirational and genuinely emotional, but it never really works for me.
Burt Hummel (Mike O'Malley) suffers a heart attack and slips into a coma at hospital, prompting his son Kurt (Chris Colfer) to grapple with the notion of there being an Almighty God looking over people. Most of the glee club are keen to show their feeling and support for Kurt through religiously-themed songs, but Sue (Jane Lynch) isn't keen on the school promoting such hogwash and eventually gets fellow atheist Kurt on her side. Meanwhile, Finn (Cory Monteith) discovers the burnt face of Jesus on a toastie he's made, so nicknames it "Grilled Cheesus" and starts praying to his sandwich for help in a series of events that all come true: touching Rachel's (Lea Michele) boobs, winning a football game, and being made the team's quarterback once again. Is Grilled Cheesus really a hotline to Our Lord and Saviour?
This episode was a mess, not helped by the fact American schmaltz and religiosity plays like anathema to me in light entertainment. Credit is due for the fact the script did have a few moments that tackled the pro's and con's of spirituality (like the church's anti-gay stance), as it could have leaned far heavier on the positives for fear of upsetting religious viewers, but it just wasn't anywhere near nuanced enough for a compelling hour's drama. It was instead a collection of scenes that sometimes worked, sometimes failed, but the jarring shifts in tone weren't handled very well. Kurt's relationship with his father was one of Glee's biggest successes last year (leading to O'Malley being a regular character now), and this episode found a compelling way to explore the depth of Kurt's feelings for his dad... but it was all juxtaposed with Finn praying to some toast. While it's understandable to balance comedy with drama, light with shade, the script just felt like it was veering from extremes.
There were also too many songs in this episode (didn't the producers promise us less this season?), and while I can appreciate the stellar vocals of Michele and Amber Riley, most of the performances didn't really hit me on an emotional level -- except for Colfer singing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", because it felt more necessary to the arc of his story. For most of the time, it just felt like there was too much manipulation going on here (you know it's a "weighty" episode if Sue's disabled sister get a few scenes), and we were never really allowed to get into Kurt's mindset for long, before there was a cheap gag, another song to breakup the bathetic tone, or a scene designed to stir the "science versus faith" argument in a blunt manner.
Overall, I'm sure "Grilled Cheeses" will divide people. Maybe it depends on your attitude to religion as a theme, or your tolerance for how Glee seems to lurch around the place. To be positive, there was more actual storytelling in this episode than the majority of season 1's latter episodes combined, which is great to see, but whenever Glee takes aim at serious topics... I just find myself squirming at 90% of the output.
WRITER: Brad Falchuk
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
GUEST CAST: James Earl, Dot Jones, Kayden Kessler, Romy Rosemont, Chord Overstreet, Robin Trocki, Harry Shum Jr. & Iqbal Theba
TRANSMISSION: 5 October 2010 - Fox, 8/7c