I've started to notice how many episodes of Glee begin with a good 15-20 minutes of, shall we say, questionable material, only to spend the rest of its runtime tackling your concerns/alarm. At the very least, it's a show that knows what buttons it's pushing. My outrage at how Dot Jones is being treated on this show (openly ridiculed and asked to wear lingerie for "cheap laughs") was thus nicely subverted, as Mr Schue (Matthew Morrison) became the figurehead of audience discomfort. And while it's obviously silly that most problems can be solved with a cathartic song-n'-dance in the closing minutes, this episode proved Glee's heart is in the right place. And, frankly, it's comforting to have a teen-drama that delivers moral lessons in an entertaining package.
There were two storylines that clicked here: Kurt and Bieste, who both faced types of bullying that shook their confidence. The writers clearly know Kurt's their best character, mainly because he's can handle the silly and serious extremes of Glee with greater skill. I daresay his struggles as a gay student speak to the writers' real life experiences, too, so they feel a touch more authentic -- well, when they're not repeating themselves. Giving Kurt a love interest in studious rival Blaine is a wise move, and far better use of Kurt than having him infatuated with the uninterested Finn, and hopefully it'll be more interesting than a similar situation Rachel (Lea Michele) had in season 2. And I was certainly surprised by the twist that Kurt's bully, Karofsky (Max Adler), is himself a closeted gay, so has only been mean to Kurt because he's angry and confused about his own sexuality.
The title, "Never Been Kissed", was reflected well by Kurt's first smooch going to his bully -- although I seem to remember him kissing Brittany (Heather Morris) last season, so was this a mistake by the writers? More notably, Bieste admitted she's never been kissed to Schue in the locker room, in a marvelous scene where he tried to change her mind about quitting her job over his student's hurtful thoughts. Bieste is already the best new addition to season 2, brilliantly played by Jones; a giant, butch woman whose imposing physique hides a sweet middle-aged virgin. The moment when Schue tenderly kissed Bieste on the lips, restoring her self-confidence, was sublime. I sincerely hope the writers continue developing her character, perhaps by taking her down a romantic path with someone.
Overall, "Never Been Kissed" had quite a tedious and worrying first third, but it quickly improved and gave us some of the show's most emotive moments ever, both coming from surprise kisses. It became an effective and heartwarming hour, with two strong musical performances, and I appreciated the focus on the characters -- as season 2's been somewhat overwhelmed by gimmicks (Britney Spears, Rocky Horror) just lately. My big criticism of season 1 was that the show needed to be a compelling teenage drama first, with the music as icing on the cake, and "Never Been Kissed" was much closer to that ideal.
- Best musical number? I really liked the arrangement of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream", which was better than the original, although it seemed to drag on for almost 5 minutes, and the choreography was repetitive. The climactic mashup of "Stop! In The Name Of Love" and "Free Your Mind" and was also really entertaining and worked well. I was less entranced by Puck and Artie's busking on school premises, which was just incredibly silly. They made $300 in, like, 3 minutes!
WRITER: Brad Falchuk
DIRECTOR: Bradley Buecker
TRANSMISSION: 9 November 2010, Fox, 8/7c