Thursday, 2 December 2010

'GLEE' 2.9 – "Special Education"

Thursday, 2 December 2010

After the poisonous horror of last week's "Furt", things returned to a steady quality of breezy entertainment in "Special Education", the second Sectionals episode in Glee's history. It's been interesting to see the show treat the Sectionals with less reverence this season, for fear of repeating the arc of season 1, so the contest has almost crept up on us. It was also nice to see Glee avoiding the malicious problems that surrounded this competition last year; instead, this was a positive and charitable story.

This week, New Directions prepare for the annual show choir Sectionals competition (which they won last year) and Mr Schue (Matthew Morrison) reconsidered his plan of action after Emma (Jayma Mays) made him realize he tends to repeat his ideas. Consequently, the glee club are told they're going to give less prominent talent a chance to excel; with a Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Quinn (Diana Agron) duet, Santana (Naya Rivera) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) on lead vocals, and a focus on Brittany (Heather Morris) and Mike's (Harry Schum Jr) dance skills. Naturally, this change of tactic didn't go down well with highly-strung Rachel (Lea Michele), who believes they'll lose if they don't play to their strengths, and after another clash with Santana learned that boyfriend (Cory Monteith) lost his virginity to her last year.

Elsewhere, Kurt (Chris Colfer) adjusted to life at the seemingly perfect Darlton Academy (receiving high-fives in the corridors, rather than slushies in the face), only to join the Warblers a capella troupe and realized their club has traditions that are totally alien to him. They favour collective unity over highlighting individual talent, and everything is decided by committee. It was also a shock that he's not considered one of the best singers, so had to audition for a solo at Sectionals, which he failed to get after a nonetheless moving rendition of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina".

This was a very straightforward episode, with more of a focus on the songs than we've had for awhile. "Special Education" didn't really try to beat last year's Sectionals episode, rather compliment it. I was happy to see everyone acting more mature and with less petty inter-club fights or rivalry; instead, there were standing ovations for everyone, and the tone of the story was to simply enjoy the experience and have fun. New Directions cheered on the Warblers (particularly Kurt), and the competition resulted in a tie between those two clubs. The second time the show's pulled that particular twist out of the bag.

I found it strange that a tiny subplot with Emma resulted in such a major event, too. Here she told Mr Schue that she's engaged to be married to dentist Carl (John Stamos), and the episode ended with her having tied the knot in a quickie Vegas marriage. Why wasn't this part of last week's wedding themed episode, replacing the ridiculous Sue-marries-herself subplot? I'm also not sure if rushing stories like this is good for Glee (it maintains a propulsive momentum), or bad (this story could have simmered away nicely for awhile, so what's the rush?) I worry that Glee's frantic pace isn't in the long-term interest of the show.

Overall, "Special Education" wasn't anything special, just a resolutely average episode with a smattering of strong moments and decent songs. I was pleasantly surprised by how warm Rachel was to Kurt when she agreed to tutor his solo audition piece, mainly because she felt less like a petulant cartoon in their scenes. Hopefully they'll continue that relationship, as Kurt's friendship with Mercedes never really rang true to me.

  • Fun to see goth Lauren (Ashley Fink) get a bigger role on the show this week, as she joined the glee club to replace Kurt after rescuing Puck (Mark Salling) from his torment inside an upturned Porta-Potty.
  • I'm not sure the Artie (Kevin McHale) and Brittany relationship works. The problem is that Artie's character is always treated so sensitively (mainly because he represents disabled people), while Brittany is basically a walking punchline. In trying to pair them together, it doesn't click for me. In fact, while Brittany is often hilarious, I'm not sure she'll ever become a three-dimensional character you can feel connected to, because she's there to spout ridiculous one-liners and dance brilliantly.
  • Best performance? I think Sam/Quinn duetting on "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" from Dirty Dancing worked best, even if the choreography was nothing special. When will New Directions stop performing songs where the singers enter from the rear of the auditorium?
  • Oh no: Finn and Rachel have split up -- again! Does anyone care nowadays?
  • The Hipsters? How old do these glee clubs get? I thought it was all High Schoolers!
WRITER: Brad Falchuk
DIRECTOR: Paris Barclay
TRANSMISSION: 30 November 2010, Fox, 8/7c