My reviews of Glee have been less popular in season 2. Maybe it's because British fans have only just started this year, or because my opinion of Glee has grown more jaded and "gleeks" prefer to read glowing adulation? There's nothing I can do about the latter, particularly as the one thing Glee needs is constructive criticism. I still find Glee hilarious at times, the cast are an appealing mix of assiduous actors, some of the musical numbers still leave me with a swelled heart, a clever guest star can be a delight (come back Gwyneth Paltrow!), but it's become very clear that Glee snubs logic and swims in storytelling circles. These aren't fresh complaints, because latter season 1 also suffered from repetition, but it's a problem that naturally gets worse as time goes on.
"The Sue Sylvester Shuffle" was the first episode back from a rather lengthy mid-season hiatus, but more notably it aired after Sunday's Super Bowl; a sporting event that 111 million Americans watched live. I'm not sure what purpose it served for Fox to put Glee on after the Super Bowl (it certainly doesn't need the extra exposure), but I'm guessing Fox couldn't miss a chance to pay tribute to the occasion with a football-themed episode. Quite how the Halloween tinge of zombies and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" suits the occasion is anyone's guess!
At William McKinley High, the fraught relationship between the glee club and football team has hit a real nadir. Even Artie's (Kevin McHale) wheelchair doesn't make him immune to a mass "slushying" from the bullying jocks. To combat the social meltdown, Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) and Mr Schue (Matthew Morrison) joined forces, integrating both groups into one club for a week: the footballers expected to participate in the horror-themed halftime entertainment at their own championship game, with some of the glee girls later called into action on the football field. Elsewhere, Sue (Jane Lynch) was all set for her seventh consecutive win at the regional cheerleading finals -- which she aims to win with the assistance of a cannon that will fire Brittany (Heather Morris) into a net --and twisted the knife by rescheduling the final to clash with the football championship, thus forcing Quinn (Diana Agron), Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany to choose between them.
This being an Ian Brennan script, I was expecting it to be funnier, but there wasn't much that stood out as being a very amusing (beyond a few turns of phrase, like "Sueclear weapon"). It was another week of Glee moralizing, which means an inordinate amount of quiet piano music, but haven't we covered this territory a million times before? The glee club is unpopular and the footballers hate them, but it's all born of ignorance and social fears, we get it. This episode also ignored the season 1 episode when the football team were encouraged to dance to Beyonce's "Single Ladies" in order to help Kurt (Chris Colfer) make some impressive kicks.
So yes, it's unfortunate that Glee seems to hammer home the same points all the time, as there's only so much you can take before the inspiring messages and moralizing starts to be met with deaf ears. The eventual camaraderie between the clubs was undone in the denouement anyway, with closeted gay bully Karofsky (Max Adler) informing Finn (Corey Monteith) that things will go back to the way the were, because that's what high school's about. So, really, what was the point of this episode setting itself up as a breakthrough moment? It's all reset buttons on this show, so enjoy the ride before it ends and restarts. There are usually some funny lines and decent performances to inure you to the pain of its goldfish memory and resistance to lasting change, which helps.
Overall, "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle" disappointed me in many was. The mashup of "Thriller" with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Don't Lose Your Head" worked fine as audio, but the choreography avoided Michael Jackson's iconic moves, which is 50% of that song's impact. I was looking forward to seeing the Glee cast perform that '80s classic, but instead we had a bunch of indistinguishable zombies doing their own moves on a field of dry ice. And what's with suddenly having Quinn make a move on ex-boyfriend Finn, after the season's spent so long setting up Quinn and Sam (Chord Overstreet) as the show's big romantic couple destined for marriage? And how long until Glee's characters have dated each other multiple times? Can't this show stick to something and see it through to a natural end, without everything feeling like the writers simply get bored and try to shake things up? It's becoming very annoying. The less said about the embarrassing "brains" chant during the game, the better.
written by Ian Brennan / directed by Brad Falchuk / 6 February 2011 / Fox