SOUND OFF: GLEE Wins Regionals With A Bang, Splash & Crash
Fourteen episodes in, with eight more to come after the seven week hiatus that just began, GLEE's Season Three has been filled with shocks and surprises, but none so shocking and surprising as last night's potentially fatal collision involving the one and only Quinn Fabray, Dianna Agron. In the show's final moments, the danger of auto texting was made painfully plain to see as Quinn's car was demolished by an oncoming truck as she typed the episode's title into her phone, "On My Way," - on her way to the wedding of Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith), that is. "Chapel Of Love" playing on the radio gave the scene an extra added note of morbid irony and twisted the dramatic knife in a way few enterprises dare to do, as well - a NIP/TUCK twist (as Ryan Murphy would have it). So, is this really the last we shall see of Quinn on GLEE? We will have to wait until April to see, but some pictures have already surfaced of Quinn wheelchair racing with Artie (Kevin McHale) onset, so perhaps she survives after all. Besides Quinn's catastrophe, one of the most complex and controversial secondary characters on the show, closeted gay football player and Kurt's former McKinley High bully par excellence, Max Karofsky, succumbed to a heartbreakingly presented suicide attempt, but survived to fight another day. Will Quinn be as lucky? What will become of her daughter, Beth - sired with Puck (Mark Salling) back in Season One - who is being raised by Rachel's birth mother, Shelby (Idina Menzel)? Does this mean we will be seeing more of Ms. Menzel in the back 8 of the season? Will Puck and Shelby rekindle their romance in the wake of Quinn's crash and subsequent rehabilitation or, maybe, death? Only time will tell, it seems. In an episode packing an incredible punch, GLEE'S "On My Way" delivered the drama, the social commentary, the laughs, tears, joy and, of course, the music as stylishly and successfully as any of its finest episodes ever have, even if some of the questionable of-the-moment contemporary song selections at the central Regionals competition failed to fully ignite as other songs may very well have done. Indeed, last night's GLEE was all any gleek could ask for from the Winter Finale of their favorite show, and, if we are forced to wait a few weeks for the next episode, best to go out on a big, bad cliffhanger that makes a splash.
Going To The Chapel
In an entertainment extravaganza of epic proportions, last night's GLee Winter Finale exemplified all we have come to know, expect and love from the hit Fox musical dramedy over the course of its first three and a half seasons - tender and poignant tackling of au currant teen issues; absurdist and unexpected moments of comedy (usually thanks to Brittany and/or Sue Sylvester, last night being no exception); sensational, spine-tingling and extravagant musical numbers; and, of course - most of all - the exceptional rapport of the core glee club members at the show's heart that give it its soul. Given the unexpected conclusion of the "To Be Continued" epilogue-d episode, shall we perhaps see one less gleek in the Nationals line-up? If so, GLEE will surely never be quite the same ever again - it will irrevocably be changed in some way if Quinn is indeed dead. The balance will be shifted. As the recent addition of show standout and breakout all-around superstar Darren Criss clearly evidenced, GLEE can make additions and amendments to seemingly essential elements to its success and recreate itself in an engrossing and, more often than not, enthralling way right before our eyes. Remember Blaine's "Teenage Dream"? Charice's "Listen"? Or, perhaps, this season, Sebastian (Grant Gustin)'s "Uptown Girl" was your personal favorite unexpected delight? Whatever the example, GLEE has proven its makers' mastery of complimentary casting choices and consistently expert juggling of storylines the last three years - let alone and not even mentioning its finely honed and subtle structuring and balance of comedy/drama, script/song, kids/adult, realism/surrealism, etc. in general every single week. Sure, there have been some misses - Season Two was loaded with them - but, all in all, GLEE delivers just what we are expecting it to, week in and week out, and, for that, it is essential viewing. And, as last night's "On My Way" proved, sometimes it gives us a hell of a lot more to chew on, think about and discuss, too.
Teen suicide will always be a controversial, hot button issue, especially when it is addressed on a network TV program at 8 PM - a situation further exacerbated (as some may perceive it) when a daring and ballsy innovator like Ryan Murphy is responsible for the address. When the suicide - or, in this case, attempted suicide - depicted in the episode concerns a once-closeted, now out gay football player as the unfortunate soul struggling with bullying to such an extent he commits suicide, it adds an extra added element of poignancy and metaphor to the experience of the story arc - particularly insofar as what current society's expectations of males at that age go and the overall theme of GLEE's Season Three at large (that is: bullying). Kurt and Karofsky's incredibly touching and sensitive scene in the second half of the episode is an expert example of why GLEE is so vital to spreading the message of acceptance to the national and international audiences for the show, as was Mr. Shu (Matt Morrison)'s well-intentioned carpe diem discussion with the New Directions prior to the Regionals competition itself. Daniel Radcliffe's brand new Trevor Project hotline PSA was the ultimate expression of the fact that the social change depicted on GLEE is being brought into real life and real people are benefiting from the show's all-inclusive message of hope, not just merely the characters dealing with GLBT and bullying issues on the show. Additionally, a teen marriage was also an everyday reality all-too rarely depicted on a network TV show plain to see on last night's GLEE that was also a tough topic presented and envisioned in an interesting and quite innovative way, with dignity and grace (salacious sexting blackmail notwithstanding). On the marital front, Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell continued their enjoyable arc as Rachel's seemingly amiable gay dads to winning results - with Goldblum even getting the fated (and, maybe, fatal) text that ended the episode with a bang and a crash that gleeks will never, ever forget.
As for the musical element of last night's "On My Way" Winter Finale, we were treated (or exposed, as it may be) to a host of current hits from a number of genres. Blaine kicked off the night with an impassioned if somewhat spastically choreographed, ultimately moving performance of Young The Giant's sad suicide ode, "Cough Syrup". While some may question its inclusion on the show given the unappetizing topic, even the most vehement naysayer must concede that "Cough Syrup" was eloquently and elegantly intertwined with the actual act that the protagonist of the song is singing about, more or less. It's all in the details, as always. The Regionals competition itself afforded the opportunity for the gleeks of New Directions and Sebastian & The Warblers to show off their best assets to the height of their abilities and give it their all - or, that was the intention. While the focus on contemporary hits was somewhat off-putting and some of the songs felt hopelessly shoe-horned in, Sebastian and the Warblers gave a stand-up rendition of Lenny Kravitz's "Stand" and The Wanted's "Glad You Came". Gustin has been given some supremely tasty moments to shine, yet his character is so unlikable and his talent so secondary to former Warbler lead singer, Blaine (Darren Criss), that it is sometimes a bit hard to swallow Sebastian's motivations and overall arc - Sebastian & The Warblers looked and sounded good, just not as great as they were with Blaine. New Directions fared far better in their showcase, especially with the imaginative and ultimately appealing mash-up of Nicki Minaj's "Fly" and R. Kelly's late-90s throwback R&B smash, "I Believe I Can Fly". The Troubletones made an encore appearance - with the welcome addition of Rachel and the rest of New Directions, of course - leading original American Idol Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" as an absolutely brilliantly chosen - and oh-so apropos given the subject of this episode and the overriding theme of the entire season (and, maybe, series itself) - and exultant concluding number. While nothing can ever erase the competition performance of "Don't Stop Believing (Part 2)" from the first season or Kathy Griffin's cameo as a judge at last year's finals, this Regionals competition had its own fair share of fun and formidable performances to excite and ignite the spark to blast GLEE back into the top echelon of TV once more, where we can hope it will be ensconced once again come April's return.
No, "On My Way" was not the typical GLEE episode, yet it provided us with all the essential ingredients we require to have a complete GLEE experience and feel fully satisfied at the end of the rich feast as we head into a barren, GLEE-less seven weeks. Also, the Winter Finale gave us a generous gift-bag of grist for the mental mill on our way out and more than enough to ponder in the intervening weeks. What will become of Rachel and Finn's wedding now that Quinn has been quite possibly slaughtered in a horrific car accident? Will Karofsky find peace with himself after his healing heart-to-heart session with Kurt? Will Sebastian steal Blaine away from Kurt - or, worse yet, from McKinley High - somehow, someway? Who is the father of Sue Sylvester's baby? Who will graduate from McKinley High come Spring? What characters (and cast-members) will return for Season Four? All these questions and more will hopefully be answered come the grand GLEE return on April 10, if not soon after. Until then…