Super Bowled-Over By Last Night's "Glee," and Other Puns

While the internet is abuzz with discussion of last night’s Super Bowl, I, true to form, want to talk about what happened afterward: "Glee."  Last night’s "Glee" was our first new episode in over two months, since the disappointing Christmas episode that followed a disappointing Halloween episode. I lambasted all of Glee's Season 2 earlier this Fall, criticizing its after-school-special storylines and overproduced musical numbers.  But, I’m delighted to say, last night’s "Glee" was back from hiatus with a bang. 

The Thriller half time show
In the post-Super Bowl "Glee," Coach Bieste and Mr. Schu decided to force the football players and the glee club to work together and perform a very special halftime show at the championship game.  Of course Sue Sylvester schedules the Cheerio’s national competition at the same time, and all of the angsty teens are forced to decide between being popular and being loyal to the glee club they all secretly (and somewhat unreasonably?) love.

It was a simple, resolvable plot reminiscent of Season 1, and it worked because it really brought some of the main characters (Finn and Quinn, namely) back into focus.  It was peppered with the kind of hope-the-kids-are-in-bed dark comedy that made "Glee's" first season so surprisingly risqué (it only masquerades as a family show), and seamlessly integrated some quality musical numbers that felt natural and fun and genuine.  And, as much as I hate to say it, I think "Glee's" success may owe to the absence of Kurt.

With a few exceptions, almost every episode this season has been Kurt-centric. Think about it – Kurt’s dad’s in the hospital, Kurt struggles with atheism, Kurt struggles with bullying, Kurt struggles with his homosexuality, Kurt transfers schools, Kurt’s dad marries Finn’s mom.  And while I think "Glee" would be remiss to not tackle issues like religion and bullying and high school homophobia at some point, they piled it on too thick, back to back to back to back, right at the beginning of a hyped second season. And it just wasn’t fun anymore.

But tonight’s episode felt liberated and ballsy and less afraid to offend us.  With Kurt gone, it was like the uptight guy left the room and we could all unbutton our pants and start cursing again.  For once, the episode was about football and romance and creative mash-ups and wicked humor, not people begging Kurt’s forgiveness while his porcelain, tickle-me-dough-face brims over with tears.

Instead, last night we got some legitimate dialogue between some of the main players we hadn't heard from in a while.  Finn finally (finally!) manned up and acted like the leader everyone’s been begging him to be.  Puck, in his own way, made apologies and amends.  And the new tension between Quinn and Finn bodes well for an exciting end to the season (nobody really liked her with that Macaulay-Culkin-looking new kid, right?).

Don't get me wrong, I adore Kurt as much as the next self-respecting Gleek.  But his purpose was almost better served in small doses as a supporting cast member.  His character is too extreme to carry the brunt of a leading-man: Kurt is the wacky neighbor, not the straight man (womp womp).  He wasn’t originally written to be a main player (in fact, Kurt wasn’t originally written into the show at all. The actor who plays Kurt auditioned for the role of Artie; he didn’t get it, but the creators liked him so much they wrote the role of Kurt just for him).  It’s almost as if when Brittany and Mike Chang were bumped off the background bench and made supporting characters, the writers had to bump Kurt into the limelight. The fit isn't right; Kurt was best when he left us wanting more, something I haven't felt since his magnificent Victor/Victoria number back in early October.

Fox is giving us another new episode Tuesday, and then there are only two more in the second season.  Though I hadn’t been before, I’m now newly excited for what the final episodes have in store.  And if they keep up the momentum from last night, and keep the Kurt-diva scenes to a minimum, then maybe, just maybe, Glee can redeem itself before Season 3.

"Glee"-dendum: I just found this super-snarky. Gaytastic, Wildean review of this episode on Vanity Fair's website. It's more verbose and bitchier than mine.
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