26
Nov
2012
Glee: Season 4, Episode 7
Dynamic Duets
Andy
"Just when they were doing so well"¦," I sighed after the first two minutes of this week's episode of Glee, "˜Dynamic Duets.' The episode opened with a meeting of the newly founded chapter of McKinley's Secret Society of Superheroes Club, complete with hero names, "˜super-powers,' and costumes. For example, Tina dubbed herself "Asian Persuasion." Her superpower: being the "˜mistress of manipulation.' She is not. This joke embodies one of my biggest problems with Glee as a television series"”its characters have ENORMOUS room for depth, growth, and story arc, but remain frustratingly one-dimensional nonetheless. Tina is Asian. We get it.
The costumes stuck around for the entire episode. Let's ignore the reality that the school's least popular students would even survive (I mean that literally) wearing superhero costumes in the halls of their high school, and skip to why this episode is symptomatic of the ailment I desperately wished Glee had shrugged off. After the first season, when the creator's pre-developed plotline had been squandered, the writers must have forgotten that they needed a plot at all, because I couldn't find one. Each episode was like a one-act play, ignorant of the episodes that came before and after it. This season had started to undo that damage"”the graduated characters in New York had romantic ties, the struggle between Rachel and her dance teacher on both personal and professional lines. That story has room to grow, and bears some semblance of a relationship to the characters' development. The idea of Finn being taken under Mr. Shuster's wing and put in as the Glee Club director actually had promise, and could have finally explained the as-of-now spontaneous bond between the teacher and former student. Even the new students' relationships to one another have potential. The popular cheerleader tries to sabotage the unpopular reject, the football star vies against the punk for the same girl. Okay, maybe those plots are a little tired, but with proper writing they could be given new life here. Those are plot arcs I can get behind.
"˜Dynamic Duets' squandered them. Finn's new role resolves itself by the end of the episode. His difficulties in the position"”apparently restricted to an inability to find dry erase markers"”are literally resolved with tights and a cape. The budding relationships between new students were haphazardly imbued with topical teenage issues, here, anorexia and dyslexia. I appreciate that the show tries to tackle real problems in a setting familiar to the average teen. But"”to take the football star/punk combo as an example"”to throw the adversarial pair into a duet competition and resolve the struggle with one fist fight, a spontaneous share-fest in the locker room, and a "mess with him and you mess with me" confrontation in the cafeteria seems rushed at best, and unbelievable at worst.
Of course, there are things about this episode, and the series in general, that I love. The quality of the songs almost never disappoints. I especially appreciate that, when auto-tuned, the new cast of characters actually sound different from one another"”Kitty's timbre, for example, is in stark contrast to Marley's. And their duet, "Holding out for a Hero," was fantastic. But what I can't stand is how they used the songs. First, if you're going to have a "˜hero' theme, stick with it"”don't end the episode with "Some Nights" just because it's awesome (and, by the way, their version was awesome). Do what you do best"”find a song that fits the emotional mood of the characters. The duet between Jake and Rider was a great example, and I love that it ended in a fist fight"”despite my other problems with the lack of depth that fight embodies. And now to my point: We need more of that, more of what Glee is good at. We need a plot that is conducive to representative song. Here's a hint: Instead of having the character say they're sad, jealous, [insert emotion here], have them sing about it without saying they're going to sing about that emotion. Have you ever seen Across the Universe? Go find the scene where the cheerleader sings "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." DO THAT.
Glee has a long way to go before it solves its problems. If I had my way, I would lock the writers in a dark room, tie them to chairs, and ask them the questions I can only scream the television right now: "What do these characters want? Why do they want it? If you were this character, would you really just come out and say what they just said? Wouldn't these characters be more interesting if they were more than mere vehicles for the conclusion you want the audience to draw?" But alas, I have access neither to the writers of Glee, nor to a dark room.
And yet, to end on a positive note, I have hope. Hope that the first few episodes of this season of Glee, which have showed promise and possible adherence to a story arc, might permeate into the rest of the season. If only the writers can avoid prematurely vomiting conclusions to those plot into the next two episodes. Here's hoping.

Grade: C

Notes:

-"I'm a human brain"¦"
Tags: Glee
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