Glee 3x11 "Michael"

Tribute episodes are often a subject of divide amongst the Glee commentary and I don’t really understand why. Through some combination of factors, they tend to be some of the better outings for the show. Think about it…there have been five full-on tribute episodes (not including the homages in the vein of Journey, Justin Bieber or even West Side Story) and four have been high caliber {Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours} and one disaster {Britney Spears}.

Yes, we are BAMFs!
I always appreciated that Glee introduced music of past decades into the lives of its younger audience. I say that like I am one of the show’s more older viewers, but I am 22 and even so, music has changed a lot in the past 15 years with a shifting emphasis on pop culture. Most of the young ones nowadays probably only have a passing familiarity with Madonna or Fleetwood Mac, just as I have a passing familiarity with Billie Holiday.

A Michael Jackson tribute episode is a great idea because while his untimely (and unfortunate) passing resurrected a nostalgic reflection on his impact in music (and his personal life to a lesser extent), his work as a performer is iconic and timeless that would appeal to many age groups. He has a large body of songs to choose from, a performance style that was ahead of its time, but can be adapted for today’s standards, and some empowering messages worth listening to.

I was not THAT into the episode in that I am not a huge Michael Jackson fan. However, the episode managed to come together and check off some things on my weekly Glee wishlist. Say what you will about Glee, but you know the ensemble can BRING IT when an entire episode devoted to a legend comes their way and there are a lot of eyes on them.

Anyone notice they are really going over-the-top, in staging and performing, with the numbers lately? Personally, that is a welcome sight because a boring number is a greater offense then an overdone, unrealistic one. In fact, Glee is more fun to sit through when all sense of realism is chucked and they embrace a little camp. Even if the out-of-scene commencing of certain numbers took me by surprise…hey, it’s a musical. Surprises welcome!

Even so, I was not particular fond of either of these numbers. The “Bad” number sounded awful with the blend of the different voices and orchestrations. While Darren Criss nailed the dancing and mannerisms of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”, his vocals were too “by-the-numbers” coupled with his standard performing style. So naturally, Caroline (yep, she’s back!) and I had something else to talk about.

What can I say...Michael gets me excited!
NRNW: Darren is really showing in those pants
NRNW: They missed out on an opportunity to have him in Fiyero pants
Caroline: There is a lot going on with those pants
Caroline: Maybe there’s still time!

I don’t have much to say regarding plot this week, even if I am impressed that Jackson’s music was a good fit for several of the ongoing plot points. That is not lost on me and a much better way to approach the show then the “plot arch per episode” format. I just can’t get worked up over the Finchel drama, Blaine’s injury (oh, Caroline and I had a feel day over that one) or some of the temporary characterizations of Artie or Quinn.

Although I have to admit, the latter two knocked their numbers out of the park.

Artie’s angst came out of nowhere to set-up ”Scream,” but I can’t blame them for wanting Kevin McHale and Harry Shum Jr. to tackle this number. These two have amazing performing chemistry and it shows: this number was FANTASTIC. Pairing up arguably the two best dancers on the show, with some decked out music video fantasy motifs and costumes, was only going to breed amazing results.

Ironically though, I adored Quinn’s number just as much. Dianna Agron doesn’t get too many full-scale numbers due to her limited vocal range, but she looked stunning here and brought an understated, sweet quality the number called for. What really won me over was how well the song fit her storyline and that appropriate montage. Unfortunately, this being Glee, they couldn’t let the subtlety speak for itself and they had to have Quinn give, what felt like, a never-ending speech afterwards. Seriously, that just went on and on and on and I was like, “GOT IT; enough already.”

They really are shoving this couple down our throats and against my better judgment, it is working. Hey, doesn’t Mercedes have a boyfriend…somewhere? Oh well; great number, no?

Bleh, from concept to execution.

Hands down, my favorite number of the episode. I may even opine that this is my favorite number of the season. Seriously; I thought the number was going to end with my television exploding. The show has a history of teaming up performers that play off each other wonderfully {Lea Michele/Idina Menzel, Amber Riley/Naya Rivera, even Kevin McHale/Harry Shum Jr.} and I vote they add this pairing to the list. Just a flawless performance, start to finish, right down to the manic cellists. A credit must be paid to the editors; this was wonderfully shot and edited to reflect both an in-scene performance and a mini-music video.

That is some fierce face Santa-...
I mean, Snicks.
EDIT: Apparently, the cellists are a group called 2Cellos and somewhat well-known prior to last night. Their video of “Smooth Criminal,” which hit YouTube last April, looks familiar, no? Kudos to the gents for being game for this show (talk about some great publicity for them, seriously).

I am starting to feel bad for Grant Gustin because he is getting quite good in a character that is reprehensible at every corner. The guy got in a funny monologue early on in the coffee house and went from a potential antagonist in the Sue Sylvester mold to a reprehensible, sociopath by episode’s end. What a shame; so it goes…

This was going to look weaker compared to the previous number – it was even worse that I thought - but a random YouTube commenter made an even more accurate point that Gustin and Rivera had more chemistry as gay villains then Michele and Cory Monteith have as a couple. Yikes; that does not resonate well…hit it, commentary!

Caroline: “I left out the most important part. THE BAND!”
Caroline: She’s marrying him because she didn’t get into NYADA.
NRNW: As the band stares awkwardly
Caroline: Right
Caroline: Can we…leave now?

Yep; we said it. Moving on...

A solid number to close out the episode, even though the morph montage was a literal overkill.

Much like last week’s episode, they nailed some numbers and delivered a competent plot walkthrough, resulting in a satisfying episode. I am still of the mind that the show needs to step it up in the plot or character departments because it can’t coast on its talented ensemble and on-point music numbers for the rest of the season. This Michael Jackson detour was a worthwhile one, but you cannot haul out an artist tribute every time to distract from the fact that the show remains to be as inconsistent within each episode as it always has been.

Photo Credit: Glee/Fox 5
Screenshot Credit: NRNW

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