Glee 4x04 - The Break Up

In finding something to rave about this episode, when I really only liked at best, I can only settle on two things: the fantastic performances coming from Chris Colfer and Lea Michele. In fact, they saved it for me when the direction, editting and writing had its spotty moments. 

But let's rewind a bit...conceptually, the episode was strong and the return of Finn and Santana was only going to help propel the story along. The new cast {Kitty, Jake, Marley) are incapable of carrying a minute of screen time, a fact only exacerbated by their scenes tonight (seriously, what the eff was up with that scene at Breadstix?). But Finn and Santana's presence, plus Blaine reuniting with Kurt, already gave the show a shot of adrenaline and we weren't even 10 minutes in.

And to be fair, this episode was an improvement on the music-front and flowed well within the story.

Golf claps to the writer who thought of a Duncan Sheik song; that is really off the beaten path. Now, to get a Spring Awakening number into the show somehow...

I didn't love this song on the vocal front, but the song selection was met with some great staging.

These two nailed the eff out of this. And who would have thought that Michele's voice would have been a wonderful proxy to Demi Lovato's?

If you think I am going to make some remark about Darren Criss singing "Teenage Dream" a second time as an instant cash grab, I am about to disappoint you. I mean, sure, that probably came up in conversation (remember, "Teenage Dream" is one of the most highly-downloaded songs form the show ever), but I think doing an acoustic version of this song as a callback to the first time Blaine and Kurt met was inspired.

What isn't inspired...Darren's face. It's the go-to for some unintentional comedy, but this time, I am sorry to say, it ruined the emotional impact of the could-be knockout number. If I could, I would refer him to a clinic where he can get his face botoxed still. Even then, he probably would still emote all of the feelings in the world (literally, all of them) during a number.

Again, an inspired song choice that was competent on the vocal and arrangement portions. But the staging went off the deep end the moment the split screens went on acid. Caroline and I debated how "Teenage Dream" was shot and I loved it with its indie, Joe's Pub feel (her not as much), but we both agreed that the crack editing and direction of "Don't Speak", as if they are dying and laying on their death beds, reeked of crystal meth in the writing room.

Not so sure the meaning of the song fits the situation, but Naya Rivera performed this number like gangbusters. A beautiful rendition and one that puts Taylor Swift to shame.

AWFUL. Bland-o-riffic coupled with a terrible song choice makes for a terrible episode end.

As far as all the relationship drama, I am of two minds. On the one hand, it was one of the more realistically portrayed plot points that Glee sometimes forgets about entirely. I'd rather take this than a pointless two-minute contrivance of Puck talking to his half-brother that he has never met before. Bottom line: long-distance relationships are just TNT to most relationships (Brittana, Klaine), as is a lack of communication/separate interests (Finchel, Wemma). Glee didn't exactly present anything new about these elements, but innovation is not exactly on the menu when it comes to these played out tropes.

Hold steady, Darren. Little breaths...
On the other hand, which is at piece with the rest of the season and also a long-standing complaint of the show for the past few seasons...where is the "glee" in Glee? This episode was somber enough, but other then Finn's funny line about Brody's 3% body fat, I can't pick out a funny moment otherwise to offset the severity. The numbers followed that dreary motif as well. 

It doesn't bother me that this episode was the most dramatic overall, but this show taking itself so seriously can run roughshod over the enjoyment factor. It's also not that the story and character moments are unwelcome, but of the Glee five {story, character, music, comedy and feel-good}, we ONLY just got story and character moments with the music improving slightly. With comedy conspicuously absent and feel-good nowhere to be found - especially in this depressing as eff episode - Glee is only succeeding on 2 or 3 of the show's 5 core elements. And remember, judging by early response, this was the best episode of forever or something.

But all of this doesn't matter when Chris Colfer, unsurprisingly, and Lea Michele, kind of surprisingly, showed up to play. As far as the former, he really conveyed his personal drama beautifully and with a sense of subtlety found nowhere else in the ensemble, less maybe Jane Lynch (take note Darren). I just want to hug him and tell him everything is going to be okay...and then we could go shopping for hippopotamus brooches. Like you wouldn't?

Rachel? Are you in the Lea?
Here's the thing about Rachel's writing this season...it's pretty awful. Caroline astutely (and hilariously) noticed that Rachel has reverse bled into Lea Michele, so much so her DNA make up is 0% Rachel, 100% Lea. She has not had that "irritating, but I root for her" bit at all and she hasn't said any "That's so Rachel" lines all season. Her manner of speaking, her new wardrobe bereft of penny loafers, knee high socks and animal sweaters and topped off with her ingenue smiling, laughter and slight hair-tossing does not call to mind Rachel AT ALL. She's practically unrecognizable here as Lea Michele is playing Lea Michele.

Having said that, she knocked her solos out of the park and delivered that last monologue like a boss. It helped that it was, for the most part, well-written and very meta, but she sold it like cheesecake to an italian family.

It remains to be seen whether or not Glee will wipe the comedy/feel-good out of their slate entirely and let The New Normal, Ryan Murphy's other non-horror television show, pick up the slack. I may just consider every episode a disappointment on those grounds alone. The relationship drama, especially when it is presented like last night's episode, has its place in a 45-minute episode. Then again, so does songs like "Run, Joey, Run" or even something as fun as Blaine's "It's Time." The latter to me, even though I didn't know it at the time, represents the show at it's best; feel-good, heart-warming, whimsical and passionate.

This episode is a better indication of the show to come, and there was some things to like. Maybe next week, things will continue to impro-...oh wait, we have a hiatus coming up? Of course.

Photo Credit: Glee/FOX via cambio.com


Anonymous said...

I was most impressed by Naya and Lea, and Darren's performance of teenage dream too.

Mary M. said...

I am really missing the humor this season. I want it back, and yes we should get rid of Kitty for sure as she adds nothing to the show at all. As for Jake and Marley, at least they can sing...lol.

Anonymous said...

Chris gave a great perfoemance. I also thought that Heather was pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I have seen a lot of Rachel the whole Cassie situation. And last her excitement going to Callbacks, her saying it was her off-off b-way debut.
The only time it was really really non rachel was her date with Brody.

In order to show Rachel growing up she can't be so tense and manic as she was...

Jimmy Mackey said...

I agree that he was a bit “over-the-top” with his emotions, faces and display of teeth, squinty eyes and general tortured expressions. The song was almost torturous to listen to because he was sounding like he would cry at any moment, which, everyone else in the audience noticed with their looks of dismay. My daughter is the real fan though and Glee is the theme for our DISH Halloween work party for our families this year, which made my kids happy, since they like the show so much. They save all of the episodes each season, and now that I have the Hopper DVR, I have a thousand hours to hold their shows, and mine.