This week’s installment of Glee, the first episode to air in several weeks (and only the fourth of the year) stunk. Glee is all about embracing yourself for who you are, not changing for others or allowing yourself to be pigeonholed. The episode, titled “A Katy of a Gaga,” insisted that each of the students was one or the other, and when one didn’t want to change for an assignment, she was punished.
First of all, I didn’t know there was a rivalry between Lady Gaga and Katy Perry fans. The performers don’t seem that different. Yes, Gaga is definitely more over the top and out of the box, but Katy is no girl next door, letting whip cream shoot out of her boobs. Glee tries to draw a clear distinction between the two, but the comparisons falls flat, and the entire premise doesn’t make sense.
Not to mention, for an episode focused on the music and style of two major artists, there are a scant four songs involved, only two for each, which doesn’t feel right, either.
At the beginning of the hour, the New Directions are concerned with a never-before-heard-of super group who somehow is going to crush them at Nationals. Since this group is all Gaga, Will (Matthew Morrison) divides his club in two and demands that each play to the opposite of their strengths, expanding their range and mastering all genres. There are some funny jabs that Will makes up assignments on the spot, a tongue-in-cheek comment that rings true, and despite this new group stupidly coming out of nowhere, the set up is solid enough, with a sound idea.
Unique (Alex Newell), Kitty (Becca Tobin), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), and Jake (Jacob Artist) identify themselves as Gaga. Of course Unique is on this list, and Kitty, sure. But while Tina does act that way now, it makes me groan and roll my eyes at the inauthencity, and I really don’t understand why Jake is included.
The four spend the whole hour trying to come up with a Katy number to showcase how “toned down” they can be, and yet all of their brainstorming sessions reveal only outrageous thoughts. These are not stupid kids; surely they understand the assignment enough to not be so ridiculous.
In the end, the four settle on performing “Wide Awake” while sitting atop stools. It’s a pleasant, sweet song that they do really well. Too bad it comes at the end of a convoluted mess of a story.
The Katy side is even worse. Artie (Kevin McHale), Blaine (Darren Criss), Sam (Chord Overstreet), and Ryder (Blake Jenner) have no trouble going all Gaga in their over-the-top, well-outside-of-school-budget production of “Applause.” This is all well and good
But Marley (Melissa Benoist), feeling pressured to have sex with Jake, refuses to let her inner wild child out. First of all, when did Marley become so goody two-shoes? Secondly, when did Jake stop appreciating Marley for who she is, so much so that he runs off and cheats on her with Bree (Erinn Westbrook)? Third, when did Will become so cruel that he would suspend Marley for a week for staying true to herself, or at least the version of herself in “A Katy of a Gaga?” Fourth, when did not participating in a single school assignment qualify as suspension-worthy?
While this plays out, Sam is still attempting to win over Nurse Penny (Phoebe Strole), whom I thought he had already won over. Inexplicably, she shuns his good guy image early in the hour, then shuns his bad boy persona later. This episode doesn’t know who Penny is or what she wants, which ruins the entire subplot.
Then, after all this, Sue (Jane Lynch) storms into the choir room and re-declares war on Will, suspending the kids, who defiantly fight back with “Roar.” I missed the villain Sue, and she makes a good obstacle for Mr. Schue and the students. And she’s right, the glee club’s costumes, besides being completely unrealistic in how good they are, are totally not school appropriate. One week’s suspension seems far too harsh, again, going outside the realm of believability as much as Artie swinging in a vine from his wheelchair does, but the emotional cues in this sequence are nailed. Too bad it’s too little, too late for the episode.
The only thing that slightly bothers me about Sue lashing out is that she does need the New Directions to succeed to make her look good as principal. However, we’ve seen her tough-love approach before, and she may think they’re floundering and need this kick in the pants to rise to the occasion of Nationals. If she wants them to win, she might want to start with making the rest of the glee club, mostly MIA for half a season, actually show up to practice.
As usual, the New York City part of the episode is much, much better. Kurt (Chris Colfer) starts a band, which Dani (Demi Lovato) and, to a lesser extent, Santana (Naya Rivera), eagerly agree to participate in. Rachel (Lea Michele) tries to beg off, citing how busy she is, but can’t resist offering suggestions, and eventually comes around.
Rounding out the group is Elliott ‘Starchild’ Gilbert (Adam Lambert, American Idol), who kills in his audition of “Marry the Night,” but whom Kurt is reluctant to let in for being too flamboyant. It’s Rachel, the best friend, who drags out of Kurt what is really bothering him: he wants success, and thinks mainstreaming it is the only way to get some. Rachel talks him down from his ledge, and they gleefully welcome Starchild into their midst.
The five participate in “Roar,” too, and it is icing on the cake for their tale. As bad as the McKinley stuff is, the New York thread is solid. Kurt’s crisis of confidence is completely understandable and in character, and Rachel plays the perfect adviser. I don’t hate Lovato as much as I expected to, and anyone who listens to her has to admit that she can sing! Add the incredibly talented Lambert to the mix, and this is a story I want to see more of.
Rumor is, Glee may soon drop the high school setting all together and focus exclusively on the Big Apple. For the sake of the quality of the series, let’s hope this comes in the very near future. The show has outgrown its roots, and it’s time to move on.
Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.