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TV review: Glee – “Dynamic Duets”

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Just about the only series to air a brand new episode on Thanksgiving, Glee avoided the holiday completely in the uneven “Dynamic Duets.” Instead, the “Thanksgiving” episode is scheduled for next week. Did presidential politics screw up the schedule? And, if so, why not just air two episodes on Thanksgiving, getting things back on track, and filling the holiday void, especially since there were no other new episodes of anything else airing to compete with? Weird move, guys.

Sectionals is only a week away, so new interim director Finn (Cory Monteith) tries to figure out a theme for the New Directions. His Foreigner idea sucks. Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) advises Finn to pay attention to the new superhero club that many of the students, and she, have gotten involved in. Finn does, asking the singers for “Dynamic Duets,” and he finds acceptance as their leader.

Finn’s plot is really well done this week. He is coming into his own, and Glee finally addresses the recent grads-acting-like-seasoned-adults problem. He also gets a really touching moment with Bieste, which, when combined with his sweater vest combo at the beginning of the episode, makes it feel a lot like Will (Matthew Morrison) has never gone. And yet, by the end of the episode, Finn realizes that he needs to be himself, in a subtle plot point. When he does, he begins to soar.

I guess that means that getting Finn to be the director that the New Directions is what it needed to prepare the group for Sectionals. They are days away, and they still haven’t chosen their music. Yes, cohesiveness of the ensemble and having a defined dynamic are very important, but so are the songs themselves. In reality, groups spend months rehearsing the same pieces, not choosing their numbers at the last minute. This has been an ongoing issue with the series that continues to bug me here, even in the midst of a pretty good plot.

What gives me great hope for Sectionals is the final song of “Dynamic Duets,” “Some Nights.” It’s an energetic, inspiring number that makes use of most of the members of the group. Rather than having a stand out star, like Rachel (Lea Michele) is for the first three seasons, the new New Directions rely on everyone to pull their weight. If “Some Nights” is any indication, they have really come together as a group, and have a great shot at the competition.

Except, where is Unique (Alex Newell) this week? I understand that recurring characters won’t appear in every episode. And s/he didn’t need to do the costume thing because his would have been a female, and that story would have felt like a retread of last week. But in an installment about embracing one’s self, and the integration of everyone as one, having one of the most stand out members of the glee club MIA is an extremely glaring omission. Bad move, Glee.

What is really hokey about “Dynamic Duets” is the superhero theme. For viewers, it’s great fun to see the characters in costumes, and the editing of the episode in the campy hero style, a la Adam West’s version of Batman, is amusing. However, it would be extremely rare for a single high school student to have the guts to wear a cape and tights to school, let alone a whole group of them. It feels like a cheap gimmick, rather than a well developed arc. Not to mention, it will surely be shown only in this one installment, with no mention in episodes before or after it, making it completely ridiculous.

Luckily, “Dynamic Duets” is saved by the character development. First, there’s Blaine (Darren Criss). The new captain of the Warblers, Hunter Clarington (Nolan Gerard Funk, Warehouse 13), tries to entice Blaine back into the fold with a blazer and a song, “Dark Side.” Somehow, Blaine is tempted, even though it’s one of the least memorable numbers the Warblers have ever performed, and his former arch-nemesis, Sebastian (Grant Gustin), is still a part of the group, albeit, less evil now.

Music aside, the real reason Blaine considers leaving is because he is down on himself. After cheating on Kurt (Chris Colfer), and never really allowing himself to feel accepted by the others, it makes sense for him to leave. It’s part punishment, to help ease his guilt, and part melancholy. Thank goodness Sam (Chord Overstreet) is paying attention, though, because as soon as he steps in, Blaine not only begins to feel better, thanks in part to hokey good deeds that come out of nowhere, but it also leads to a terrific duet of “Heroes.” Blaine is finally a full-fledged member of the ensemble in this episode, in a way he hasn’t been all season, in the eyes of both viewers and the character himself.

It would be a crying shame to lose Blaine. He did a bad thing, but at the time, Kurt was driving him away. Plus, he has punished himself enough. At some point, Blaine has to begin to forgive. I think a large part of his alienation at McKinley this season stems from his negative view of himself because of the cheating, and it’s nice to see him start to heal. Blaine is not a bad guy, and hopefully he will get a reunion with Kurt soon enough.

Speaking of Kurt, “Dynamic Duets” stays away from the New York setting entirely. It’s the second episode this season so far to do so, and I have to admit, this is really working for Glee. I love seeing Rachel and Kurt’s adventures in the Big Apple, but these scenes feel tonally like a completely different show.

I understand the hesitance to commit to a spin-off, putting two hours of Glee on television every week. And yet, whether the episodes take turns going back and forth (maybe with a higher season order of, like, 30 installments), or whether FOX can give Kurt and Rachel their own half hour in addition to the McKinley hour, or whether they come up with some other solution, I’d really like to see even more distance between them. It just flows better.

Back to McKinley, with the influence of Finn, and a little advice from Puck (Mark Salling), Ryder (Blake Jenner) and Jake (Jacob Artist) manage to bury the hatchet. This not only makes Jake more likable, as he pretty much stops straddling the line between good and bad, but it also gives Ryder a chance for some decent focus, proving Jenner can do better than he did in the previous two episodes. After a weak introduction, he warms up to the role more this week, and his chemistry with Jake is really great. Their duet, “Superman,” is quite nice.

Jake and Ryder could easily become the new bromance of the show, and I hope that their friendship is pursued and deepens to the point where Marley (Melissa Benoist) won’t come between them, whether she dates one of them or not. They are like Finn and Puck, but without the history, and less to build from. They may be different people, with different interests, but their hearts provide enough in common to start something sweet (and platonic).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kitty (Becca Tobin) is an absolute nightmare. Poor Marley thinks that Kitty is befriending her, and inadvertently, Kitty does help Marley. But the bulimia plot, handled better this week than last, continues to show Kitty’s true colors. Even a hot version of “Holding Out for a Hero” cannot save her. Watch out Marley, because Kitty may be the most villainous student yet!

Which is a shame. Kitty has given a few hints already that she is not a completely terrible person. Such malicious acts as urging Marley to throw up her food ruin that. While minor characters on Glee are frequently cartoonish and over the top, the main ones tend to be relatively well developed. Kitty has the potential to be a central figure moving forward. To do this, we need to see what is behind her pain and hate, and begin to deal with it.

Speaking of discord, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) is feeling shafted again in “Dynamic Duets,” as evidenced by her biting comment about Santana (Naya Rivera). I’ve never much cared for Tina, but it’s easy to see why she doesn’t think that she’s considered a valuable member of the group. She hasn’t shown the talent to deserve the status that she wants to be held up to, and, at the same time, her hard work over the years means that she deserves better than what she’s getting. I actually do hope this boils over into a great Tina story, the first time I’ve ever wanted to see more of her in the four seasons Glee has done.

One last complaint; I do not like how Kitty and Ryder are inducted instantly into the New Directions, with no auditions and no discussion between the current members. Ryder definitely has an in, and could easily have joined the club in a short scene that makes sense. Kitty, on the other hand, really should have been better explained. Yes, she participates in the musical, but she acts like a jerk for most of it. Where is her campaign to convince the others that she deserves to be a part of what they have, and the secret reasons she would even want to be included? Finn claims they are added to get enough students to compete, but couldn’t they have just brought in a couple of the second glee club from last season that seems to have disappeared?

The takeaway from “Dynamic Duets” is that it is a highly enjoyable episode while watching it, but it doesn’t take much to find lots to complain about when looking even a tiny bit below the surface. The characters are great, but the writing needs work, with more connections shown getting from point A to point B, rather than making unsubstantiated leaps. I still think this is a good season, but, as usual, a few tweaks could make it so much more than good, if only they’d take the time to make them.

Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • daveprez

    This superhero club is actually shown in a previous episode. When they are running for class president it shows all the clubs blaine joined and gave a little nudge to “Dr. Horrrible”

  • Nishant

    Your reviews never seem to take into consideration any willing suspension of disbelief!

  • http://www.jeromewetzel.com Jerome Wetzel

    daveprez – Oh, you are right! I wonder at the ease with which the members gave up control of their club when invaded with the New Directions. It would have been amusing to see a scene where this happens. I still don’t think we’ll ever see them again.

    Nishant – I suspend disbelief every time I see the kids break into song in the hallway. :) I just think there should be a line. Glee asks us to suspend disbelief more than other shows, and in unnecessary ways. Still love the series, but it could definitely improve on that front.

  • cnote

    I totally agree that having Unique omitted from the entire episode was a bad move!

  • bored now

    One of the worse episodes if not the worse ever. Hey look at use trying to be funny is all I could think about. The newbies are boring and I get it he is being tested for dyslexia why such a long sequence.