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TV Review: Glee – “Hell-O”

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Next up for my look back at Glee‘s first season is “Hell-O.” The question is whether “Hell-O”‘s theme is “Hello” or “Hell?” It’s hard to tell.

Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith) struggle to make their new relationship work. Finn realizes too late that he wants to be with Rachel, as she meets and falls for Jesse St. James (Tony award winner Jonathan Groff). Jesse is actually the star of rival glee club, Vocal Adrenaline, sparking unease between Rachel and her fellow group members. Will (Matthew Morrison) goes to speak to Jesse’s coach, Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel, Rent, Wicked), and soon discovers he is not as solid with Emma (Jayma Mays) as he’d like to believe.

Musically, “Hell-O” is interesting because each performance is great and adds to the story, but none stand out as requiring paragraphs of discussion to dissect. They are straight forward, and fit with the episode title. “Gives You Hell” is a personal favorite, but “Hello,” “Hello Again,” “Hello, Goodbye,” and “Hello, I Love You” not only share similar titles, but are all solid musical numbers. “Highway to Hell” is sung by Vocal Adrenaline, so it is not required to fit the theme. Though it kind of does, in a slightly more subtle way.

Two long-simmering, budding relationships don’t even get off the ground in “Hell-O.” It isn’t fair that Glee strings its viewers along for 13 episodes with two couples who can’t quite be together, only to break them up after less than one episode. Finn and Rachel have a long road to happiness, of course, as do Emma and Will. “Hell-O” is probably too early for things to end happily ever after for either couple. But then why even tease by allowing the four to couple up, only to destroy them so quickly? It leaves a big feeling of disappointment.

Yet, neither guy is ready for a new relationship. Finn and Will are jumping headfirst into new loves after just losing their former ones. Both need to take the time to figure out who they are, which they are told, but have trouble taking the advice. As most people do. It’s nice to see Will try to mentor Finn, but the effort falls flat when Will clearly doesn’t have it together, either. Both need to be alone for a bit.

Will’s lack of readiness is very apparent in his selfish attitude. As he gets to know Emma, he controls all their date activities and the movies they watch. Will tells her, “There are so many things you don’t know about me, and I can’t wait to introduce them to you.” He isn’t trying to learn about her, but wants her to care about him. It’s a one-sided arrangement that is doomed to failure. That Will doesn’t realize he is going about things all the wrong way makes it much more apparent that he needs to slow down and figure things out before adding another person back into the mix.

Emma is a pleasantly crazy character up until “Hell-O.” Then she is shown to be pretty sinsaney, and not just in a cute way. But she does have self awareness, asking Will “How is you compromising yourself for my crazy any different than doing it for hers?” referring to Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig). It’s a turning point for the character, actually welcome, as it makes her more layered and flawed. But does this mean Will only goes for crazy chicks? Toss in Rachel and Sue, the other significant female main characters, and it begins to appear that there are no sane females on the series. Which is too bad, really. Do Glee‘s writers have something against girls?

Finn’s fidelity is tested by Brittany (Heather Morris) and Santana (Naya Rivera) in their first significant plot. What guy wouldn’t be thrilled to go out on a date with the two hotties? Santana and Brittany hold hands with each other, though, and Santana tells Finn the date will consist of “You buy us dinner and we make out in front of you.” So they appear to be much more interested in each other than in him. Which is probably why fans begin to think the two are an item, even though the truth proves to be much more complicated. Still, it’s good to see them do more than listen to Sue’s (Jane Lynch) evil plans, and complain about what the glee club does.

Santana and Brittany begin to feel like part of the group around “Hell-O,” as does, to a lesser extent, Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.). Up until now, they, along with Matt (Dijon Talton), are barely more than extras. Matt never escapes that stigma, but of course, the other three do. Mike’s participation in dancing, and the girls’ subplots, help them achieve a level of importance that allude them until now. Brittany cements her status by uttering what is still one of her most famous lines, “Dolphins are just gay sharks.” There will be many more memorable moments to come from the trio.

Sadly, Kurt (Chris Colfer) continues to be lumped in with Mercedes (Amber Riley), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), and Artie (Kevin McHale) as secondary members of the club, rather than the breakout star he will become in season two, on the level of Rachel, Quinn (Dianna Agron), or Finn.

As Santana and Brittany become more accepted by the main characters, Glee seeks other villains besides Sue. Enter Shelby and Jesse. Though more complicated than the resident evil cheerleading coach, the two plot cheating, much as the rival glee club coaches at Sectionals do, but in a longer story arc. These are two interesting characters, played by very talented performers, who are allowed to have more than one motivation. It makes them worthy to go up against, and as most people with feelings on the show do, allow them to grow over time. What’s more, they are welcome when they return down the line. Jesse comes back late in season two, and Shelby has a major upcoming story in season three.

Besides these bad guys, Terri solidifies her self as an antagonist in “Hell-O.” While some of Terri’s action are sympathetic in Glee, others are just plain evil. She is a woman who can go either way. After Will shuns her, she falls firmly onto the dark side. Terri’s attempts to get into Emma’s head and manipulate the woman, as understandable as they might be, are not the actions of a good person. Thus, it is time to stop trying to figure out Terri, and just root against her instead.

Random Bits:

  • Is the piano that Jesse plays in a public library or a music store? Dialogue indicates the latter, but it looks like the former, and no music store in Ohio is that nice. The instrument seems especially out of place in a library, but having been to several music stores in Ohio, none that I have visited have one out to play on.
  • So McKinley’s basketball team has the same players and coach as the football team? This makes sense for a small school, but not one the size that McKinley appears to be. Thank goodness basketball does not become a major recurring thing on the series the way that football has.
  • Rachel admits to wearing a training bra in “Hell-O,” and Kurt says people mistake him for his dead mother on the phone. Is their confidence in themselves increasing, or are these just bad throwaway jokes?
  • Figgins’s (Iqbal Theba) continued threats to cancel the glee program are stupid. Will is just starting the club, and even with budget problems, most school programs are allowed time for growth. Virtually no group does well in competition in its first year. It’s to be expected, not bullied.
  • Another Lauren Zizes (Ashley Fink) sighting in Sue’s Old Maids’ Club! Gotta love some Zizes!
  • How did Will get his apartment back after he leaves Terri? Oh, wait. I know. Set budgets trump reality.
  • Will brings Shelby back to his place. But they were at her school, so surely her place is closer. See previous random bit for explanation.
  • Vocal Adrenaline appears in earlier episodes, but not Shelby or Jesse. This makes no sense, especially for Jesse, who is their best singer, and gets all the solos. Except that the pair had not been cast yet. Not really a good excuse. Why not just add another glee club to the mix and avoid continuity problems?

Check back soon for another season one Glee review.

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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
  • frank

    Sorry to have to correct you yet again but Jon Groff was nominated but did not win a Tony.

  • frank

    But Idina is and you don’t mention that.

  • frank

    Sorry but Quinn was not and is not a break out star not like Lea and Chris at all. I would say Naya is more that Dianna. Really?

  • http://jeromewetzeltv.blogspot.com/ Jerome Wetzel

    frank – You are correct that he was nominated and did not win. My bad. I know Idina won, but I felt that her profile is high enough, it wasn’t necessary to mention that, but give her credits instead. For Groff, I did not list credits. So I did something different on each.

    As far as for Quinn, I apologize if my wording was confusing. What I meant when lumping her in with Rachel and Finn is that, in season one so far, she gets much more plot and focus than the “secondary” members of the club. You are right in that Naya is more breakout. I would add Heather Morris as breakout, too.

  • Sol

    Jesse St. James definitely stole my heart he was not correct in his actions but I have to say that he and Rachel have incredible chemistry and certainly miss him on the show!