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TV Review: Glee – “On My Way”

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FOX’s Glee ends its winter run in a big way with “On My Way.” Karofsky (Max Adler) attempts suicide, rocking both the New Directions and the Warblers. This puts their petty feuding into perspective, leading to a unified front at Regionals in supporting a charity to help others like Karofsky. It also is another contributing factor in Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn’s (Cory Monteith) march to the altar. The pair pushes up the ceremony to just after Regionals, as their parents scramble to prevent it. And on the way to the wedding, Quinn (Dianna Agron) is involved in a horrific car wreck while texting and driving.

Glee will never be blamed for not doing enough to promote a stop to the bullying of teens, especially gay ones. Karofsky’s arc in “On My Way” almost comes to a tragic end, as he feels shamed enough to try to take his own life. It’s with great relief that his father (Daniel Roebuck) catches him in time, and saves the lad. The scene is emotional, powerful, and one that no viewer will soon forget, especially with Blaine’s (Darren Criss) haunting “Cough Syrup” laid over it. It is an excellent moment for Glee.

It’s also a transformational moment for Max Adler. Originally introduced as a stereotypical bully, the character of Karofsky has really grown into a fan favorite, and deservedly so. His arc, which climaxes in “On May Way,” not only affects every character on the series, as well as every viewer at home, but surely deserves at least an Emmy nomination for Best Guest Actor. This young man plays Karofsky in such a way that will tug at every heart string. It’s no wonder that the characters rally around him, offering their support in their own ways, even after what he has done to them.

Also stand out is the scene where Kurt (Chris Colfer) visits Karofsky in the hospital. Kurt and Karofsky are not meant to be together, but their growing friendship is certainly a Glee highlight. Given the circumstances leading up to the suicide attempt, Kurt should not blame himself for not answering Karofsky’s calls. He comes to see him, and that’s what Karofsky needs.

The biggest impact comes when Kurt helps Karofsky imagine what might happen in a few years, and how his life could change for the better. One can easily picture hundreds of gay teens glued to their television sets, picturing their own futures, identifying with both guys, and wishing for their own happy ending. Glee delivers the ultimate “It Gets Better” video in this sequence. And it really does get better, and will only get more so as society adjusts away from this latest form of bigotry. If “On My Way” prevents a few real suicides by offering that hope, the series has more than proven its worth.

What is really surprising is how Sebastian (Grant Gustin) changes. He has taken over the villain role on Glee, but that comes to a abrupt halt this week. Sebastian previously insults Karofsky in a bar, and that comes back to jar him in “On My Way.” He deals with his own guilty feelings. Will the change be permanent? Probably not, and who would want it to? Television needs bad guys to stay interesting. But it’s great to see that Sebastian has some depth to him, and is not wholly two-dimensional.

“On My Way” contains a great moment for the staff, as Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) gathers Sue (Jane Lynch), Will (Matthew Morrison), Emma (Jayma Mays), and Bieste (Dot Marie Jones) in his office to discuss how to handle the Karofsky’s situation. Each teacher feels somewhat responsible for not seeing it coming, and also compassion for their students. Their reactions are professional, but also show the deep personal connection educators feel to the children that they work with. In fact, it’s among the finest behavior shown by their characters. If they were like this every day, they would be ideal teachers, instead of the caricatures they sometimes are reduced to.

Will is not at his finest in “On My Way.” He sits the New Directions down to talk to them about suicide. Not only does he not tell his students that they can always call on him, which is what he should be doing, but he also tells a lame story about considering the final act of desperation himself after getting caught cheating on a test. Not even a test that will get him into college or anything, just a standard test for a class. It does not come across as sincere, and doesn’t live up to the moment that it should be.

Facing change in “On My Way” is Sue. She is pregnant, somehow, and the father has still not been revealed. This softens her up considerably, allowing logic to easily be forgotten in favor of an engrossing story, and some character development. In the end, she even offers to help the New Directions win at Nationals, and claims there is no catch to her motives. Could she really be sincere? If Sue brings to bear her formidable coaching talents, which have won many a Cheerios national title, and doesn’t try to sabotage them in some way, the group should be unstoppable. What an exciting prospect! And also a fitting, satisfying, happy ending to the three year arc of many of the characters. This would truly be a full circle moment for Sue, and one cannot help but wish that this spirit is genuine.

Quinn returns to focus in “On My Way.” Looking forward to soon head off to Yale, she tries to leave things good between herself and her classmates. She does this by offering sympathy concerning Karofsky, and being less judgmental about Rachel’s wedding. The scene where she asks Rachel if she is still welcome at Rachel’s wedding is sweet, and reminds viewers of what these two characters have built over the years. It’s not exactly friendship, but there is a special bond between them. Sue allowing her back on the Cheerios is just icing on the cake. Things put in order, Quinn can happily move on.

And then the car wreck happens. Setting aside the anti-texting-while-driving message that Glee is touting, which is probably an important one for teens, though not particularly appealing, how will this change the course of Quinn’s life? The challenges she’s had to overcome deal with body image and pregnancy. Is Glee really going to ask for more of her when her victory is so near? It seems a little off that Quinn gets into Yale, but now that fans have accepted that twist, would Glee dare to take that accomplishment, a reward for all the work she has done on herself, away? And certainly any chance of her cheerleading again is now gone.

Might Glee kill Quinn off? It seems unlikely, especially coming so soon after Karofsky’s close call. It would also extend a depressing tone into at least one more consecutive episode, which doesn’t seem like a move that Glee would make. However, the series should definitely consider it. Agron has had a nice run, and her death could really put things into perspective for many characters, even more so than Karofsky’s. It would also give a Nationals victory, dedicated to Quinn, of course, even more umph. If the actress is going to depart the show soon anyway, why not leave in such a way that she will be fondly remembered for, and as a deeply powerful motivator?

Besides Quinn’s wreck, the other cliffhanger in “On My Way” is whether or not Rachel and Finn will go through with their wedding. As the episode closes, it is time for them to take the plunge. They are at the courthouse, surrounded by family and friends and Sue. Both characters seem ready to go for it, with none of the hesitation or doubts that have plagued the past few episodes. In fact, Glee almost goes to lengths to get fans on board with the matrimony, something that hasn’t really been attempted until this episode. So is the deal done? It seems certain, unless news of Quinn reaches them beforehand, which wouldn’t be realistic.

The wild cards here are Burt (Mike O’Malley), Carole (Romy Rosemont), Leroy (Brian Stokes Mitchell), and Hiram (Jeff Goldblum). Setting aside that Burt has not been in Finn’s life long enough to react so strongly, what plan might these four come up with? Carole is slowly getting on board with the marriage, and possibly Leroy, too, but Burt and Hiram are dead set against it. What will they do to try to stop the wedding? It would be very unlikely that they would come around this late in the game, and keep their mouths shut, barring something happening to change their mind. And there simply isn’t time for that. But will whatever they do actually change Rachel and / or Finn’s mind?

By the way, are we to assume that Hiram and Leroy have been at all of the New Directions’ events, just unseen up til now? For their characters to be absent seems unlikely, and their attendance at Regionals really makes the hole left by them over the past two and a half years really felt. It is a big mistake to wait until now to bring them into the story, though it’s too late to fix that. Thank goodness the course correction is happening now, but it feels a little too late.

As far as music goes, “On My Way” delivers pretty well, though most of the episode is lacking song. There is merely one performance outside of the Regionals contest, and that is Blaine’s aforementioned number. While powerful in context, one gets the impression that it might not have stood so well on its own. Context does matter, though, so it gets a passing, but not spectacular, grade.

The Warblers are a bit of a let down while performing “Stand” and “Glad You Came” for their Regionals entry. The group is severely lacking strong leadership without Blaine this year. Sebastian is an interesting character, perhaps, but he pales in comparison on fronting the group. Neither song choice is particularly impressive or memorable, and it’s a relief that the Warbler’s third number is omitted.

The New Directions, of course, are much better. “Fly”/”I Believe I Can Fly” is a cool mash-up that features six different members of the glee club! The second song, “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger),” is, as promised, for the Troubletones, with each of the three main New Directions girls in the group getting solo time. Though where did the others come from? They haven’t been practicing with the New Directions. One would be forgiven for assuming that they had quit choir until they suddenly show up here.

As great as Rachel does in leading the finale, “Here’s to Us,” it’s also really neat that the so many other members of the group get to shine, too, in the first two songs. It’s taken three years, but the other characters have been fleshed out enough to finally take a bit of spotlight of their own, without leaving everything on the shoulders of one girl.

So “On My Way” will stand out as a high point of this season. Not musically, perhaps, but definitely in terms of story and character development, as well as societal impact. Great effort for a mid-season finale.

Glee is taking a break, but will return to FOX in April.

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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