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TV Review: Glee – “Shooting Star”

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FOX’s Glee broke far out of its comedy mold this week with “Shooting Star.” After a couple of songs and the continuation of the normal plots, gun shots ring out in the halls of McKinley. Students and teachers alike are terrified, and wait with bated breath for the all clear.

Glee is a light-hearted series, and “Shooting Star” betrays that tone, stretching viewers far outside of their comfort zones. I liked the hour very much  as an episode of television. It was very well made, and the raw emotions feel genuine. But I do not believe it conforms to what Glee is supposed to be. I find it likely that some viewers, especially those who watch with their children, are not going to be happy with this development, seemingly coming out of nowhere.

On the other hand, school shootings often happen with little to no warning, and it is a realistic story for Glee to tackle, which is why I’m torn about whether to condemn it or praise it. School violence and gun control are important issues that should be talked about, and Glee picks an opportune time to speak to society about this.

For more on my thoughts of series breaking genre, check out this week’s Jerome-ing the TV Landscape column.

Bottom line, “Shooting Star” is a powerful episode that makes quite an impression. Whether you think that Glee should have gone there or not, I see both sides having reasoned arguments. But it did go there, so let’s move on with the episode review.

The full act, during which the shooting occurs, is amazing drama. All the actors prove they are up to the task, and the emotion between the kids is palpable. Even the mistakes, Sam (Chord Overstreet) trying to get out of the room, a student crossing the floor to get to someone else, feel like something a teenager would unthinkingly do. Artie’s (Kevin McHale) cell phone videos and Will (Matthew Morrison) asking the students to text what’s going on without giving away their location are timely, and the latter is great advice should one ever encounter that situation. Even that annoying metronome, which I kept hoping someone would shut off, feels perfect in the moment.

Brittany (Heather Morris) crying in the bathroom is moving, too, as is Tina’s (Jenna Ushkowitz) frustration with being stuck outside while her friends are apparently in danger. We also get to see Marley’s mom, Millie (Trisha Rae Stahl), hiding alone in the kitchen. Marley (Melissa Benoist) gets comfort at this time from an unlikely ally, Kitty (Becca Tobin), who also makes a confession, and the whole thing makes quite the impact. Excellent job.

This is all incredibly raw, and without knowing what is going on, the tension is awesomely built and sustained, thankfully uninterrupted by commercials.

My only complaint about the way the shooting goes down is that kids are seen entering the school the next day, and the police are still searching lockers and such. Shouldn’t a thorough search and investigation be done before letting the students return? What if the shooter had been evil, and stashed the gun somewhere, intending to use it again? If the real police hadn’t found the weapon yet, they would not have allowed anyone to come back.

Oh, and a couple of the New Directions are once more missing from this episode, but are not mentioned when those trapped in the choir room are worrying about their absent friends. Where is the group love then?

But that’s mostly forgotten when the New Directions reunite to sing “Say,” ending the episode on a perfect note (well, perfect other than the fact that they haven’t heard that Sue has confessed, so aren’t necessarily relieved yet), everyone happily back together, and glad to have one another. They come together, having been through an ordeal, and are more tightly bound because of it.

I am relived and happy with the resolution, seeing Sue (Jane Lynch) take the fall for Becky’s (Lauren Potter) mistake. Becky brings the gun from a place of fear, without understanding the implications of her actions, and with no malice or intent to harm anyone. Becky’s deed is understandable, if dangerous and regrettable. In this way, Glee avoids true violence and bloodshed. Sue’s actions are perfectly in keeping with her character, who has always looked out for Becky. Sue proves that she is a true educator with a big heart for her students. The way everything plays out allows a powerful story to be told without bogging the series down in grief for the rest of the season.

Sue doesn’t just quit for Becky, though; Becky could have gotten away with it. No, Sue stays silent for a few days, but after realizing that the kids and teachers alike are terrified and have lost their sense of security, she makes the sacrifice for everyone. This is her way to restore what McKinley is missing, and it’s a very, very noble move.

Sue laments that her confession will be all that she will be remembered for, despite her many great professional accomplishments. While Sue may be willing to shoulder this burden, she doesn’t deserve it. I don’t want Becky to get in trouble, of course, but Sue needs to be cleared and recognized for what she has done. Realistically, she should still be charged and fired for impeding an investigation. But from an emotional perspective, she should be hailed a hero and return to her job triumphantly.

Near the beginning of “Shooting Star,” Ryder (Blake Jenner) finds his online chat-mate, Katie (Ginny Gardner), walking the halls of McKinley High. Determined to make a great impression on her, he stages a performance of “Your Song” in her honor, a very sweet moment, which she readily accepts, even though she isn’t the one who has been chatting with him.

This is a good time to bring this into play because it provides a possible suspect for the shooting. Knowing there is someone dishonest with motives that may not be pure in the school opens up the possibility that they would rather kill than be discovered. This builds suspense during the dark parts of the episode.

I know that Ryder is insistent and, to some gals, good looking, but why does Katie let him drag her on and sing to her? She obviously has a crush, and maybe this is a dream come true for her. But it also seems pretty unrealistic that she lets it get so far. She’s a pretty girl, probably not starved for attention. Wouldn’t she put a stop to it earlier? And she should definitely be freaked out about someone stealing her identity, or has this generation become so numb to online fraud that they don’t mind?

Ryder’s behavior, on the other hand, makes total sense. He has every reason to believe that Katie (not her real name) is the one he has been chatting with, and that she would appreciate his romantic gesture. He also can be forgiven, in his excitement, for missing the signs that she isn’t getting what he’s doing.

Ryder’s anger and pain at being fooled is completely in keeping with a high school boy, and one’s heart really goes out to him. Marley and Jake (Jacob Artist) are a great couple, and it is mean of Ryder to try to get in between them, especially considering that Jake is his friend, but he’s still a sympathetic guy, especially in this situation. This story makes up somewhat for the unlikeable things Ryder has done.

During the shooting scene, he makes up with Marley and Jake, whom he accuses (seemingly falsely) of pretending to be Katie. Their falling out likely would have been stretched out far more without a life-or-death situation forcing them to re-evaluate their priorities, but I’m glad that they are able to make up. I really like the bonds between this new group of kids, and to have them so at odds with each other is a bit painful.

So who is Ryder’s stalker? The obvious answer seems to be Unique (Alex Newell), though I feel like he is ruled out in the previous episode. I really don’t want Unique’s good name sullied, as he has been struggling with being himself, and I like to believe that he’s succeeding, not having to be sneaky and hide. So if it is Unique, I will definitely be disappointed.

I don’t think any major character, other than Unique, is a possibility, so maybe we’ll get another new character instead. I’ve been pleased with the five young’uns so far this season. Adding another face to the pot, especially when we’re about to have another batch of graduations, could definitely be a good thing.

The other possibility is that someone is trying to sabotage Ryder for some reason. A Regionals competitor seems a stretch, since the opposing teams are not even announced until “Shooting Star.” But I can’t think of anyone else who might want to throw him off his game.

I am still not a fan of Sam and Brittany as a couple, but “Shooting Star” does provide some very sweet story for the pair. Sam shows that he really cares about her, buying a Lady Tubbington, and getting the glee club to participate in a serenade of “More Than Words” to Lord Tubbington. Even as the others look at Brittany oddly, he sticks by her, and this comes out even more during the shooting. Which means they may be headed for a happy ending together.

Lastly, Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) confesses having feelings for Will. Will rejects her, but makes sure to let her know that he does love her, just not in that way.

Why do they have to go there with Bieste? I love her character, and I adore her friendship with Will. Why set her up to fail in yet another plot? Wasn’t her husband beating her bad enough?

At least we do get a few friendship scenes between Bieste and Will in “Shooting Star.” They seem to repair their relationship by the end of the hour, and that’s a good thing, as I would hate to lose this dynamic.

It’s fantastic that Bieste gets a message from Ken Tanaka (Patrick Gallagher) on the dating profile Will sets up for her. Yes, this may just be too big of a coincidence, but I really want Ken to return to the series, and I want Bieste to find love, so this may just work out very well for both.

Overall, “Shooting Star” is one of the best hours of television I’ve seen in awhile, owing to the dark stuff in the middle, though I still haven’t decided if it qualifies as a good episode of Glee or not, being so different from the show’s standard fare.

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
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