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TV Review: Glee – “Sweet Dreams”

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FOX’s Glee is all about sweet dreams this week, as Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), and Marley (Melissa Benoist) each realize a long-held desire. Mixed with mostly great music, “Sweet Dreams” manages to be a decent installment, even if there are some pretty big plot holes in one of the threads.

First up, we’ll go with the best story in “Sweet Dreams,” and that belongs to Rachel. Rachel’s Funny Girl audition is coming up, and she searches for the perfect song to sing. She considers doing Babs, of course, but her mother, Shelby (Idina Menzel), returns to give her some advice. Shelby thinks Rachel needs to do something different and stand out. Finn agrees, telling Rachel to perform a song that means some thing to her.

This is the best use of Shelby in quite some time. Shelby’s stories have always been very uneven, but “Sweet Dreams” drops her in to play the loving mother and wise mentor. She isn’t bossy, doesn’t get in the way, and ends up being very supportive of Rachel. Plus, the gals get to duet a touching rendition of “Next to Me.”

I hope Shelby starts to show up on a recurring basis in a similar capacity as to the one she provides this week. She could finally be a good addition to the series, unlike in her last arc, in which she slept with a student, and which got pretty ridiculous.

Rachel’s audition song is “Don’t Stop Believin,'” and for it she imagines Finn, Kurt (Chris Colfer), Mercedes (Amber Riley), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), and Artie (Kevin McHale)–the original glee club–providing backup. Obviously, Rachel has to sing all of the words herself, since the others are only in her head, and she changes the melody enough just to give it extra oomph. But it’s awesome to see her go back to her roots, and the nostalgic-filled sequence, complete with the original costumes, hair styles, and camera shots, is a memorable moment for the series.

Will Rachel get the part? I don’t know. She is very young, and it could interfere with her studies. On the other hand, there are other young people performing on Broadway, and it might make a nice summer filler for her. I could see this story going either way, though I think she’ll get it. Hopefully, should I be wrong, getting the callback will be enough of a triumph for her.

It is nice to see Rachel and Finn getting along again. They will probably be back together eventually, but Glee is in no hurry to make that happen, nor should it be. Rachel and Finn are still immature; they haven’t yet charted their own courses. Once they get their lives on track, then there will be time enough for a rekindling of romance.

Finn is dealing with his dream by enrolling in college. Mysteriously, Lima suddenly has quite a nice looking institution that accepts Finn mid-year. And Puck (Mark Salling) just happens to be Finn’s roommate. Also, the college is a heavy party school, complete with multiple Harlem Shakes, and not only do the guys live it up, they sing a rockin’ “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” that gets them instant membership in a fraternity.

I don’t see Finn allowing himself to get distracted so easily, even with Puck around. I also don’t like the television trope of a local university all of the sudden showing up, especially one that looks like a respectable school, not a low-rent community college. The frat stuff is just plain dumb.

Puck suddenly has a change of heart late in “Sweet Dreams.” After encouraging Finn to have a good time, he tells his best friend to get on track and concentrate on his studies. This comes out of nowhere, and is the opposite attitude displayed earlier in the hour. It is cool to see Puck supporting Finn, and I like to see the two of them together, but since it is out of sync with earlier events, the moment doesn’t work.

While Finn is adjusting to school, Will (Matthew Morrison) approaches him to make things right between them. Finn reacts with anger towards Will, which makes no sense. Finn is the one who did wrong, and should just be happy that Will is finally able to accept his apology and move on. What right does Finn have to be mad?

Eventually, Finn and Will make up, after a very unprofessional and out of character rant towards the New Directions from Will, and they return to coach the club together, as partners. Finn hasn’t earned the right to be a partner yet, and I’m surprised the college is allowing a student who is blowing off tests to take on an outside project. But that’s how the story goes, apparently. The resolution is somewhat good, but everything leading up to it stinks, lacking any sense of logic.

Also, since when did Regionals happen so late in the school year? In the past, it’s been shortly after Valentine’s Day. Story-wise, we’re quite a bit past that point. This also makes no sense, and likely means that the New Directions won’t reach Nationals this year, there being not enough time left to have one lead into the other.

My biggest question though is how they’re going to deal with graduation. Are they going to skip a couple of months ahead, or just pretending Regionals happens right around commencement time?

The New Directions are in good shape for Regionals because Marley is finally ready to bring out the original songs she has been penning. I like this plot twist for her, and it feels a lot more natural than Glee‘s earlier attempt at original music, written by the group hours before taking the stage, and still sounding OK. This development just fits her part so well.

Marley is a soulful individual, and it doesn’t really come as a surprise when she admits to being a budding song writer. Although some of her classmates’ strange behavior post-shooting, such as Sam’s (Chord Overstreet) invention of a “twin” brother Evan Evans, doesn’t make sense, Marley’s story does. Plus, it’s a catalyst for the story to move forward.

Even better, the music is pretty decent. We hear two of her compositions in “Sweet Dreams, “You Have More Friends Than You Know” and “Outcast.” Neither are super memorable on their own, but they sound totally in synch with contemporary music and the stuff the New Directions routinely performs. I don’t think Glee albums will suddenly get much radio play, but at least it feels tonally in keeping with the rest of the series.

Lastly, new Cheerios coach Roz Washington (NeNe Leakes, returning now that she’s done with The New Normal for the season) gets suspicious of Sue’s (Jane Lynch) departure from the school. She thinks Blaine (Darren Criss) has something to do with it, which is way off base, but it does cause Becky (Lauren Potter) to slip enough for Blaine to get an uneasy feeling, too.

I don’t think that Roz will be the one to solve the Sue mystery, but that’s okay. Her presence and character are a fitting placeholder during Sue’s absence. I didn’t realize I missed her until she appears again in “Sweet Dreams,” but it will be interesting to see if she’s allowed to do anything in her new role, or just warm Sue’s seat.

Blaine, on the other hand, will likely be the tool that fixes the Sue problem. As stated in last week’s review, I hate to see Becky take the fall, but Sue’s name needs to be cleared. Blaine acting as the detective is consistent with other plots he has had this season, and allows main characters to be the agents of change, rather than a guest star. I think this is definitely the right way to go for this arc.

So, despite some major missteps in the Finn/Will story, “Sweet Dreams” manages to be a solid installment of Glee. We have movement on several fronts, at least four of the five songs are enjoyable, and the characters are finally growing pretty defined this season after years of strange twists that didn’t make sense. Four years in, with only the February sweeps episodes this year being terrible, Glee may be finding its footing and charting a great path for the next two seasons (at least), for which it has already been renewed.

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
  • Lucas

    Hi Jerome, what was your reation when Glee had been renewed for two more seasons?

  • http://jeromewetzel.com Jerome Wetzel

    Hi Lucas! I was quite surprised. It isn’t nearly as popular as it once was, so I certainly didn’t expect such a strong vote of confidence in the series. That being said, other than the February sweeps episodes, this spring has gone very well, so I’m cautiously optimistic that they will be a good two years.

  • Lucas

    Cool! I think that episodes 11-14 have been a disaster, but the rest of the season seem good, too.