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TV Review: Glee – “The Break-Up”

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This week’s Glee was heartbreaking, plain and simple. It was a sad tale of the dissolution of romance, splitting up all the major couples in the series at once. Glee, even when it gets dramatic, usually has goofy, upbeat parts. In “The Break-Up,” though, the FOX dramedy really focused on the drama, making for a great, though very sad, installment that did not feel like Glee at all.

Season four of Glee has brought a lot of maturity with it. A number of the characters have moved on to the real world beyond their small town and, because of that, the issues they deal with are a bit more serious than the stuff they worried about in high school. Couples broke up all the time in the first three seasons. But in making the emotions so much more raw this time around, and packing so many splits into one episode, it meant so much more.

The music also went more soulful for “The Break-Up.” From “Barely Breathing” to “Give Your Heart a Break” to “Mine” to “Don’t Speak,” blow after blow kept coming. Music can really sell a story in a way sometimes straight dialogue can’t, as Santana (Naya Rivera) basically says in the episode. By the time eight voices performed “The Scientist,” you would have to have no heart not to be moved.

Yes, it’s true that most high school sweethearts do not end up married and spending their life together. This is a fact of life that television often fudges to satisfy viewers, who want to see the couples they’ve invested in make it. Three such pairings existed on Glee among the various students, and all three are no more. Will these break ups stick, as they most likely would in the reality? Or will the pressure of keeping the fans happy mean that some or all of them will come back together soon enough?

The most likely couple to reunite is Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer). Like all of the other duos, distance is their main issue, with Blaine trying to make his senior year meaningful, and Kurt neglecting his boyfriend in favor of building a career and making professional connections. It would be very difficult for them to reunite under the current circumstances. But with no immediate replacement prospects for either of them, and Blaine likely finding New York a suitable post-high school destination, it could be only a matter of time before they’re back together.

Which is not to say that it will be easy for them to reconnect. Like at McKinley, Blaine would be moving to be near to and follow Kurt. Kurt would already have the established life, and Blaine would have to try to fit into that. It’s not ideal, and it’s not fair that Blaine should make all of the sacrifices. This is the powerful sentiment behind Blaine’s “Teenage Dream” reprise, and it’s incredibly moving.

Rachel (Lea Michelle) has practically already moved on with Brody (Dean Geyer). It’s hard to blame her, when Finn (Cory Monteith) drops off the face of the earth, and doesn’t share important life developments with her. They are kind of already done before Finn shows up in “The Break-Up,” and even though Rachel tries to hang on, their break up feels more like a formality than a fork in the road.

What will Finn do now? With no Rachel and no army, he is left a bit directionless. It seems logical, though completely unrealistic, that he might take the reins of the glee club while Will (Matthew Morrison) is off working on his blue ribbon panel. This keeps Finn around on the show and gives him a purpose, even though his recent classmates would probably not accept him as an authority figure, nor would a school allow a recent alum with no higher education to run the club. But, in terms of plot logistics, it makes sense.

Speaking of Will, although he and Emma (Jayma Mays) have a pretty serious fight in “The Break-Up,” it seems strange that they sing “The Scientist” with the kids. Does this mean that their wedding is off? Yes, the issue between them is a weighty one that will need dealt with. But they are engaged! This is not worth canceling the union completely over. Is there a scene missing that followed that argument? If they didn’t beak up, it doesn’t make sense that they were part of the song.

Finally, there’s Brittany (Heather Morris) and Santana. Like Rachel, Brittany has other prospects in the wings, though I am not in favor of her getting together with Sam (Chord Overstreet). But she and Santana have seemed the most separated of any of the couples up to this point. Santana truly is moving on, and Brittany is left behind. As much as I root for them, this split makes sense, and is the one I think most likely to be permanent, considering there just isn’t any easily foreseeable way to bring them back together.

Oh, and Jake (Jacob Artist) dumped Kitty (Becca Tobin), but who didn’t see that one coming? And the characters haven’t been developed enough yet to really care, anyway.

Glee likely won’t change its tone forever. “The Break-Up” is probably an anomaly. And as much as I liked this installment, I wouldn’t want them to shift the show this completely, losing some of the magic and humor that attracts viewers. That being said, this is a very strong hour, both musically and story-wise, and it’s nice to see that Glee can do something so affecting.

It also maintains a high quality this season for the fourth episode in a row. Not all four episodes have ranked among the best of the series, but none of been total duds, either, and based on the un-eveness the show usually displays, this is a feat to be proud of.

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
  • Mel

    Wow, I usually like your reviews because they are relatively objective, but you completely swept Blaine’s cheating under the rug.
    Besides, I really don’t understand your reasoning behind “it’s not fair that Blaine should make all of the sacrifices”.
    What should have Kurt done? Stayed in Ohio until Blaine graduated and come with him in NY? He tried, and was sent by said boyfriend himself to New York.
    And once in New York, what was he supposed to do? Hang jobless in his loft, not develop any friendship nor job connections so that when Blaine arrives they can be together 24/7?
    Rachel didn’t do it for Finn (she has her life in NYADA and has started being close to Brody), Santana didn’t do it for Brittany (she broke up because it was the mature thing to do) but Kurt should? Why?
    I don’t deny he was neglectful of Blaine (even if the fact that he called from work shows that he does cares about his boyfriend), but no one seems to remember he is just a teenager who tries to build himself a career (and considering his past failures, I can’t blame him to give his all to finally be successful) and still struggles to adjust.
    I get Blaine’s loneliness, it’s not easy to stay behind, and of course it’s frustrating when you can’t communicate with your significant other, but it’s not like Kurt had a milion friends surrounding him and favored hard partying to speaking with Blaine. Kurt also had to adjust leaving away from his Dad, and entered the adult world where sometimes your job responsibilities superseed your life one’s, especially when you start and you want to prove yourself.
    You seem to lay all the blame on Kurt and gloss over Blaine’s betrayal.
    So when I don’t deny that Kurt made major mistakes by not being there enough for Blaine, I don’t see why he should be incriminated when Blaine did something far worse by cheating on him.
    I’m really disppointed in this review and it’s lack of objectivity, which saddens me beacause I usually like them.

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

    Mel,

    You’re right. I did drop the ball by not discussing the cheating. It is a serious breach of trust. And you’re right that Kurt should not have waited around. He has a life to live. I just wish Kurt would have made more effort to talk to Blaine, keep him in the loop about what was going on, and not make Blaine feel so cut off. I feel like a lot of their problems stemmed from Kurt neglecting Blaine, and that’s probably why I went easy on the former Warbler. It seemed like Kurt was ignoring his calls a bit too much. But your opinions are all good, valid points. I hope my next review better meets your expectations, and thanks for the feedback.

    ~JW