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TV Review: Glee – “The Power of Madonna”

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On the surface, Glee‘s season one episode “The Power of Madonna” is a lot of fun. It’s the first full episode tribute to a singer; Madonna is a legend for a reason. As far as quality of music in the episode, as well as how well the actors performed the pieces, this installment is top notch. Look a little further into the story, though, and it’s actually a mess of an episode, plot-wise.

The plot in “The Power of Madonna” pertains very much to the songs being used, rather than the character arcs and personalities of the main players. Example one, Sue (Jane Lynch) opens up to Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) about how she ruined her hair as a child, and so is jealous of Will’s (Matthew Morrison) locks. This vulnerability spurs the duo to give her a makeover, resulting in a supremely wonderful music video of “Vogue,” a high point in the episode. Then Sue quickly reverts to her old ways at the end of the hour.

Why would Sue open up to two glee clubbers, of all students? She has nothing but disdain for the New Directions, and even if they offer to help her, she isn’t likely to take their assistance. Sue wouldn’t do so in any other episode, so why now? Never mind the fact that Sue never lacks self-confidence, and her attitude at the end, wanting to change everyone else instead of herself, is much more in line with who she is. Perhaps she suffers a momentary crisis of confidence, and Mercedes and Kurt just happen to be in the right place at the right time. But that’s really stretching it.

Also, Sue claims she is focusing on “The Power of Madonna” because she finally has a cheerleading squad that can honor the material. Seriously? She recently loses her very talented captain, apparently just about the most talented cheerleader ever, as Quinn (Dianna Agron) was named to that position as a freshman, revealed in an earlier episode. And it’s mid-year, so not a lot of new joiners. The timing seems terrible, not great.

Not to mention Figgins (Iqbal Theba) could never give into Sue’s demand that Madonna be blasted throughout the school. Teacher and parent complaints would make it impossible for him to comply, and Sue should know that. Jumping way out of realism here.

If anything, Will needs empowered against Sue, the opposite gender roles championed in this episode. Madonna must have some power, as he delivers a real zinger, the first we ever see break through Sue’s armor. I’m referring, of course, to “How’s the Florence Henderson look working for you?” But this is merely so Sue can, very out of character, as mentioned above, deliver a ridiculous story about how her hair is the crutch of her insecurities.

In example two of plot being forced to play to the musical theme, Finn (Cory Monteith) jumps into bed with the lovely Santana (Naya Rivera), who suddenly grows an interest in him via very weak reasoning. But he feels nothing after the sex, and she doesn’t seem to have any further interest in him. Finn is a bit more moral than to just have casual relations. Because Santana is smoking hot, and she is openly propositioning him, perhaps hormones can be to blame for his actions. But then those same hormones should lead him to feel the carnal act is fantastic, not a let down. You can’t have it both ways, Glee. Pick one.

Honestly, Finn probably only gets into bed with Santana for vocal fill out in “Like a Virgin,” and perhaps so one couple in the song can actually do the deed. After all, Rachel (Lea Michele) won’t put out to Jesse (Jonathan Groff) quite so soon, and we all know that Emma (Jayma Mays) has a ways to go before she can give herself over to messy, fleshy behaviors. The other two pairs are fated to never do the nasty from the beginning.

“4 Minutes,” by contrast, actually feels fitting. After all, Mercedes and Kurt are playing second fiddle to others in the group, and Jesse joining the New Directions will only make that worse. They help out Sue, so she doesn’t hate them as much, and their addition to the Cheerios will only boost her group. Thus, with their singing talent and “The Power of Madonna,” they make a really great addition. It’s all much better than the earlier “Ray of Light” cheerleader number.

The other songs in the episode, “Open Your Heart / Borderline” and “Like a Prayer” are just big, splashy production numbers put in place purely for fun. They work because they aren’t trying to be anything more than they are, and Madonna makes great music. Even “What It Feels Like For a Girl” is sweet and touching, if a bit unneeded. Let me explain,

Honestly, the entire concept that the girls of the New Directions are being torn down and need empowerment is a load of hogwash. Glee is more gender fair than almost any other series on television. The girls’ “Express Yourself” is fun, but they are not crying out to be recognized before now. Sure, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) might need a little confidence booster. And Puck (Mark Salling) might not care about the girls’ feelings as much as he ought to. But is this really a widespread problem? I surely can’t see Mercedes allowing herself to be pushed around, or she’d do another round of window busting. Rachel wins Jesse a stuffed Care Bear. Finn is going to do whatever he can to make the girl he cares about happy. The guys act a bit more like tools in this episode, but not enough to justify the girls’ outrage, especially because it’s not their normally shown behavior. So major fail in an essential element.

Random Bits:

  • It’s interesting that Glee chooses to insult Britney Spears as a role model in “The Power of Madonna.” Her behavior may be suspect, but her music is so good that she is the subject of Glee‘s second tribute episode in season two.

  • As bad as Sue is, encouraging her Cheerios to date much younger men, and Brittany (Heather Morris) taking that advice to heart when getting with a seven year old, is ridiculous. Bad form. Much more sick than funny.
  • Watch closely in “Open Your Heart / Borderline.” Extras dressed in just about every Madonna look you can think of cross paths with our singers in the halls of McKinley. Nice touch.
  • In “The Power of Madonna,” Sue says she is 29. I don’t think I have any response for that “fact.”
  • Watch Kurt’s face when Sue changes the lyrics of “Vogue” to insult Will. That boy is going to be a star!
  • In all seriousness, despite it’s problems, the “Vogue” music video is brilliant as a stand alone artistic piece. It has everything that is needed to make such a music feature awesome.
  • Love the choir that backs up the New Directions in “Like a Prayer.” Don’t have any clue while such a large, professional group would show up in full dress to a standard glee club practice. But love it anyway.
  • It is priceless when Will is asked if Jesse is his son. They do have similar hair… Then again, since (SPOILER ALERT), Rachel is Shelby’s (Idina Menzel) daughter, that would be beyond weird.

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
  • Volkan Ay

    I must see this TV Show