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TV Review: Glee – “Throwdown”

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This summer, I’ll be going back to review the season one episodes of FOX’s Glee. These are fresh reviews, not reposts, and I hope you will enjoy reliving the first season with me.

“Throwdown” is a nice, solid episode of FOX’s Glee, with enjoyable musical numbers, and interesting, dramatic plot. Will (Matthew Morrison) and Sue (Jane Lynch) attempt to be co-directors of the New Directions. Sensing some of the students are feeling neglected, Sue splits off all of the minorities into an “elite” glee club. This does not sit well with Will. Quinn (Dianna Agron) faces a tough decision about her pregnancy, while Finn (Cory Monteith) feels frustration that he doesn’t have a say. Will understands, and pushes Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) to let him have a more active role in their own “pregnancy.” Rachel (Lea Michele) tries to prevent Jacob Ben Israel (Josh Sussman) from outing Quinn’s situation, but when Sue learns the truth, the Cheerios coach feels personally betrayed, and makes sure everyone knows about Quinn’s mistake.

Glee tackles an interesting social issue in “Throwdown,” namely the rights and responsibilities of an expectant father. Much is often said about a woman’s rights, to choose, over her body, etc. But not nearly as much attention goes to the father. Finn grumbles because he is responsible for the act that makes the baby, and will have to raise the child, or at least provide for it financially, but is not permitted to make any decisions until the baby is born. Quinn is allowed to choose whether to keep the baby or give it up for adoption, and there’s little Finn can do about it, unless he wants to take her to court and sue for custody. He certainly can’t control anything Quinn eats, what vitamins she takes, etc., even though those actions help shape Finn’s child.

Absolutely, a mother should have rights over her own body, and thus, many of the chores of pregnancy fall to her. But is it right that the father has nothing to do for nine months, and no input if the woman doesn’t want it? Even worse, though Glee does not go down this route, a woman can abort the baby without consulting the dad, and there is nothing he can do about it. Yes, she does have to carry a fetus for nine months, but if she engages in the activity that makes the baby and the man wants to keep and raise the child, is it right that she can kill it before he even has a chance to do so?

The issue is further complicated because Finn and Quinn are still in high school, and are, in fact, only sophomores. Few people would argue that kids with two and a half years of schooling left are fit or ready to raise a child. Glee does little to judge the two for their actions, but instead, treats them as individuals, doing their best to handle a mistake they made. Not that Finn actually makes it, but he thinks he did. The only thing not handled very well is the lack of parental involvement, something surely much more present most times in this scenario, especially in the type of families that these two come from. While they may be hiding the whole thing at present, that won’t always be the case, and parents are needed to help.

Will also struggles with his lack of control, but as a married man, he has a little more say. That’s because he is in a committed relationship, and so partners work together more. As Finn is just a teenage boyfriend, he and Quinn have no where near the level of bonding and trust needed to make those sorts of decisions together. True, Terri is faking her pregnancy, and Will is not having a child, unless, as Quinn promises, she hands over hers to Terri. But Will doesn’t know that, so at least, in his mind, he can insist on participating far more than Finn is able to.

As Will and Sue battle over control of the New Directions, both are far more focused on winning leadership over the other than how it affects the kids they claim to care about. Sue is trying to destroy the glee club, but Will is letting ego get in the way of his job. This isn’t completely out of character, but it’s regrettable. Will even flunks the Cheerios, not because they deserve it, which they do, but because he uses them as pawns in his feud. It’s the height of irresponsibility, and not at all becoming of an educator.

Because of these actions, Sue almost looks better during certain portions of the episode. Many of the minority students are feeling neglected, and she gives them what they want, actually pretending to care about them. As we will later learn that Sue has a disabled sister, and that Sue can show compassion for students, perhaps she does get caught up in Sue’s Kids, in spite of herself. Allowing them to do that wonderful rendition of “Hate On Me” is a sweet spot in the episode, as one sees the kids come alive with joy.

But Sue doesn’t end on such a superior note. When learning of Quinn’s secret pregnancy, Sue takes it very personally, and reacts with great vengeance. She treats Quinn as a close friend who stabbed her in the back, which demonstrates that perhaps Sue did really care for Quinn deeply. If she did not, why would she react so strongly when being deeply disappointed by the cheerleader captain? Torpedoing Quinn’s reputation is a huge overreaction, and likely a fireable offense in the eyes of the school. But it’s also a very emotional display, showcasing some very deep feelings. It both humanizes and demonizes Sue at once.

Thank goodness Will comes around. Part of that can be credited to Terri, who is still trying to be a loving, supportive wife, even while lying to her husband. There are plenty of moments in “Throwdown” that evidence Terri is not the totally evil person many fans see her as, but that she wants her husband to be happy. The fake sonogram also affects Will, as he sees the “baby growing inside of Terri.” It’s Will’s family that grounds him, and the New Directions are becoming a second family for him.

The most free flowing, happy song is “Ride wit Me,” which the kids sing when secretly meeting all together, unhappy about their forced separation. It’s pure joy, and every singer has a huge, genuine smile on their face during it. Many songs in Glee are done with enthusiasm, but this one may be the most fun they are ever shown having on screen. It’s such a treat, and it’s worth wondering if this was rehearsed much at all, or if the actors were allowed to just play with it. It certainly seems the latter, though that could just be a credit to how good the actors are.

“No Air,” which is sung by Will’s half of the club is nice, but not particularly special. Rachel and Finn have outstanding vocals, per usual, despite Will telling them they are going to need to spend crazy hours practicing it. But then, this is a musical show, so viewers don’t expect to have to wait for their great performances. Still, “Hate On Me,” the song mentioned before as Sue’s Kids’ number, is better.

Quinn’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” flows in an acceptable manner. Agron is not nearly the singer many of the other kids are, but she does a serviceable job when called upon. She is a better actor, allowing her grief and jealousy to play very expressively before, during, and after the song. Her tears during the final number are wrenching. This is a girl going through some very heavy, serious stuff that most people her age do not have to deal with. Quinn can be grating and hard to like, but she is also a human being with feelings. These moments remind everyone of that, and stop her from being a two dimensional shrew.

Then there’s the closer, “Keep Holding On,” a superb coming together as the groups reunite. It’s doesn’t have the raw quality that “Ride wit Me” has, but instead, it is a well polished, appropriate ending for the tumultuous episode. Other episode endings are more exciting, but this one fits perfectly in “Throwdown,” providing a capper to events, and, as usual, the lyrics actually mean something in relation to the plot. This is important in any musical.

Random Bits:

Quinn is told the sex of her baby, even though she’s only ten weeks pregnant. Genital organs do not begin to form until at least fourteen weeks.

Finn talks about how cool Gwyneth Paltrow’s baby name is. Ironic, considering Paltrow has a recurring part in season two. To make matters more coincidental, Finn jumps to Drizzle as a possible moniker, and Paltrow performs a big number in the rain on the show.

Weird that Finn would angrily tell Will and Sue that if the kids wanted to see mom and dad fight, “those of us with two parents” would watch them on payday. Finn is being raised by a single mother, already established on the show, and the scenario he brings up is specific, as if he has experience. From what? Shouldn’t this line go to another student?

There are only two OB GYNs in town, and they’re both Asian? Seriously? This seems vaguely racist, though likely intended to be humorous.

Will and Terri are extremely worried about money at the beginning of the season. Now, with a baby on the way, which will cost a lot, they eat take-out frequently. How can they afford it? Did they get a windfall that wasn’t mentioned on screen?

Mercedes (Amber Riley) says that her father is a dentist. Why, then, does Brittany (Heather Morris) go to Carl (John Stamos) to get her teeth cleaned in the early season two episode “Britney/Brittany?” Wouldn’t Brittany trust a friend’s dad more than a guidance counselor’s new boyfriend?

Sue has the piano steam cleaned. This is not a thing, and if she does insist on it, it’s probably terrible for the piano.

Sue calls her group Sue’s Kids. This is surely a take off of Jerry’s Kids, a charitable organization run by Jerry Lewis that does a telethon every year.

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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
  • Barbara

    “Ride Wit Me” wasn’t originally in the episode. The cast was hanging around on set singing it one day and the producers walked by and heard them and only then decided they had to fit that somewhere in the show. So, yes, that was most definitely the cast having fun.