FOX's Glee goes for the emotional reaction in its second penultimate episode. Sue's (Jane Lynch) beloved sister Jean (Robin Trocki), who has Down syndrome, dies, leaving Sue more cranky and vindictive than usual. Finn (Cory Monteith), who is looking to retake a leadership role in the New Directions, offers to help Sue pack up Jean's things, as well as plan the funeral. The New Directions perform at the well-attended ceremony, singing one of Jean's favorite songs, "Pure Imagination," from the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Sue is moved to tears, and vows to use her efforts to run for office and make things better for people like Jean from now on, rather than continuing to try to destroy the glee club. Also, Finn finally dumps Quinn (Dianna Agron), but his play for Rachel (Lea Michele) comes too late, as he sees Jesse (Jonathan Groff) kiss Rachel.
It has only been one week since this column complained about the toothless and useless one note that Sue has become on Glee. With "Funeral," all of that is changed, and the poor writing is forgiven. Lynch gets to take Sue to a deep, authentic place, something done few times before, but always with great success. Sue is allowed to show grief and compassion. She ruminates on Jean's best qualities, and laments on her own faults. She doesn't turn her back on the essential elements that make Sue, Sue, but she does show retrospection and self-judgment. It is a brilliant triumph, completely leaving behind the cartoon that Sue often is. Should the character of Sue be written this way every week, or at least every episode that features Sue, there would never be another complaint about her.
It would be naive to believe that "Funeral" ushers in a permanently kinder, gentler Sue. That would be boring, anyway. While it would be a welcome depature to see Sue turn some of her boundless energy and fierce determination towards making a positive difference in the world, it would get completely away from the original concept for Sue to be a New Directions supporter. A nice balance can be achieved, with Sue still being mean, but not going out of her way to come up with outlandish plots of destruction. Or, at least, not have those plots always directed at the New Directions.