Glee, Glee, Glee! I admit, most of my Glee reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. I believe that this is a wonderful show that has been having a stellar season so far. However, this week’s entry, “The Substitute”, will surely rank among the best of the best when this season is over and done with. An A-list guest star, spectacular musical numbers, moving emotional moments, and an advancement of several large story arcs.
Perhaps the most anticipated part of this week was the Gwyneth Paltrow arriving at McKinley High as substitute teacher Holly Holliday. She took over Mr. Schuester’s (Matthew Morrison) Spanish class while he was out sick. Later, at the urging of Kurt (Chris Colfer), who was fed up with bossy Rachel (Lea Michele) trying to run the show, she took on the Glee Club as well. (Side note: how hilarious was Will’s hallucination of the Glee members as toddlers?) Besides the cutsie name, Holliday was every students’ dream sub. She made the classroom fun, and wasn’t afraid to break the rules. Her personal mission was to keep kids in school, and to do that, she looked to please them. For awhile, I believed Holliday could take Schuester’s place, and there would be no negative impact on the show. Until it was revealed how bad she is under pressure from authority, especially in protecting her students.
The biggest change to the series was cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) being promoted to principal of McKinley. Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) was sort of an unnecessary character, with Sue often blackmailing him into doing what she wanted anyway. He was sometimes fun, but I doubt he’ll be missed that much. While Figgins was home sick, Sue took over, and later in the episode, it was revealed that Figgins had been fired and Sue was here to stay. She can create far more trouble in her new job, so it was an excellent move for the series. The drama started almost immediately when Sue befriended Holliday, then fired Will and gave Holly the job.
Obviously, this did not last. At the end of the day, though Sue is sometimes cruel to Will, she does respect him. The begrudging friendship they seemed to form earlier this year was a nod to that, although Sue can’t bring it in herself to be nice to him for too long, as exhibited by her response to him last night that being friends “got boring” for her. Yet, she does genuinely care about her students (when she stops to think about it), and Will is much better for the kids than Holly any day. Hence, Sue relented and allowed Will to return to the school.
What can be expect in the future from Principal Sue’s reign? Surely, she will keep attacking programs. Last night, she attempted to fire Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) and get rid of the football team, until Beiste pointed out to her that, without football, who would Sue’s squad cheer for? The humilation only provoked Sue, who banned tator tots from the school, sparking a protest that nearly destroyed Sue’s car. I think we can expect more of the same: Sue wildly overreaching her boundaries, and eventually, being put in check by the students and teachers. It is my hope that Sue will mature a bit, and give more depth to her nefarious schemes as times goes on, instead of just doing the outrageous.
Another long-simmering plot was addressed last night with the return of Will’s ex-wife, Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig). The two divorced at the end of last year, but Terri remains a principal cast member. This feels a little odd, since last night was the first substantial screen time she’s seen this far into the season. She often had little to do last year, and even her little bits are mostly done, with her not appearing in the vast majority of episodes so far. Sure, I enjoyed seeing what worked between her and Will, and I wasn’t hating their ex-sex, though it was clear that there would be no relationship reconciliation. But did Gilsig need to remain a main character for that? It doesn’t seem like enough, unless she has some major arc planned coming up.
Things between Kurt and Blaine (Darren Criss) are heating up. The two seem to spend all their free time together now. Remarkably, because as I wrote in last week’s review, they live about two hours away from each other. This week, Mercedes (Amber Riley) began to feel that her friendship with Kurt was suffering because of his new “not-boyfriend”. She takes her frustration out on Sue’s tator tot ban, but her feelings are coming from her suffering personal life, not just a diet restriction. I thought it was a little too flip for Kurt to dismiss her, though. It’s Kurt that needs to balance friends and a crush, not Mercedes that needs a boyfriend. Though I would not object at all to that development.
The last plot point I’d like to touch on is the development of Dave Karofsky (Max Adler). Last night was his eleventh episode, but only about the second he’s been noticed as a character. Seems to be that Dave has a crush on Kurt, too, evidenced by his wink and treatment. Yeah, he still shoves and threatens Kurt, I’m assuming to keep appearances, but the anti-gay bully can’t stay away from the gay kid. Adler is not a bad actor, and with a little bit of a clue into who he is, not just what he is (a jock bully), I welcome him on the series.
I realize this is a stereotype in action, but Glee has a chance to address a few real issues here. If the writers don’t bow to the anti-Kurt that seems to be brewing among critics, myself not among them. I love that Kurt has been such a focus this year so far, and will mourn if he gets scaled back, as he often (but not always) was last year. He is may more interesting than Rachel or Finn (Cory Monteith).
As I mentioned at the start of this review, this show had some awesome musical numbers. From Holliday’s teaching moments like the Schoolhouse Rock classic “Conjunction Junction”, to the silly Will and Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.) “Make Them Laugh”, the songs went for a chuckle. Then Paltrow killed the watered-down “Forget You”, the radio version of Cee Lo Green’s “F**k You”, and made us forget there was ever any vulgar language in the tune. I was most skeptical about this, absconding “Forget You” in favor of the original version of the song until last night. Now both are acceptable.
The number with the biggest hype was the mashup of “Umbrella” and “Singin’ in the Rain”. Done on a stage covered with water, the kids, along with Will and Holly, kicked up their heels and got wet. It was visually stunning, as well as incredibly interesting musically. Glee‘s mashups are becoming one of the show’s better-known signatures, and with quality like this, that’s likely to continue.
Next week: a Glee wedding! Why not? It’s still November sweeps. Watch Glee Tuesday nights at 8pm on FOX.