Theatricality is hands down one of the best episodes of FOX’s Glee to date. It embraces the inner freak, encouraging the kids to be true to themselves. It also begins tackling the serious issue of gay bullying, reunites a mother and her daughter, and dwells on the emotions behind giving a child up for adoption, both before and after it takes place. There are serious, dramatic moments that bring tears to your eyes, triumphant bits to make you feel good, and several fantastic musical performances.
Who better to bring out the freak in everyone than Lady Gaga? While “Theatricality” is not an artist-dedicated themed episode, surely the spirit of the pop star permeates most of the things that play out on screen, in ways both obvious and subtle. The biggest splash Gaga makes is the with the costumes the girls and Kurt (Chris Colfer) don the entire week, and their performance, in said costumes, of “Bad Romance.”
While some of the guys watching the “Bad Romance” performance are less than enthusiastic, that surely must be because of things going on behind the scenes, rather than a bad performance. Other boys give them the applause they are due. It’s a perfect song, not only because of the message of Gaga, but also because its staging and execution are neat and unique. A number of the singers get to shine with small solos, and the choreography keeps things interesting.
Finn (Cory Monteith) is likely turned off by Gaga because of his struggle between wanting to be in glee club, and wanting to fit in with the jocks. Azimio (James Earl) and Karofsky (Max Adler) turn up their tormenting to whole new levels in “Theatricality,” offended by the fact that the New Directions would upset the high school environment by dressing so crazily. Finn doesn’t seek to cause trouble with them, but neither is he a bad guy who looks down upon others for being different. After all, the glee club members are his friends.
This simmering tension comes to a head because Finn moves in with Kurt. While Kurt has long hoped for a shared bedroom with Finn, things quickly get awkward between them. After all, Finn is not gay, and Kurt doesn’t keep his feelings hidden very well. Finn tries to be polite, but it’s no wonder that he erupts at Kurt. That being said, it’s also not acceptable to call Kurt or his things “faggy,” so it’s heartening when Burt (Mike O’Malley) lets Finn know exactly how not welcome that word is in his home. It’s a moment that really cements the relationship between Burt and Kurt, and by Finn’s reaction, it’s apparent that he knows he went too far. He didn’t mean to be quite so hurtful, and he’s sorry. He also realizes just saying sorry is not enough, so he looks for some other way to make it up to Kurt.
It’s likely because of this confrontation, and the build up to it, that Kurt finally finds the courage to stand up to his bullies. He is frustrated at home and at school, and can only take so much. Azimio and Karofsky don’t take back talk very well, and want nothing more than to put Kurt in his place. Even Finn coming to the rescue in a shower curtain doesn’t stop them, but facing the entire group does. Finn’s courage, finally, to stand up for what is right is a fantastic moment, and one that does much to repair his relationship with Kurt. Finn may not want to jump into bed with his mother’s boyfriend’s son, but he does want a friendship. This is how he will get one.
Because of Finn’s reluctance to do Gaga, the guys search for a similarly outlandish male role model. Or rather, models. They choose Kiss, whose look is surely at least as shocking, even if the band sticks with one basic image the entire time. “Shout It Out Loud” doesn’t have the same impact that “Bad Romance” does, but it does provide something that may be a tad more relatable to the guy members of the New Directions.
Luckily, Kiss has a second song up its sleeve in “Beth,” which Puck has the guys sing for Quinn (Dianna Agron). It’s a tear-worthy moment, when Puck (Mark Salling) declares he is there for Quinn in any circumstance, and demonstrates the maturity needed to be a father, even if only biologically. It’s no surprise that Quinn is moved by the performance, much in the way viewers at home are. Puck is not generally the most responsible individual, but here, he shuns that image to act like a man. It is most welcome.
The final two songs in “Theatricality” are “Funny Girl,” a Shelby (Idina Menzel) solo, and “Poker Face,” a Gaga duet shared between Shelby and Rachel (Lea Michele). The first serves two purposes: to showcase Menzel’s talent, and to let Rachel figure out that Shelby is her mother. The second is a moving goodbye from a parent who has just found her daughter, but can’t deal with the ramifications, so is letting her go. Sung in a very melodic style, “Poker Face” has appropriate lyrics, and is done in a way that really showcases the feelings of the two women.
Shelby is sincere when she tries to begin a relationship with Rachel, but finds she cannot handle it. She isn’t used to having a daughter around, and when facing the reality of picking up after sixteen years apart, she backs away. It’s understandable, but still sad, especially for Rachel, who always wonders about her mother. Shelby leaves before Rachel can ask many of the questions on her mind, or get to know exactly which characteristics she inherits from her mom. Hopefully, this will be rectified when Shelby returns for a longer arc in the upcoming third season of Glee.
One thing that does bother me about this episode, though, is that Will is OK with Rachel and others spying on Vocal Adrenaline, and even stealing their Gaga idea. Yes, he scolds them, but then he lets his kids do Gaga, and asks what they learned from their spying. Considering how hurt the New Directions were at Sectionals by similar behavior from rivals, it doesn’t make sense that Will would allow this to go. Or that the kids would engage in the espionage in the first place.
- Lauren Zizes (Ashley Fink) is shown to be the leader of the school’s Twilight-loving vampire group. This doesn’t really gel with anything else we see in her character before or since. But it continues Glee‘s trend to stick Zizes in whatever silly group of the week it wants to show. Thank you for Zizes, but no thanks for the stunt.
- Fun is fun, but Figgins (Iqbal Theba) believing in vampires, and that Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) is one of them? Beyond ridiculous.
- I’m not sure Tina really fits the goth stereotype. Sure, her clothes are often black, and sometimes her hair and makeup borders on that genre. But she isn’t really goth in personality or action, so it kind of ruins that label being affixed here.
- Rachel and Shelby’s talk, sitting in different rows of the auditorium, looks great, but isn’t the least bit practical. Thank goodness Rachel comments on it, showing that Glee is self-aware about its own cheese sometimes!
- A moment along the same lines occurs when Rachel calls for Brad (Brad Ellis) to play the piano for “Poker Face.” Again, Glee diffuses the weirdness with a joke. Bravo!
- Did the New Directions girls and Kurt really wear those same costumes all week? They must smell quite bad by the end of it!
- I know it’s established to be temporary, but really, Kurt and Finn are expected to share a bedroom? Are they ten? Their parents must realize this isn’t a practical arrangement, especially considering Kurt’s attraction to the same sex in general, and Finn specifically. Even if those exact feelings aren’t know to the adults, this is a dumb set up.
The final two Glee season one reviews will be coming at you very soon! Also, don’t miss the premiere of season three, this Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.