The final season of FOX’s Glee gets back on track this week with “What the World Needs Now.” In a Burt Bacharach-fueled episode, which contains more songs than recent hours, Mercedes (Amber Riley) pushes Rachel (Lea Michele) to revive her Broadway dreams while Brittany (Heather Morris) attempts to repair things between Santana (Naya Rivera) and her abuela, Alma (Ivonne Coll). Neither are entirely successful, at least not yet, but both end happily enough.
First, the music. In the last couple of weeks, the music in Glee has been sparse and mediocre. Bacharach is very successful for a reason, and his songs fit very well in the show’s style. From the opening Rachel / Sam (Chord Overstreet) duet “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” to Brittany’s dreamy “Wishin’ and Hopin'” to Rachel’s triumphant city-spanning “Promises, Promises” audition to the big ensemble closer “What the World Needs Now,” each number lands strong. It doesn’t always make sense as to who is singing them or in keeping with what the situation is (I’m looking at Santana’s soulful “Alfie” for her abuela), but they numbers enjoyable enough and beautifully staged to see past that. Other numbers in this episode include “Baby It’s You,” “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)”, and “(They Long to Be) Close to You.”
Second, the story. Brittany trying to make Alma accept Santana for who she is is a sweet, timely narrative. Santana wants her family around her, and hates the estrangement of the past three years. But Alma has old-world values and, even after seeing the loving couple together, cannot bring herself to shift her stance. I think of my own grandmother, sweet and kind as anyone, but unwaveringly against gay marriage to the point that it makes her angry, an emotion I’ve rarely seen from her, and it’s sad. And I’m not even a homosexual.
Society’s attitude overall has shifted, but not nearly as much for the elder population. There’s a certain age gap, a generation that cannot make the switch into the modern world. Homophobia is this era’s racism, and it’s hard to see otherwise accepting people turn cold against an idea completely alien to them.
That “What the World Needs Now” does not sway Alma is realistic. Most television shows would go with the easy shift, and Glee has changed hearts and minds on many occasions. Who knows, with seven episodes to go in the series, perhaps Alma will be brought back in a softer manner. I hope not, though. It’s a more powerful and believable story to highlight what the schism does to families without resolving it, and if it hits home for a few, it will be well worth it.
I very much like that Mercedes has come back to raise Rachel’s game. The two don’t always get along, but they are stronger together. When they both achieve success in season five, it’s heart-warming. I have no idea how Glee justifies Mercedes having so much time off to come back and encourage Rachel, but I’m glad she does. Rachel has a destiny greater than McKinley, and while reviving the glee club at the high school is a great way for her to spend her recovery time, it’s not her end game.
It won’t be easy for Rachel to break back into show biz, though. Despite that awesome audition, I would be very disappointed if Rachel wins another plumb role so easily. The casting director has to have serious doubts about her reliability given her past track record and the mistakes Rachel has made. If Rachel is given the chance to sell herself and express her regret, that would be OK, and she should be able to work her way back up. But a second bout of instant success cannot happen.
Also, should Rachel be offered a part, she cannot abandon the New Directions to take it right away. Part of showing she’s changed is honoring her commitments, and she recently promises a student she won’t go before their journey is done. She has to finish out the year before she can return to New York City. Otherwise, nothing has changed and she’s likely to make the same bad choices over.
Third, shippers. I’m not a Samchel fan; I am all about Samcedes. But we’ll see how that plays out. From “What the World Needs Now,” it looks like it could go either way.
Fourth, parents. Using Ken Jeong (Community) and Jennifer Coolidge (2 Broke Girls) as Brittany’s parents is hilarious. They’re goofy and slightly offense, sort of like Brittany herself. It works extremely well.
My only real complaint about this episode is that Emma (Jayma Mays) is absent from the engagement party in her own house. Since The Millers, the sitcom Mays is a main character in, has been canceled, though, hopefully she’s available to appear in later episodes of the season.
Seven episodes left. If Glee can deliver more stories as moving as “What the World Needs Now,” it will be in great shape. Glee airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00SOLVVU0][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00SZ41JB2][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00T6KIMR8]