Glee: Highway to Hell-O

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We're over the halfway point in Glee's inaugural season, having just overcome a three-month hiatus following the New Directions' (the William McKinley High School glee club) victory at sectionals.

The last episode ended on such a high note -- the club triumphant, Will and Emma together at last, and 'Cheerios' coach Sue Sylvester rightfully suspended for leaking the club's setlist to opposing schools -- that you just knew it wouldn't last. It was the opposite of a mid-season cliffhanger, and had the network not extended their initial order of 13 episodes, would have served as a perfectly appropriate endpoint to the show.

That was before a Golden Globes win for Best TV Series, several bestselling songs on iTunes, and gushing cover stories in EW and Rolling Stone necessitated the creation of some new conflicts. By the time the extended episode ended, Rachel and Finn had broken up, Sue was angling to exploit Rachel's new relationship (with Jesse, lead singer for competitor "Vocal Adrenaline"), and Will had been told by both Emma and Shelby Corcoran (introducing Idina Menzel), VA's director, that he needed to find his space.

I've decided there are two types of Glee episodes, and in order to reconcile having to watch the most emotionally overwrought show on TV not starring Oprah or Glenn Beck, I'm using Star Wars analogies. You've got Empire episodes, like last night's, where all the characters are wreathed in uncertainty and apprehension and a happy ending seems unlikely. Then there are Jedi episodes, like last December's, where the kids inevitably triumph over the adversity of being gay, paraplegic, or...uh, Asian.

Like Dante in Clerks, I prefer the Empires.

The Good

Another downer episode (see above). Glee is (necessarily) more upbeat than Nip/Tuck, creator Ryan Murphy's earlier series, but all this talk about how the show comes from some dark place is a bit of a stretch. There's negativity there, moreso than in most sitcoms, but it's still on a level commensurate with one of the bleaker Disney movies, like Fox and the Hound.

Sue (Jane Lynch) remains the best part of the show, and her attempt to undermine New Directions by instructing Brittany and Santana to hit on Finn was inspired (and a little risque for family hour, if I do say so). The plan was ultimately derailed by Finn's incredible decision to back off from the prospect of buying dinner just to see them make out with each other. Kid doesn't have enough Ben Roethlisberger in him, I guess.

Her version of "Vogue," a promotion for next week's "The Power of Madonna," was also well done.

And speaking as someone who loathes Rent, seeing Idina Menzel play a character I didn't want to strangle every time she appeared on screen was a welcome change.

The Bad

Rachel's new boy Jesse (Jonathan Groff) is about as believable a high school senior as Luke Perry was. I haven't seen "adolescents" this old since Danny Zuko and Rizzo in Grease.

Emma's a virgin? Mildly implausible, but not exactly a shocking revelation from Ms. "Another Day, Another Cardigan."

Admittedly, I'm no Doors fan, but somehow they managed to make "Hello, I Love You" even worse than it already is. And "Highway to Hell" needs to be sung by someone whose testicles have descended. Predictably, neither of these issues is likely to change.

Best Line of the Night:
"Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?" - Brittany

Stay tuned for protest letters from incensed ichthyologists and the newly formed Gay Shark Anti-Defamation League.

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