For an episode with a cancer scare, an impending wedding, an impending proposal, a job loss, a midterm, an expression of latent OCD, the revelation of a sadistic year-long mind-game, a line or two for Mike Chang, and a sports-bra-and-jacket combo so exhilarating it heralds an act-break, “Wonder-ful” is surprisingly simplistic. Will walks into class with the knowledge that Rachel is a final-three candidate for Fanny Brice on Broadway, Brittany has been accepted to MIT, and Emma has re-accepted his re-proposal. It’s like when The Office cast stopped pining and dying at their desks and started getting everything they wanted. Rachel’s NYADA fame, Kurt’s charmed career at Vogue.com, Finn’s March enrollment in college—everything’s so easy now. There was no school-shooter. After all the Emma drama (hereafter Dremma), the resolution skips to the end off-screen? Is Glee still a show about yearning and working to achieve your dreams or just fantasizing?
The weekly bane of my existence is the celebratory closing number, and not just because the cliché has been run into the ground like it’s a brooding Sons Of Anarchy montage. No, what really rankles is the discord: These closing numbers are so uncomplicated on a show that is anything but. Lately, every Glee episode takes its characters on a bumpy ride, they learn lessons, and then everyone dances around the stage together. Before “Say,” which at least wrinkles the joy with the cuts to Ryder getting stood up, the last celebratory finale even slightly tinged with real life is “Don’t Dream It’s Over” a semester ago. By comparison, seasons one and two excel at complicating the glee. At the end of “Special Education,” the New Directions win Regionals and dance around the stage without a care in the world. Except Rachel stands there at her locker without a boyfriend or the spotlight, and Kurt sits at Dalton after discovering how out-of-step he is there, and Will thinks about Emma as she hugs her new fiancé, Jesse Tanner. Even while they’re singing for trophies, the songs are about the characters. In the Journey mash-up, Rachel suddenly winds up next to Finn and looks at him as he looks away. That’s not a completely lost art—it wasn’t that long ago that Will contemplated leaving his kids while they performed their little hearts out for him—but it’s been a while since a celebration song made room for anything that wasn’t all smiles.
Same for the “all’s well that ends well” plotting. Who cares that Kitty gets stalker-intrusive in Artie’s life since it leads to him going to film school? Who cares that Cassandra July has been torturing Rachel because she actually sees extra potential in her? Kurt doesn’t actually have OCD. That’s just a way to renew Blaine’s affection. Wait, I’m still not over this Cassy thing. Her behavior this season hasn’t been classic hardass so much as psychodrama sadist, and this bygones routine is Stockholm syndrome. Only in role-play is Brody’s six-pack a Get Out Of Jail Free card. People still have personal agency. If my reaction to Cassandra July smiling warmly and saying, “You’re gonna get it. I know you will, Rachel,” is supposed to be anything other than “RUN!” then I’d say these characters need a very special episode on self-respect.
Mercedes has an actual dilemma, at least, in the sense that people have chores or slight toothaches. She can either re-take her album cover photo and highlight some cleave or she can refuse and keep her precious dignity intact. Kurt doesn’t even see a choice. “You don’t want to be in business with people like that? You’re not actually considering, are you?” Easy for the Atlantic High Regent Of Airplane Brooches to say. But as befits an episode where the arrival of gay marriage means the gays must get married, Mercedes doesn’t really struggle with it, either. She’s going to sell her album on her own and see if that doesn’t spark some interest. Is this even a story or just an excuse to smuggle more conservative life lessons?
At first, I’d say forgettable is an improvement over cringe-worthy—at least my face didn’t get stuck in any odd positions this week—but artistically it’s more of a lateral move. Not to be all Cassandra July, but Glee has so much potential, and ever since returning from spring hiatus, it’s been a can of warm, flat Diet Coke. True, there’s only so much you can do with a stagebound number, and the Stevie Wonder performances are nicely diversified, from the weird, late-night lounge act for “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” to the slightly modernized ‘60s pop routine for “I Wish.” But is there a single performance where anything is going on other than a performer performing? Is there any subtext at all, or just Blaine sneaking peeks of Kurt’s sugar packets like he just finished Girls season two? If Artie is so worried about going to the big city and leaving his mom, why is it so easy to pry information out of him? Why is everyone playing everything so straight these days? I’m almost interested in Ryder’s catfisher just because it’s some genuine mystery in this universe.
- Tina is wait-listed at a veterinary school, which is a back-up in case she decides not to pursue acting, Artie is headed to film school in Brooklyn thanks to Katey Sagal, and Blaine is practically moved to New York already to become a stay-at-home husband, I guess. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Three-hour block of Glee! First Glee classic, in which the New Directions fall apart and come together just in time for Sectionals. Then Glee: New York, in which the Old Directions guilt each other for taking well-paying jobs instead of devoting all their time to Their Art. Finally Glee: Parents, in which Mike O’Malley and Jeff Goldblum and Katey Sagal face mid-life crises and contemplate mortality. It’s a musical.
- Blaine’s proposal to propose fails the laugh test, but I wouldn’t have minded Burt reminding Blaine that he isn’t even dating Kurt anymore. What happened to Adam, anyway? Really I wanted to bring this up as an example of a plot that isn’t so cut-and-dried. Blaine might see it that way, but Burt drops some real life on the kid. (Kurt on the other hand seems disappointed Blaine isn’t about to propose right there in the hallway. Wassup with that?)
- I love how wise and worldly Mercedes is now that she’s been out of school for a few months, the latest dead-on portrayal of graduating and coming home. “Honestly, it was good, but you guys have got to be guh-reat for Regionals.”
- She’s recording an album (Hell To The No based off the soon-to-be-hit single) about home, so she came to Lima to shoot her music video for “Lover On The DL.”
- Oh, Tina. “I love you, Mike. I love all my exes.”
- But seriously, is Sam not allowed to get haircuts during the school year? Are his parents superstitious or something? (Wait, where is he even living nowadays? Aren’t his parents elsewhere? They’re out of Glee: Parents, I’ll tell you that much.)
- “Wonder-ful” had me thinking about Dawson’s Creek even before Blaine’s true-love, soul-mate spiel. With the entire cast in one location except for the main character, it’s like when Dawson was alone in Los Angeles while everyone else on the show lived it up without him in Boston. Only that was semi-permanent.
- Good news: “You have the prostate of a 20-year-old.”