Is it just me, or does Glee have a habit of following up offensive episodes like last week’s with episodes that are almost willfully benign (save for the resurgence of last week’s eating disorder storyline which – trust me – we’ll talk about more soon)? I’m not necessarily complaining, but the false sense of complacency episodes like last night’s lull me into just makes Glee feel even more like the shady boyfriend I try to keep secret. Sometimes he’s fine – sweet, funny, charming – but more often than not, he’s erratic and unpredictable, and you sure as hell don’t want your friends to know you’re still seeing him, am I right?
Because McKinley has no classes and no dress code, Blaine has founded (or at least assumed the presidency of) the Secret Society of Superheroes. It’s basically one part live action role playing, one part litter clean up, and one part vigilante justice; in other words, it’s a great way to pad one’s college applications. Moreover, it’s what Glee does best: it’s a tight organizational theme for the episode, it’s intentionally wacky, and it’s admirably energetic. And it’s fortunate that McKinley’s superheroes have joined forces, because there’s a crime to investigate: someone’s stolen the New Directions’ Nationals trophy and left a laptop in its place. “Who leaves a laptop?” Artie wonders. “Someone rich,” Blaine replies. Yep, the Warblers are back!
The Warblers’ return addresses what’s been my main Blaine-related question all season: what’s keeping him at McKinley, now that Kurt’s graduated, and especially now that they’ve broken up? I’ve been harboring secret fantasies about him returning to Dalton, which contradicts my feeling that Glee needs fewer plot threads, not more, but he looks so good in the blazer doing all that precision choreography that I couldn’t help but hope. When Blaine goes to Dalton to retrieve the trophy, he’s greeted by Sebastian, who’s a non-traditional welcoming committee, given that he literally almost blinded Blaine last season. The Warblers’ new captain, who’s “not even remotely bi-curious,” tempts Blaine into a rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side,” and it’s deliciously catchy and everything Darren Criss does best, even if it lacks the punch that Warblers numbers used to have when they were voiced by the Beelzebubs from Tufts.
Blaine is very nearly talked into leaving the New Directions – he has his locker cleaned out and everything – but Sam talks him into staying, telling him that he has to stop letting the guilt he has about cheating on Kurt eat him alive. The two sing an emotionally-charged duet of “Heroes” set against a montage of the Secret Society of Superheroes doing good deeds, and it’s maybe the best vocal performance we’ve ever seen from Sam. It’s nice to see their bromance blossom, and adorable when they use a legitimate grappling hook to steal the trophy back from Dalton. Blam!
Meanwhile, Finn has officially taken over for Mr. Schue, and he’s up to all of Schue’s old tricks: sweater vests and button ups, horrible ideas for sectionals themes (Foreigner songs sung in foreign languages), and forcing kids to use music to solve their problems. Latching on to the superhero spirit, he tells the New Directions kids that they need to come together like the Avengers, which means that Ryder and Jake and Kitty and Marley will need to do duets, much like Thor and the Hulk do when times are tough. The “love square” among those four marches interminably along, and Kitty continues to encourage Marley to throw up after meals, while simultaneously assuring her that she looks hot and finding ways to undermine her confidence. It’s as insufferable and baffling as it was last week, and I’m still not in favor of it in the slightest, but to my great relief, Kitty actually has a voice on her. She and Marley sing “I Need a Hero” together and nail it vocally; on top of that, there’s an energy to it that a lot of choir numbers were lacking last season. It’s an encouraging sign.
For their duet, Jake and Ryder sing “Superman,” and it’s a total hat trick: fun, well-sung, and linked to the theme of the episode. Still, it ends with them punching each other out (it’s actually the most violent choir room brawl we’ve seen since the early days of Finn and Puck), and Finn’s best advice is for the two of them to get in a room alone together and tell each other their deepest secrets. Jake tries to write his in a note (he doesn’t fit in because he’s biracial and half-Jewish), which he hands over in the locker room just moments after Sam does his Bane impersonation with a jockstrap on his face as a mask, which should win Sam an Emmy. Seriously. Ryder tearfully admits that he can’t read the note because he can barely read.
Look, Blake Jenner, I’mma let you finish, but Jared Leto already did the best “I’m an illiterate teen” storyline of all time, okay?
I’m kidding (mostly), and I’m pleasantly surprised by the relative realism with which Glee approached Ryder’s dyslexia, aside from the fact that he was tested for a learning disability at the request of his nineteen-year-old choir director and not his parents. Blake Jenner’s been given more to do in three episodes of Glee than a lot of actors were given to do in three seasons, and he’s carrying it off admirably. His Glee Project win only entitles him to a seven episode stint as a guest star, but I’ll be very surprised (and disappointed) if he’s not made a series regular for the rest of season four. He’s just so charming.
Everything about this episode felt like season one Glee: the costumes, the theme of the week, the big closing number in the auditorium (complete with jeans and red t-shirts, just like the final number in the pilot). I don’t know what that means in terms of the bigger picture of this season and where it’s headed, but it was a perfectly nice little hour, and I’m thankful for that.
A few miscellaneous contenders for the best line of last night:
- “I don’t smell raspberry hair gel. Does anyone know where Blaine Warbler is?” –Brittany
- “Your name sounds like your parents named you after a cowgirl doll who comes with her own pony.” –Jake, on Ryder
- “I think it's just that the glee club just doesn't see me as an adult. Ugh, god, is that what coffee tastes like? How do people drink that?” –Finn
Next week is Sectionals! Next week is also the episode that is actually about Thanksgiving.