Glee finale and second season post mortem

Question: To say I was disappointed by the Glee season finale is an understatement. I was insulted. I’m usually willing to look past the show’s ridiculous “plot” developments, because it is at least fresh and fun, and the songs are good. But in the finale, I think I laughed only once, and even the music was lame. From the pointless cameo of Patti LuPone to the blatant product placement for Wicked, the episode was a sad and (cardinal sin) boring mess. This is one former fan who has thrown in the towel. Is it just me, or do you think the emperor has lost his clothes? — Duncan

Matt Roush: The garments are a bit tattered, but I’m not giving up on Glee yet — though it’s hardly gotten a free critical ride during this second season. So many of the big episodes, including this oddly anticlimactic New York outing, got pretty well beat up, and for good reason. The show’s inconsistencies are chronic, and the less said about Sue this season the better — surely someone from Modern Family will be seen as more worthy of an Emmy this season (no slight on Jane Lynch, who I adore; it’s the character, not her) — but for all of its faults, there’s still something special about Glee, and I would like to think with a chance to pause between seasons, the powers that be will take stock of what worked (the music mostly, though going back to original songs for Nationals backfired) and what didn’t and try to return the show to its sweet, goofy, exuberant core. Of course, this kind of optimism could be akin to Charlie Brown trusting Lucy with that football. We’ll have to see. Until then, I have my downloads on the iPod to get me through the summer. (Final note: I was in a bar over Memorial Day weekend that played the Kurt-Rachel “Defying Gravity” duet on the big screen, and I’ve decided I’m OK with that particular product placement. Wicked almost feels part of Glee’s DNA. Sometimes you’ve just got to cut this show a little slack.)

via Ask Matt: Finale Fallout (Mentalist, House, Glee, Chicago Code, Castle) and More! – Today’s News: Our Take | TVGuide.com.

Personally I hadn’t thought of Wicked as a product placement. As a person who was once a huge musical theatre nerd in high school, I was equally obsessed with Les Mis and Phantom and Miss Saigon as these kids are with Wicked and Rent. Different generation, but for my graduation present, I got to go see Miss Saigon, and that was no product placement, just a huge big deal, in my life. Singing on the Wicked stage (while obviously not something most kids will get to do) is just the kind of thing that these kids legitimately dream of. Most of us only got the sheet music and piano lessons.

And yes, Sue — oh Sue. She used to be hilarious. She also used to have a job at McKinley. But now her Cheerios are gone and she seems to be doing nothing but coaching the opposing school’s glee club and doing weird things like marrying herself (I didn’t find that in the least bit funny and I love LOVE Carol Burnett) and threatening to torture a kid with dental implements. They really need to reign her character in and get back to the awesome one-liners that made her a favourite in the first place.

Also, I want to clear up one huge inconsistency (I’ve decided to let the ages of the characters go, for now). Santana Lopez. From Lima Heights Adjascent. Where “bad things” happen. With the father who’s a “real doctor”. Is Dr Dad a deadbeat? Let’s figure this out, because I’m betting we’re going to see a lot more of Santana (and, actually, Blaine) in Season 3. So hopefully we’ll get backstory galore.

Thoughts?

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15 thoughts on “Glee finale and second season post mortem

  1. Hm, I never thought of it as product placement, though of course by definition it is, so it’s just as interesting to think about *why* we didn’t think of it that way. I think it’s partly because of my dna as a theatre kid, and as part of Kurt’s/Rachel’s story (Defying Gravity).

    From a generational standpoint, I have to say, I wish Wicked & Rent had been the iconic shows for my growing-up. I was with you: Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera. I mean, I loved them at the time, but Wicked might have been healthier. Less melodrama, more real drama.

  2. With regards to the Santana/Lima Heights Adjacent thing, I’ve noted the inconsistency as well but thought that it was just really hilarious posturing on her part, playing up the fact that she’s an ethnic minority in xenophobic Middle America (where they will ASSUME she’s some bad ass, poverty-stricken hispanic); she gets to make her schoolmates look stupid and scare the hell of them at the same time, on account of their assumed prejudice.

    I also didn’t see Wicked as product placement, but the culmination of the Kurt storyline (esp. as I have serious reservations about the “I love you, too!” moment): here was a boy who had dreamed of being on Broadway, and most likely in Wicked, and most importantly, SINGING THE FEMALE LEAD. That is not going to happen, and yet, magically, it did happen. My sole issue with it is in the icky feeling in the pit of my stomach that the show has turned into a vehicle for Chris Colfer — which I think the writers are WAY on board with — and while I love me some CC, I think it has been a terrible mistake to let him dominate the show to the extent he did this season. Almost the last line, “Kurt Hummel’s had a pretty good year,” really sums up Season 2. Unfortunately, none of the other characters can say the same.

  3. To me, product placement occurs when it’s inherently irrelevant to the script. This wasn’t that. at all.

  4. Shanna, that was my idea on the whole Santana situation too. But I would like to see it addressed, because every time she mentions it, I get annoyed. Surely someone else in Lima would go, “Hey, that’s like the poshest neighbourhood in East Lima,” or something to that effect.

    Actually, I think I agree with everything you’ve said. As much as I adore Kurt, and his storyline, and Chris Colfer’s acting, I’ve been a bit uneasy with the same feeling, and I hope that the focus will slide to other worthy characters in Season 3. Except that he does seem to be far and away the best actor of all the Glee kids.

    Allowing Matt Morrison to sing his own, pretty mediocre song was a massive mistake. Likewise, Gwyneth Paltrow, every last scene she was in (and I actually really love GP).

    They really need to sort the writing. So far they’ve hired 1 new writer. Season 3 could really be anything.

  5. IMO, the problem isn’t really with Kurt’s storyline dominating the show, because I’m completely sure that he’s had less screentime than Rachel this season (and also possibly less than Will) and fairly sure that his storyline is roughly equivalent to Quinn’s in the first season (which makes sense because, like Quinn’s pregnancy in the first season, Kurt’s bullying arc has been the throughline of the season season–the conflict that lasts longer than an episode and has season-long consequences that disappear completely at the beginning of the next season).

    The problem is that with the exception of Santana and Puck, everybody else’s storylines have been wildly inconsistent and/or have mostly been a retread of their season one storylines. Will’s romantic storylines are pretty predictable and (imo) terrible, and his “stardom vs. Glee club” conflict was done before and done better in “Acafellas” and “Dream On” from the first season. The Rachel/Finn/Quinn triangle has been done before and done better, and has mostly been the focus of Rachel’s storyline (which is a shame because the most compelling Rachel storylines this season, for me at least, have been her developing friendships with the other Glee club members and her finally learning how to place friendship over stardom, far more so than the tacked-on “love versus Broadway” conflict involving her relationship with Finn). Finn’s “leader” conflict at the beginning of the season never led to any personal growth and never really came to anything. Quinn’s conflict between independence and desire for romance was never really fleshed out, and then was dropped completely for an entirely new storyline dealing with her quest for popularity.

    I hope in the next season they continue the trend of taking a second-tier character and making their storyline the emotional throughline of the season (Mercedes is my fervent hope). I just hope they learn from their mistakes this season and improve the plotlines of their main characters–Rachel, Finn, and Will–if they insist on maintaining them as main characters.

  6. Adding this: I do also think that making Kurt’s storyline so isolated from everybody else’s was a big problem of this season. While Quinn’s storyline in S1 affected a lot of other characters, Kurt’s storyline really only affected Kurt–even his new stepbrother was barely affected by his absence, and the only people we saw Kurt interact with for a good part of the season were new characters, who are obviously going to have less of an affect on the audience than previously established characters. And since “homophobia” was embodied in Karofsky (rather than examined as a systemic problem that everybody is involved in in one way or another, including the male glee club members who sent him to Dalton in the first place because he wasn’t welcome in their meeting), as was “bullying” (despite every character on Glee being both bullies and bullied themselves), the only character growth possible there was for Karofsky and Kurt (and eventually Santana, sort of). Hopefully the S3 storyline will have a greater impact on everybody else’s character growth, instead of just a handful.

  7. I haven’t done the math on screentime for Kurt this season, but I think his was the only storyline that had any power behind it, and he therefore looms much larger than the rest of the cast in retrospect (and all of my stand-out memories of the rest of the cast have to do with their relationship to Kurt’s storyline. But I’m also undeniably Kurtcentric, so that could be my bias). I appreciate your likening it to Quinn’s pregnancy in Season 1, that seems spot on.

    If there’s going to be a similar bringing to the forefront of a character next year, with an epic story arc, I would like it to be Karofsky (or Blaine, if I’m expected to start caring about him or his relationship to Kurt). I like the character of Mercedes, and Amber can definitely sing, but I don’t think she’s a very good actress. I don’t know if she could carry a season…

    I heard rumors that Blaine is coming to McKinley next year? Can anyone confirm or deny?

  8. I’m not sure that focusing on Karofsky or Blaine would help the next season from being Kurt-dominated, given that both characters are peripheral characters from Kurt’s storyline and don’t really exist independently from him–their storylines are pretty much inextricably entertwined with his. I’m also not sure how much they could do with the Karofsky character that hasn’t been done with Puck (reformed bully) and Santana (popular gender-conforming closeted queer). But then, I’m completely biased against having Karofsky on the show anymore at all, and particularly in the context of joining the glee club, given that I really hate what they’ve done with his storyline (making him the embodiment of homophobia/bullying, which essentially makes homophobia an inter-community problem rather than societal; upping the sexual aspects of his bullying and then ignoring them; making his ‘redemption’ be entirely imposed from the outside or come out of nowhere, rather than through an actual emotional epiphany about the damage he’s caused or a self-imposed attempt to change his own behavior). I also don’t really want to see him interact with Kurt anymore than he already has if they’re going to continue to ignore his sexual harassment. It just skeeves me out.

    Moreover, though, I really don’t think they should focus on a new character from season two (which Karofsky essentially is, since he was basically just Bully #2 in season one) who isn’t going to carry over to season 4 (which neither are, because they’re going to graduate). Instead I’d rather they either focus on the original cast members who’ve been neglected over the past few seasons (which would also solve the problem of Glee being so incredibly white-focused) or else focus on whatever new character they bring in next season. It wouldn’t really seem right to me to give that much focus to either Blaine or Karofsky, given that we already know more about them than we know about, say, Tina.

    As for the acting thing, well, that’s subjective. Amber Riley’s not the greatest actor, true, but then again, neither are Darren Criss or Max Adler. The latter two have the not insignificant problems of shoddy characterization to work with (Blaine is kind of a different character in every episode, and Karofsky had no real arc to play off of, instead jumping from hate-filled creep to a sad and self-hating from one appearance to another), and in Darren Criss’ case, at least, he apparently got scripts the day of shooting, so I can’t really cast too much judgment there. But still. It’s not as though Amber Riley has had much meat to work with, and while Criss’ and Adler’s scenes have occasionally made me cringe (I love Darren Criss’ face, but ugh, his facial expressions in emotional scenes!), Riley has yet to.

  9. Kate, while the thinking part of my brain agrees with what you’ve said above, the part that receives emotional signals is really putting up a fight!

    I am very pro-Karofsky. Not in an “ain’t he sweet” or “dreamboat” kind of way (though I do find Max Adler easy on the eyes), just… I don’t know, exactly, but I’m interested. I find him compelling. I don’t think I have gone as deep into a lot of the social issues as many of the readers of this blog have, so I won’t try to argue the whiteness of Glee or the ramifications Karofsky’s homophobia being too neatly tied up in his own closeted sexuality; I am a character-invested viewer, and I find Karofsky much more interesting at this point than Tina, or Artie, or Sam…

    As for Blaine, my only interest in a big storyline for him is that I can’t stand him and I’d like to find a way to enjoy him if he’s going to be around all the time.

    The reality is that they need to bring in a number new characters in the hopes of extending the life of the series, and that those characters — and how they interact with the current cast — will probably make up a good portion of S3. Why don’t any of these people have siblings, anyhow? It would make life easier to just start following Tina’s awesome little brother and his friends who joins Glee (a la Skins), for instance…

  10. Well, I think the problems with Tina, Artie, and Sam isn’t that their characters are inherently boring so much as that the writers haven’t really known what to do with them, or cared. Tina hasn’t had a thing to do all season, and last season her storyline was really tied up with Artie’s–they could definitely find ways to focus on her (maybe including her “righteous blade of budding feminism” that’s been so neglected) to make her interesting. Artie has masculinity issues and disability issues but they’re never explored in a particularly complex or interesting way–after all, so many of his issues were easily fixed by having him inexplicably be allowed to join the football team, and giving him a hot cheerleader girlfriend who doesn’t challenge him with her feminist concerns. And Sam–well, poor Sam. He was kind of a counterpoint to Finn in the beginning of the season, which could have been an at least somewhat interesting storyline if they’d felt like actually exploring Finn’s issues instead of just giving him a go-nowhere conflict, and then he was just Quinn’s bland love interest, and then I just felt terrible for him because pretty much everyone he’s come in contact with has tried to use him in one way or another. His own story of being a geek who has a chance to reinvent himself and is suddenly popular could have played out as an actual storyline instead of a character note, and him being a high school kid who’s suddenly homeless and has adult responsibilities that conflict with Glee club, instead of yet another “do I want to do what I love, or do I want to be popular?” conflict, could also be interesting.

    Basically I think every character on Glee has at least the potential to have an interesting storyline if the writers cared to actually follow through on them. Instead, all of these issues get touched on for a single episode and then wrapped up with an easy after school special message that doesn’t actually solve any problems (Artie’s–and the other glee club guys’–sexism being touched on in “The Power of Madonna”, for example, and then easily fixed by a lecture and a group sing-along, and then they all go back to their old behaviors). Karofsky is kind of a rarity on the show in that, inasmuch as I think they’ve flubbed his storyline by making his redemption too easy, his issues have lasted for longer than a single episode and still aren’t entirely wrapped up, given that the show regards him being out as the wrap-up to his storyline (rather than him stopping harassing Kurt, which is pretty much where my interest ends).

    But yeah. I don’t necessarily care more about the Glee kids’ siblings than I would any other group of new kids (I lost interest in Skins about halfway through season three–Effie just wasn’t enough of a link to the first generation to keep me interested, and I didn’t have enough of an investment in anyone else) but it was an odd choice to introduce Sam, who’s the same age as all the other Glee kids, instead of a younger kid who could interact with the original cast for a while and then carry on a year or two after the original cast leaves.

  11. They’d be out of their minds to not bring Blaine to McKinley. Darren Criss is a massive break out star for them, and the whole Dalton thing is problematic in the long term (admittedly, problematic in the short term too). And Darren’s screen acting has improved substantially over the course of the season.

    Personally I’m hoping for more of the gay. Blaine backstory, Santana coming out, Karofsky figuring stuff out.

  12. Kurt, himself, does point out the systemic homophobia when he’s talking to Mr Schue in NBK. He also calls out Sue on it when she calls him Lady.

    But otherwise, yeah, it does seem to be limited to Karofsky — which is an interesting message.

  13. Do we know Sam is a Junior? He could be a sophomore if they haven’t explicitly said he’s a Junior (he was just a date to the Junior Prom)…

  14. For some reason I can respond directly to your comment.

    Kurt, himself, does point out the systemic homophobia when he’s talking to Mr Schue in NBK. He also calls out Sue on it when she calls him Lady.

    But otherwise, yeah, it does seem to be limited to Karofsky — which is an interesting message.

    I thought the first half of the season was really good at pointing out the exclusionary nature of heteronormativity, and also good at critiquing homophobia even from supposed allies. Duets, Never Been Kissed, The Substitute, and Furt all made it really clear that it wasn’t just a matter of Karofsky’s bullying that made Kurt uncomfortable at McKinley, it was a matter of Kurt constantly being stereotyped, misunderstood, excluded, and discriminated against by both fellow students, faculty, and even his friends. Once they needed to get him back to McKinley, though, all of those problems disappeared, to the extent that Schue was even the one moderating the meeting between the Karofskys and the Hummels to determine whether or not Kurt would be returning to school (despite the fact that the only student I can ever remember Schue actually disciplining is Kurt).

    Prom Queen did go a ways towards making it clear that homophobia is a widespread, systemic problem, but Prom Queen also had Kurt being once again excluded from an all-guy activity (serenading Brittany for Artie’s prom proposal) with no commentary whatsoever, which then carried onto the guys (except Kurt) serenading Rachel in New York. :/ Basically, it makes me sad when Glee realizes something is a problem, addresses it once and acts like the problem is solved, and then has the characters return to their old behaviors with no commentary at all.

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