It was prom night on last night's episode of Glee, with New Directions rising to the occasion when the dance's entertainment pulled out at the last minute. In addition, a surprising King and Queen were crowned, and Rachel dealt with the return of her ex-boyfriend, Jesse St. James.
To help make sense of the episode, we have a panel of musical theater and pop culture buffs—Meghan Brown and Kevin Fallon—to provide their takes on how realistic the show feels, how well the romances develop, and of course, how good the musical numbers are.
Here's what they had to say:
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Kevin Fallon (writer and producer for The Atlantic's Entertainment channel): Prom is just the worst, isn't it? I mean it's the best—but it's the worst. First of all, there's the music: you think you're going to be dancing to the sweet tunes of Air Supply, but then they cancel and you're forced to get your groove on to the stylings of ... your high school's show choir. The night always kicks off with that unfathomably awful, ubiquitous hit of the moment, and everyone gets irrationally excited and forgets the song is terrible. At my prom it was "Hollaback Girl;" for Glee it's Rebecca's Black's "Friday." But then, magically, the DJ plays something that perfectly captures the moment. Lea Michele's version of "Jar of Hearts" was haunting and filmed gorgeously, perfectly capturing Rachel's bittersweet feelings that night.
Then, of course, there's the tragedy of finding a date. There are fabulous, beautiful girls like Mercedes who put up a brave front but still can't toss aside their desire to be Cinderella for just one night—but no one asks them. Yet that's when, if you're lucky, a group situation arises like the one with Rachel, Sam, and Mercedes.
There's also the "prom proposal," where a guy asks a girl to be his date with a grand gesture that is as adorable as it is absolutely heinous. I mean, can you blame Rachel for forgiving Jesse St. James's unfortunate skinny scarf and past cruelty and agreeing to be his prom date when his proposal is a scorching a capella rendition of "Rolling in the Deep?" But then there's Artie's misguided invasion of Brittany's Home Ec class, singing "Isn't She Lovely" in hopes of winning over a girl who had already explicitly said she was not interested in being his date.
Like prom, this episode was Glee at its best and its worst. Not only were the musical numbers top-to-bottom pretty darned good, but plots advanced. Kurt's coronation as Prom Queen was devastating for many reasons, but most impressively was the way his reaction was spliced against everyone else's own personal meltdowns. Though his bubble was the biggest one that got burst, we learn that Quinn and Santana also suffered from inflated expectations for the night. Major steps were made towards the end of the Quinn-Finn-Rachel love triangle and Santana's identity crisis. But then there were dance floor brawls, bathroom slaps, and hallway soap box speeches—subtlety is not Glee's strong suit. But, really, it's not prom's either—which is why it all worked.