So it's been less than two months and we've already broken our own pact . Yes, we did it, we went and watched Glee again. Had to be done! It was a Michael Jackson-themed episode and we were just too curious about how much they would screw it up. On that front, we were not unsatisfied.
Meaning: It was not good. It was really not good. Chiefly for the reason that whenever Glee, in its strange and awkward third year of adolescence, tries to do a big theme episode, the results are always clunky and half-baked. The writers, in this case Ryan Murphy himself, are forced to create a story in service to songs, rather than the other way around, and trying to shoehorn that into the season at large usually proves a virtually impossible task (not that any episode of this show, themed or not, is ever terribly concerned with what came before or what's coming next). This Michael Jackson episode was no exception.
Only it was more unpleasant because it was Michael Jackson, that totem of both awe and dismayed revulsion, that Peter Pan who died. It felt awkward, icky even, that a young generation (the show's audience, we mean, not the our-age actors) should be served Michael Jackson this way. The man was a dark, troubled (maybe irredeemably so) genius, someone whose bright flares and wisps (we got mostly wisps last night) of pop could stand beautifully on their own if only we were able to untangle the mysterious man from the music. But we're not, at least not so soon (yeah it's been a couple years, but still, so soon) after his strangely inevitable-seeming death. It just didn't sit right. Glee is far too uncomplicated a show to deal with Michael Jackson in any real way.
This was evident in remedial interpretations of his songs. Not that there's anything terribly deep about "Bad," for example, but Glee actually just put the kids in a parking lot in black leather, just like the video. So there actually wasn't any interpretation at all, it was just a literal rehash of what happened. Only at the end, Blaine — cheery and soulless and, let's be honest, sexless Blaine — got a rock salt slushee in the eye. A scratched cornea, an eye patch, and a couple songs later, we came to realize that the whole improvised slushee device was specifically used to put the "kick dirt in my eye" line in "Black or White" into context. Like, when singing the song to the perpetrator (singing always works, kids), Kurt pointed to his eye, as if to say "Remember? Because Blaine got the thing in his eye?" A whole plot point to service one line of lyric in one song. Oh, Mr. Murphy. Really?
And then there was the bizarre remake of the famously expensive "Scream" video, the one that featured Michael and Janet together for the first time in a long while (if, professionally at least, ever?) that was turned into a vehicle for Artie to move about without his wheelchair and served as a completely wasted showcase for Harry Shum's dance abilities. Instead of terrific Shumming, which we were hoping for, we just got the two of them writhing around strangely in Janet's old costumes. What a weird, upsetting show this is!
That's really all we have to say about it. It just didn't work. Michael Jackson is too tall a mountain for this show to climb. (Granted, the musical oeuvre of Raffi is probably too tall a mountain for this show to climb at this point, but still.) The plot, if we can call it that, involved Quinn improbably getting into Yale, Rachel saying yes to Finn's proposal in an obviously temporary moment of weakness, and Sam and Mercedes kissing. Oh, yeah, and Blaine's very important eye injury. Oof. OK. Pact back on. We're not watching this show again!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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