The post-Super Bowl berth is one that has been home to some pretty stellar pieces of television over the past few years, the most notable of which might just be the infamous “bomb threat” episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which saw Seattle Grace Hospital at risk of immediate destruction should the homemade grenade in the chest cavity of a recently-admitted patient detonate. This year, Fox’s Glee was granted the same chance to make a splash following the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The episode, which would mark the sophomore series’ return from hiatus, was given the appropriate amount of hype – it was made known that the episode would feature a “mash-up” of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll” – and although parts of it were engaging, the overall result?
It was hardly a thriller.
Aside from the inclusion of a plotline that involved the possibility of lovably dim Brittany (the impeccable Heather Morris) being shot out of a cannon in order to inject some pizzazz into the Cheerios’ Regionals routine and the aforementioned “Thriller/Heads Will Roll” mashup, performed by Artie (Kevin McHale) leading New Directions, with the help of the football team, an exercise in peaceful co-existence among cliques – complete with zombie makeup and lighting that evoked the feeling of a haunted house – there really wasn’t much substance, and most of the plotline was painfully predictable. Surprisingly, one of the only refreshing moments was the bursting of Finn’s (Cory Monteith) bubble that perhaps school bully Karofsky (Max Adler) would abandon his cruel ways and join the Glee club full time.
In fact, despite the fact that Karofsky is one of the most, if not the most, reprehensible characters on the show, Adler has done a remarkable job in finding the fleeting moments in which he is given a slightly more human quality, one that allows audience members to remember that this is a boy driven by self-loathing and fear of rejection by his peers, and not just a grade-A jerk who bullies simply for the sake of bullying. No, that’s not an excuse for him to have treated Kurt (Golden Globe winner Chris Colfer, who, by the way, was all but absent from the episode save for a few brief lines) the way he did, but the fact is that he is scared, and that he feels the need to hide behind the façade of an overly-macho football player. He, among all of the characters, was the one worth watching in this episode; his conversation with Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) was charming, and his facial expressions during the beginning of the “Thriller/Heads Will Roll” mashup were actually darling.
On the other end of the spectrum, Dianna Agron, as Quinn, seems to be backsliding into her trick of standing there and looking pretty while keeping a sneer on her face and delivering her lines in a way that begs the question of whether or not she has any emotion at all, and Monteith’s Finn seesaws between idealist and narcissist.
The episode also featured performances of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” sung by Rachel (Lea Michele) and Puck (Mark Salling), Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills,” which was sung by Blaine (Darren Criss) and Dalton’s Warblers, and a dance sequence to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” done by The Cheerios. Michele and Salling’s cover of “Need You Now” showcased two performers whose voices complement one another very well, and the pair infused the performance with a delightful chemistry, but as has been the problem with the season thus far, it just seemed out of sync – the last time we saw any interaction between Rachel and Puck, she was trying to use him to make Finn jealous, and he pushed her away. Why they should appear so very comfortable together isn’t entirely clear. What is clear is that the characterizations of these students flip-flop with each episode, and that could really damage the show in the long run.
But that could be another topic altogether.
Overall, there were parts of the episode that were fun to watch. Any time McHale is given an opportunity to remind us that he’s probably the strongest performer of the male cast despite being constrained by a wheelchair is wonderful, and Dot-Marie Jones as Coach Beiste continues to be a ray of light in an otherwise rather-disappointing season. Jane Lynch, as always, is a scene-stealer, and her short scene with Katie Couric in a cameo role is nothing short of brilliant. But as a whole, the episode wasn’t anything special – it was just another episode, and possibly only a sub-par one at that.
Hopefully, it was just a little hiccup that comes from having been away for awhile, and it cleans up its act. It has the potential. It, perhaps like Karofsky, just needs to find it, and stick with what makes it good: the opportunity for these underdogs, this ragtag band of misfits who share a passion for something, to interact, and to do so believably.