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Review of Glee ‘Glee, Actually’

Sophie Warnes

glee 300x207 Review of Glee Glee, ActuallySPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 10 series 4 of ‘Glee’

This series blog is following the Sky 1 broadcast schedule of ‘Glee’ in the UK.

This episode is all over the place – so over the place that I’m not sure where to begin. Is it Christmas Day? Christmas Eve? December 22nd? All of these days are mentioned in the episode, and skipping backwards and forwards through time makes it quite a disjointed attempt at pulling a Love, Actually – “where several separate storylines are sandwiched together between commercial breaks and then tied together at the end with a beautiful bow” as Sue (Jane Lynch) says. In fact, the episode seems to follow several storylines, but doesn’t bother tying them up. For a holiday episode, it can’t really compare with Extraordinary Merry Christmas, from last season.

Artie (Kevin McHale) dreams that he’s not in a wheelchair and never has been, and Rory (Damian McGinty) is his guardian angel. In a world where he’d never been disabled, Artie is a jock, the Glee club never took off, and every character is entirely different. Rachel, for example, doesn’t go to NYADA and never gets the chance to be the star she always knew she was. It turns out Artie was the Glee ‘glue’ holding them all together.

He sings Feliz Navidad – a pretty amazing rendition of it, actually – as his fellow classmates watch him in a mixture of horror and amusement. This was in an attempt to show them that they love singing and performing and that the Glee club should exist – but it’s dismissed as ‘so gay’. He wakes and it’s all a dream and he somehow realises that him being disabled has been the key to the Glee club.

While it’s nice that Artie actually has his own storyline as opposed to being back-up to everybody else and a general supporting character, it feels a bit too obvious to go back to his resentment of being in a wheelchair. We never really get a feel for his character and haven’t for a while. He helped Quinn (Dianna Agron) last season after her accident and really we never get a feeling that he feels like he’s being held back by being in the chair. He can still participate in the Glee club, and this resentment feels like it’s come from left-field. However, it’s great that the writers have made him come to terms with his disability in a positive way – even if it does feel a bit like filler here, given that he usually has minimal screen time.

In New York, Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) dad turns up with some good news and bad news. The good news is Blaine (Darren Criss), and the bad news is prostate cancer. It seems a bit contrived and unrealistic really – Blaine doesn’t seem to exist outside of his relationship with Kurt and his frustration at now not being in that relationship. Doesn’t he have a family to spend Christmas with, rather than being flown across the country to visit his ex? We also don’t see the other half of this family – Carole and Finn. How does Carole feel about Burt spending Christmas away from her with his son in New York? I’m not really sure what this segment added to the episode. According to Burt (Mike O’Malley) the prostate cancer shouldn’t be an issue as they caught it early. Although Blaine says he’ll look after Burt, all he really adds to the episode is someone for Kurt to duet with while ice skating.

I think Jake (Jacob Artist) and Puck’s (Mark Salling) segment is quite interesting. Puck convinces Jake to go to LA, and they take a trip around Paramount Pictures studios while singing Oh Hannukah, as this is supposedly how one networks in Los Angeles. The song is great and continues the tradition of Puck generally sticking to singing songs by Jewish people. It’s quite important to him that he’s Jewish, so it makes sense that he would only want to sing songs with a Jewish history or background. What’s more, their voices work so well together, the song is upbeat but very different to most songs in Glee, and overall a really clever choice for this episode.

When the two of them come back to Lima, they make their mothers meet for the first time. Although it starts badly, as the two women hate each other, gradually the four of them realise that they only have to blame the man who walked out on all of them. It’s saccharine but this is the holiday episode, so it’s to be expected. I hope we see more of Jake and Puck as it’s a different relationship dynamic in the show.

In the meantime, Brittany (Heather Morris) is convinced that the world is going to end and she decides to take out her savings and tell people how she feels about them. It’s typical Brittany, even if it is entirely ridiculous – but we can forgive her for that. Sam (Chord Overstreet) follows her lead and sings festive tune Jingle Bell Rock to her – in the library, with cheerios. Coach Bieste (Dot Marie Jones) arranges for them to have a Mayan marriage. A few days after stocking up, getting married, and preparing for the worst, they wake up and realise that actually there is no apocalypse at all.

This segment doesn’t really move the storyline on but it’s a cute one-episode-long distraction – and well-timed too, as this was originally broadcast a couple of weeks before the Mayan apocalypse was due to take place last year. It may perhaps serve to show how well-suited Sam and Brittany are as a couple, though. Though Sam’s character seems to change each season, this season he’s been dumbed down and both of them have vivid imaginations.

The last story is perhaps the best – and suited to a holiday special, too. Sue resents giving Millie (Trisha Rae Stahl), Marley’s mother, a secret santa present when she picks her name out. However, upon overhearing Millie tell her daughter that she can’t have presents until she is better – because they are so poor – Sue decides to give them extra presents she didn’t want. She also gives them money to help pay for the eating disorder clinic.

Finally, Marley’s mother knows she has an eating disorder! I’d been waiting for this moment to happen. Marley’s bulimia has been conveniently ignored then briefly mentioned and ignored again ever since Kitty (Becca Tobin) convinced  her to make herself sick. Yet again, though, I can’t help but feel her disorder is just a convenient plot device to ensure that Sue will take pity on them. However, the Grinch thing is very much a Sue Sylvester thing to do – as is her unexpected generosity. We know deep down that Sue isn’t a terrible person, she just doesn’t like the Glee club and she presumably has nothing else to do in her spare time because she rarely seems to do a lot. Yet when it matters, Sue has always come through for the kids – and even she can’t help but crack a smile when the New Directions sing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas for her as a thank you.

All of the songs this week are oddly, brilliantly chosen and well executed. The ice skating in New York to White Christmas? Cheesy but excellent. The First Noel being sang to Marley’s mother? Beautiful. For once, the cast did the songs justice – it’s just a shame that the episode jarred so much and didn’t really move the plot along.

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