I'm beginning to think that Glee never should have gotten the back-nine pickup from Fox, instead being held to 13 episodes for this season instead of a full 22. It's not that the show doesn't deserve to tell its story. It's that too often, episodes are nothing but filler that repeat plots from the week before and don't serve to advance the seasonal arc in any real way.
Last week saw the boys and girls in the glee club split up for a showdown that would influence their song selection at sectionals, and this week was ... a pointless split-up that determined nothing, resolved by hour's end with no real change. Look at it this way: If you can remove the episode and not interrupt the season's continuity, then the episode doesn't deserve to be there. And last night's "Takedown," written by Brad Falchuk and directed by Ryan Murphy, was sadly in that category. It was reminiscent of "The Rhodes Not Taken" in that instead of moving forward, characters just spun their wheels for an hour. A shorter season would have forced tighter storytelling, but as it is, the good stuff is interspersed with boring installments like last night's.
The previous week saw Sue installed as glee co-instructor, which come on, that can't last, so this week's ep was all about pushing that to its inevitable conclusion. Sue and Will's bitter rivalry kicked off with a slow-mo depiction of the two of them in an all-out shouting match, each narrating their perspectives in voice-overs. (In a meta-reference that landed just this side of cute, they even acknowledged this, with Will narrating, "Shut up Sue! Look at us, we're even fighting in our voice-overs.") It turns out that Sue had pushed Will for them to split up the glee members and each coach a song with a smaller group, with Sue taking the minority students in an attempt to make Will's remaining group look white and selective.
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What's more, Sue, despite the warning of the principal, tried to curry favor with her group by letting them perform the kind of R&B tune Will wouldn't. She passed out sheet music, which led to the first of four numbers for the night: a slick but uninspired version of Jill Scott's "Hate on Me." The kids looked fine doing it, and I always love it when Mercedes takes lead (she killed on "Bust Your Windows"), but there was an air of blandness to the number, of a kind of pointlessness to the whole proceeding. The divided club of the week before was working toward a goal, but this was just to fill time. There was never any doubt that Sue would eventually leave or be forced out of her role with the glee club, so watching her half of the kids try to act amped up was a pretty waste of time.
Most of the numbers this week were just lifeless, period. The kids gathered for an impromptu jam session to sing Nelly's "Ride With Me," but it's lack of polish veered too far away from the quality we're used to and just sounded like cheerful yelling. Of course, it was still preferable to Will's kids performing "No Air," a duet between Jordin Sparks and Chris "Duck Next Time" Brown that I'd previously only heard at karaoke. I know the show's performances push the edge of the envelope in re: realism, but come on, auto-tune and echo effects when there's no one but Rachel singing? Lame, Glee! The finale, when all the kids had (of course) reunited, was a horrible Avril Lavigne song with similar tweaks. (And I know "horrible Avril Lavigne song" is redundant, like "douchebag in an Ed Hardy shirt," but go with it.) The only enjoyable number was Quinn's cover of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On," which fused elaborate staging and quasi-reality with a character's genuine emotional pain at feeling screwed over by her boyfriend.
And don't even get me started on the queasy plot about Terri coming up with new ways to convince Will she's actually pregnant, like bribing her ob/gyn. She's even got a fake pillow belly! This is like Three's Company level wackiness, and that ain't good. I hope the show bounces back next time. Weeks like this, I miss it.
Line of the night: Sue, who rattles off dialogue like no other: "I empower my Cheerios to live in a state of constant fear by creating an environment of irrational random terror."