I have two confessions to make about this week's episode ("Dream On"), both of which are kind of embarrassing (but only slightly less embarrassing than actually admitting I watch the show on a regular basis in the first place).
The first -- and I really have no idea how this got past me -- was that I totally spaced on the fact that this was THE JOSS WHEDON EPISODE. Honestly, the pairing never made a hell of lot of sense to me, just because I couldn't see a lot of parallels between the fans, "Once More, With Feeling" and Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog notwithstanding.
Point of fact, it wasn't until the show was over that I found out Whedon had directed, my only clues to the fact being the extremely talky first act (nearly 20 minutes passed without a musical number), a few telling directorial moves, and -- of course -- the presence of Neil Patrick Harris.
NPH plays Bryan Ryan, a former glee club rival of Will's who is now in "show tunes recovery" and has a job with the school board auditing arts programs. Living in denial (he still sneaks off to Broadway shows, and has boxes of Playbills hidden in his basement, "like porn!") has taken its toll on Bryan, leaving him with a none too subtle vendetta against Will and the club. He sets the tone for the rest of the show by asking the club what their biggest dream is, then crushing their hopes by explaining how they'll never achieve it.
I must say, it was a bit disappointing to see all these wannabe big-time entertainers wilt under his verbal assault. Because as anyone will tell you, a career in the arts is totally free of criticism and second guessing.
This leads to my second confession, related to the wheelchair-bound Artie (Kevin McHale), around whom a good chunk of the show was arranged. Artie's dream, surprise, is to be a dancer, and during a spirited sequence reminiscent of those Improv Anywhere skits, he leads a crowd at the mall in "The Safety Dance." It was during this scene that my wife and I looked at each other and said, in unison, "He can walk?"
Certainly even the most basic research about Kevin McHale, the actor
who plays Artie, would have uncovered that he is not, in fact,
paraplegic. What can I say? I like preserving the illusion. A cursory check of the IMDb pages for any of the cast would also reveal none of them are actually high school age either. Happy now, you bunch of killjoys?
Aside from the Will-Bryan tug-of-war (which is finally settled when Will steps down from the Jean Valjean role in the local production of Les Mis so Bryan will spare the club) and Artie's fleeting hope of walking again (crushed in uncharacteristic fashion by Emma), is Rachel's search for her mother. This leads to one of the more "surprising" reveals of the show so far: that mom is actually Vocal Adrenaline coach Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel).
Granted, I didn't see it coming. Then again, they are pretty identical looking. It also turns out Jesse is merely a pawn in Shelby's game of Tempting Rachel to the Dark Side. He plants a tape in her childhood belongings that contains a message to Rachel in the form of "I Dreamed a Dream," which mother and daughter end up singing a duet on. Hey, I'm just glad it wasn't something from Rent.
Much was made of Harris' appearance, but I have to say, his subdued approach to the character was a little disappointing. The best scene he had took place with Jane Lynch, ending with them having angry sex in her office (a concept that's amusing on a number of levels). The musical numbers with Matthew Morrison were decent, even if their sing-off of Aerosmith's "Dream On" proved that Morrison is far and away the superior vocalist. Maybe I wanted a little more of the Harold and Kumar NPH.
Next week promises to be interesting, as we have another artist-specific show, this one featuing Lady Gaga. Expect big things from Kurt.