There were some excellent moments in last night's installment of Glee, there really were. Unfortunately, they were rather overshadowed by the fact that the whole of "Ballad" was a horrible awkwardfest. Where the action on screen wasn't the bad kind of ultra-uncomfortable (I specify because Glee is masterful in its good kind of uncomfortableness), the results were pretty hit and miss in terms of successful entertaining and storytelling.
* "Endless Love"
At least the episode started off on a high note. This particular musical number combined several of Glee's absolute greatest strengths: Lea Michele's voice and facial comedy, Matthew Morrison's voice and facial comedy, and an awesome voiceover script.
* Kurt and Finn
Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith are an unexpected dream team for Glee. Apart, I love them both. But together, they complement each other in an absolutely brilliant way. The comedy shot to new heights via Kurt's surreptitious attempts to seduce Finn to The Gay Side. And they also found an emotional commonality in the way both of them are so sweet, and in their family situations. I really hope that this relationship gets explored more, because it was one of the most delightful things to happen on the series thus far.
* "Stand By You"
I've gone on and on about how much I love Finn and his guileless earnestness, so I'll just quickly note that even though Cory Monteith is far from my favorite vocalist on the show, this number is one of my favorites just because of the pure emotionality of it. Crying definitely happened. Especially when Finn's mom came in at the end and he spilled the beans. Cory Monteith is pretty unparalleled on the show in terms of honestly portraying raw feeling.
* Quinn's Parents
This actually falls more in the Miss category for reasons detailed below. But I would like to give some major kudos to Gregg Henry for coming in out of nowhere and giving such a wonderful performance.
It's weird that I'm saying good things about Terri Schuester. Because I do hate her guts. But, this episode I really enjoyed having her around because a) she made Champion of the Irritating Rachel clean a bathroom, and b) she had my favorite line of the entire episode: "If I don't get enough sleep then my antidepressants won't work and then I'll go crazy and I'll kill you."
* "Lean on Me"
This was absolutely my favorite musical number of the episode. It definitely wasn't up to the amazing standard of most of Glee's show-ending performances. The emotional quality wasn't as fully realized it could have been, I think. But just the song choice itself was such a strong one that they could have absolutely sucked (which they didn't) and it would have been great. Plus, Artie sang the lead for a second week in a row, which was not only highly enjoyable for my inner Kevin McHale fangirl, but that choice also really reinforced the meaning and strength of the song considering his position in the previous episode.
Now, THE MISSES:
* The Entire Rachel-Has-A-Crush-On-Mr.-Schu Thing
Seriously. Why did that need to happen. If someone sees a real reason for it, by all means educate me. Because honestly, the entire episode would have been a million times stronger without the constant detours to Rachel-land. There were a couple of funny moments, but mostly it was just super awkward.
* Susie Peppers
Of all the painfully awkward moments in this episode, the worst included Susie Peppers. Again, I ask why, because her only real purpose was to act as a foil to the development of the Rachel plotline which, as I said, I really do not understand. One thing I will say for Susie Peppers is that having her show up in the hallway to have a face-to-face confrontation with Rachel is probably the most genuine HOLY SHIT moment from the entire series. I DEFINITELY did not see that coming.
* Mercedes & Puck
This was the most ill-conceived and poorly executed scene in the entire episode and I am so disappointed in it. We all knew that Puck being the baby daddy had to come out sometime. But that was just pathetic. He didn't let it slip or even get very emotional or anything. He just said it. And he said it to Mercedes. Someone made a conscious choice to have her be the first to hear, but I don't see the reason in it. And I really don't understand how they could justify having her suddenly step up and be an emotionally mature lecturer. Does no-one remember the disaster that was Mercedes in "Acafellas"? Sorry, Glee, but this was a definite failure.
* Quinn & Her Parents
SO. MUCH. CHEESE. One of Glee's greatest strengths has been its ability to take situations and storylines that are usually horribly overdone and melodramatized in television shows and make them genuine and original. They definitely lost the magic here. Maybe there was just no other option other than to After School Special it up, but it was really disappointing for me. Dianna Agron still made me cry, because she is just that good. But overall, where it wasn't awkward it was overdone and felt pretty artificial. Plus, I don't know my music so I don't know who wrote Finn's second solo in the first place, but that person should be shot. And so should whoever decided putting that in the episode was a good idea.
I have to say, I am pretty disappointed with "Ballad." There were so many opportunities for Glee to showcase its greatest strengths as a series, and I feel like those opportunities were largely wasted. The episode was not cohesive at all, and while there were okay moments, there was nothing spectacular to balance out the worst parts. Lack of Sue definitely didn't help.
This week was something of a cautionary tale in terms of trusting promos as good indicators of what to look forward to (disconnect between promos and intro was gigantic). BUT, I am both intrigued and very very worried about how next week is going to go and I am definitely looking forward to finding out.
(This review also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com)