Going into "Dream On," the greatest emphasis was put on the fact that it was DIRECTED BY JOSS WHEDON and featuring GUEST STAR NEIL PATRICK HARRIS.
And, true, those are Very Important Things.
Joss Whedon is amazing. Case in point: the style of the "Safety Dance" music video/dream sequence. I mean REALLY. The man knows how to film a musical number.
As for NPH, he was, well...welllll...he was NPH. Lots of eyebrow movement, playing with vocal registers, and a style of delivery that is at the ultimate melodramaticomical point just below horrifying. He was maybe a little to NPH-y and caricature-like to make Bryan Ryan convincing as a credible character with real emotions and dimensions at all (not gonna lie, I kept slipping out of the moment and seeing Dr. Horrible and Barney Stinson). My only genuine complaint about his appearance on Glee was that scene in Sue's office. Neil Patrick Harris and Jane Lynch planning on having angry sex is quite possibly the most uncomfortable thing I have ever experienced.
But I KIND OF DON'T CARE. He was AWESOME. No question. And I found myself needing to revise my claim that Matthew Morrison and Idina Menzel making out is the hottest thing ever. The actual hottest thing ever? Matthew Morrison and NPH duet(s).
Speaking of Matthew Morrison, I am so happy to report that not only has Will Schuester redeemed himself from the puppy dog/dickhead bipolarity that has characterized him thus far in the back nine BUT ALSO Matthew Morrison, who has been significantly damaged, in my opinion, by his character's dreadfulness, is once again at Sexy Superstar Status. The proof: he can give an astronomy lesson metaphor and deliver the line "You're creating 13 black holes [by destroying the Glee club]" without making me want to mock him. I actually wanted to swoon a little bit.
Bryan Ryan and Mr. Schu were the first of three focused-on character groups in this episode; the second, Tina and Artie.
I would really like to like them, but the fact is that there just hasn't been enough time spent on them for me to have any feeling beyond vague wonderment. When the bits and pieces (and I do mean bitty bits and pieces) from the span of the show are put together, these two characters seem kind of...spastic. The best analogy I can think of is, their characterizations are like FBI documents that have been redacted all to hell. We see enough to more or less understand but there are important connective sections missing and the gaps are sometimes significant enough to make nothing but nonsense.
I just don't get Tina and Artie. Collectively or separately. I understand them a little more together - although Tina helpfully points out how Artie is pretty damn inconsistent (and I feel like she is too). They are just such peculiar characters...mostly, I think, because they haven't been in the spotlight enough to be developed.
The good (read: amazing) news is, "Dream On" finally granted Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale a chance to show off the fact that they are both TRIPLE threats. Emphasis on the threat.
Final order of business in "Dream On," Rachel, Jesse, and Shelby.
Perversely, I am incredibly happy to have Rachel and Jesse back together. Given my excessive loathing of Miss Berry, I don't know how I can possibly enjoy Rachel + Male Version Of Rachel on screen together for an extended period of time. It makes no logical sense whatsoever. But for some reason, it is outrageously adorable...or maybe that's just Jonathan Groff. Tough call.
The most important piece of this section of the episode is, of course, the revelation that Idina Menzel IS IN FACT playing Lea Michele's mommy. I can't say I'm totally pleased. All cards on the table, I did share that little Gleek fantasy for about two seconds...but then it got popular and, well, you know, that made it stop being a cool thing to want. For myself, I'm torn between hoping the writers/producers/creators feel a little ashamed for caving to fan demand like that and being incredibly GRATEFUL to the writers/producers/creators for listening so well to their fan community. But my thoughts on the subject are just my thoughts and therefore not at all significant in the larger scheme of things.
So what is significant? Idina Menzel. In every way possible. It has been so long since I've heard her sing anything new (the soundtracks to Wicked and RENT don't get any less amazing, just less wondrous after the thousandth listen) that I almost forgot how utterly fantastic she is. There are not sufficient words in my vocabulary to describe it. So many delightful and superb things happened in this episode, but "I Dreamed a Dream" was the most resonant and most beautiful to me.
I am a little confused about Shelby's trying to be "found" by Rachel being a Master Plan. I'm even more confused by Jesse's involvement and creepily close relationship with his choir director. And I'm just a liiittle bit disappointed that the lead and director of Vocal Adrenaline aren't evil after all. I totally would have made them evil. But maybe that's why I write reviews and not scripts.
Anyway, as both a whole and a sum of its parts, "Dream On" is a high caliber episode. Not the best and not the most shocking/amazing/stirring/whatever. But I think it will prove to have staying power, influence and greatness beyond its initial airing. And that's no small thing.
(This review also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com.)