We won’t lie. When we turned on the TV to start watching tonight’s Glee Season 5, Episode 4: “A Katy or a Gaga,” we were nervous. And our expectations were not necessarily high.
You see, the episode before this was Glee’s Cory Monteith (Finn) tribute: a raw, emotional hour dedicated to remembering the life of the show’s former star, who passed away suddenly of an heroin and alcohol overdose. The October 10 tribute got stellar ratings, something that was actually a much-needed boost since numbers for the rest of Season 5 have been quite low.
Then Glee went off the air for a full month. We started to worry. When the show finally did come back, would viewers even tune in to watch? The task of coming back after a tragedy like Cory’s death is not an easy one. Especially for a show like Glee, which has always held a tone that is positive, upbeat, and well...gleeful. Somehow, Glee needed to be able to honor the depth of the tragedy without losing its inherently positive self. It seemed like a near impossible task.
But now, the first official post-Cory episode has come and gone. So how did the show do? To be honest, we think they handled it pretty darn well. Not perfectly, mind you. But well enough to give us hope that Season 5 might be salvageable yet.
The opening seconds of the night were happy-go-lucky, lighthearted, and unmistakably gleeful. The New Directions buzzed excitedly around the choir room. Someone came gliding in on a scooter. Everything was upbeat. Back to normal. Like nothing had ever happened.
That felt a bit disingenuous. Did everyone forget that their beloved Finn Hudson had just died? Weren’t we all just sobbing our eyes out, heartbroken, as Lea Michele (Rachel) cried real tears during her emotional “Make You Feel My Love” performance? No way the show was going pretend that all never happened.
But then in the second scene, Finn was mentioned. Over in NYC, Rachel is still clearly affected by the loss of Finn. He was the love of her life. She still talks about him. She’s having a hard time moving on.
“Finn wouldn't want you sitting on the sidelines while life passes you by,” Kurt tells her. Rachel turns down an opportunity to be in Kurt’s band. She blames it on her new Funny Girl rehearsals. But anyone can tell that Finn’s loss it taking its toll.
Finn is only mentioned that one time, but Rachel alludes to him at the end of the episode. It happens as she comes home from rehearsal. “It was sad,” she says. “I sang My Man all day, which was depressing.” Clearly, the words of that song could easily be applied to Rachel and Finn’s relationship. Having to relive that must be rough.
But though Glee touched on the Finn tragedy, the show didn’t dwell on it. They honored their lost brother, but refused to be kept sitting on the sidelines. The episode was full of energy, not mourning. Life goes on. So must Glee.
As for the music, we only had four musical performance this time, much less than the usual six to eight. But none of them were throwaway numbers. Each one was fantastic and well-thought out. Some were full of showmanship and glitz, others stripped down and raw. We know what we’re doing, Glee seemed to be telling its audience. Stick with us.
The night ended with a performance of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” a catchy, energetic, and uplifting tune. The production values were excellent. Gorgeous and creative sets. Characters swinging from the ceilings. “Roar” was split between Ohio and New York City. Almost every character performed, including celebrity guest stars Adam Lambert and Demi Lovato.
We have star power, Glee seemed to be saying. We have raw talent. We have great storylines. We’re not going to forget the tragedy, but we’re not going to let it engulf us. Just keep with us this season.
The jury is still out. It’s too early to tell if Glee will let us down, but we sincerely hope it won’t.