Look, that wasn’t horrible. Sure, FOX isn’t going to use that sentence as a pull quote anytime soon in its advertising. But “Heart” worked in intermittent spurts, cutting through the narrative clutter and usual silliness to produce some solid musical moments. As an episode of television, it was as bad as the show has been all season. But there were a few things that weren’t intolerable. (Again: not a good pull quote.)
As per usual, the show went for about eight things when only two would have not only sufficed, but actually enhanced the hour. Having Will assign his students to find the greatest love songs of all time was impossibly vague, but also opened up the room for some creative interpretations. Plus, the show generally does melodramatic teenage love fairly well in musical terms, so while I didn’t expect something as great as “Silly Love Songs,” I definitely didn’t fear this episode as much as last week’s debacle. The reference to “Songs” is intentional: that was last year’s Valentine’s Day episode, and it’s clear the show tried to repeat that formula twelve months later. The gap between the two episodes shows how muddled things have gotten at McKinley High.
And there’s no reason for this. As ill-conceived as the Rachel/Finn engagement is, it’s ill-conceived in a way the show actively recognizes. The show doesn’t condemn this relationship, but it’s certainly not blindly bestowing their blessing to the couple, either. I’m on board with that attitude, since it’s often unclear if a show knows a character is doing something awful or not. (I’m looking at you, “Weeds.”) Having Finn and Rachel come out as an engaged couple to the group could have been the engine that drove every other person in New Directions to question their own stance towards romance. Instead, the Rachel/Finn material got equal footing as a bizarre Sugar/Artie/Rory love triangle. The fact that I just typed out “Sugar/Artie/Rory love triangle” confirms my belief that there’s a hat in the writer’s room from which they randomly select romantic pairings. Because what…the…hell?
Then again, it’s not like this new trio is any more or less developed than other nominally established relationships on display tonight. It’s hard to hate on Amber Riley’s “I Will Always Love You” as a performance. But as a character-motivated piece of music, it would have worked better had we ever gotten the impression at any time that she had EVER loved him. It’s the kind of emotional shortcut that “Glee” takes all the time, and continually can’t understand why we don’t roll with it. Another case in point: I quite loved the Mike/Tina duet for “L-O-V-E,” since any screen time they get is precious and I choose to hold it tightly against my cold, dark heart. But we’ve barely seen this pair since Mike’s dad had a “come to Jesus” moment about the arts, and we know almost nothing about this duo except they like to cuddle during rehearsal.
Speaking of Jesus, he appeared in tonight’s episode. Well, a tree hugging hippie home-school version of him, in the form of new student Joseph Hart. He joins the God Squad, resurrected just in time for an awkward debate about religion and sexuality. You see, Santana and Brittany (newly allowed to speak again) have been smooching up a storm, and people have been complaining. Because if teenagers like to complain about anything, it’s two hot girls making out in public. They straight up HATE THAT. Santana makes a big stink about this perceived double-standard (she thinks straight couples get a free pass on this), and so pays the God Squad to sing a telegram to Brittany. You can guess what happens: the crazy Pope from “American Horror Story” hears about this, Mrs. Coach delivers a demon baby, and then the demon baby sings AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” AND SCENE.
Actually, it doesn’t really go anywhere, because as per usual, there’s no time for it to go anywhere. Just as there’s an entire episode to be made about the realities of Finn/Rachel getting hitched, there’s a fantastic episode just waiting to be made about the pressures/realities/similarities for gay teen couples around Valentine’s Day. Twinning Santana’s desire to share PDA with Brittany with Dave Karofsky hiding behind a literal mask in order to express his feelings for Kurt might have been a spectacular, spectacular episode. I would have rather seen a ten-minute version of Karofsky’s conversation with Kurt at Breadsticks than have Rachel tell Finn where he can drop a deuce. The limits to which these characters can express their feelings for one another is potent, timely, and just the type of thing “Glee” tends to actually handle with a modicum of sensitivity. So, naturally, this took up about four minutes of the overall episode to make room for Blaine to yell at the love shack. A lot. Man, that dude hates that shack.
I’ve made it this far into the review without mentioning the debut of Rachel’s dads, played by Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell. They were perfectly fine. Goldblum did what Goldblum does, and he and Mitchell felt like a couple that had been together since meeting on “Up With People.” Their plan to trick Rachel and Finn felt rushed beyond the pale, but that’s not the fault of the actors but rather a script that brought them out in the opening minutes and then shoved the two offstage for the majority of the episode. Whereas I usually loathe spending time with the adults on this show, more time with the Berrys would have been appreciated. (And I want to see Carol after three glasses of wine, darnit.)
But absolutely nothing I’ve described really related to the “greatest love songs” theme laid out at the beginning of the hour. Instead, the episode dealt with teenage marriage, the separation of church and state, and a really bizarre (but apparently facetious) foray into immigration reform. (Rory lied about deportation to mack on Sugar? I’d give him props, but I had to look up his name because he’s said two words all season.) “Glee” tries to be about everything and ends up being about nothing. The individual elements are often strong, but cancel each other out within an episode. The beauty of “Silly Love Songs”, and other strong episodes like “Duets” and “Furt,” lies in a central spine of a story onto which various people can attach themselves. New Directions is supposed to be a unified group. But in so many ways, they are more detached from one another than ever. If this was by design, I’d applaud the show. But it’s not the glee club that has lost its way. It’s “Glee.”
What did you think of “Heart”? Better than recent episodes, or still on the same downward trajectory? Did Rachel’s dads meet/beat your expectations? And what great love song are you glad the show didn’t ruin in tonight’s ep? Sound off below!