It’s been five weeks since “Glee’s” breakupocalypse, and after tonight’s episode, I’d be thrilled if the show went away for another five years.
By then Marley, Jake, Kitty, Unique and Ryder would have graduated high school and “Glee” could quit trying to make any of those duds happen and simply focus on the grown-up lives of the better, funnier, more diverse and interesting characters we’ve been following since season one.
This was the first episode of season four to not include a single scene in New York, and the result showed how desperately “Glee” needs that balance to be anything close to interesting. (Or, better yet, find the guts to drop McKinley entirely.)
“The Role You Were Born to Play” was a little bit about positioning Finn as the new leader of New Directions, a little less about the return of Mike Chang and Mercedes Jones, and a whole lot about trying to get the audience invested in five universally irritating and dispiritingly bland characters. In the time leftover, we got some token Will and Emma scenes, the return of Coach Beiste, Sue in full on “somebody call an exorcist!” mode, and a “Hopelessly Devoted” solo for Blaine.
Since this episode barely followed-up on the events of “The Break-Up,” Blaine’s heartbreak over losing Kurt was basically written off with a few jokes. The only couple to get any sort of post-“Break-Up” breakthrough was Will and Emma. They sensibly worked through their problems exactly the way they should’ve and would’ve to begin with if they weren’t needed in that Coldplay number at the end of “Break-Up.”
The “Glee” writers long ago demolished anything respectable about Will Schuester, but Will’s speech to Emma about why he wants her to go with him to D.C. was a great reminder of who Will used to be. And Emma’s speech to Will about why she wants to stay was a great reminder of who she’s always been. Sure, couples get into stupid arguments, but after everything we’ve seen them work through the spat these two had was far too contrived, even by “Glee” standards.
Anyway, Will and Emma were hardly the most important part of the episode. But they were the best part. And that’s terrifying.
You can’t blame Cory Monteith for the lame dialogue and spineless characterization the script (credited to Michael Hitchcock) saddled Finn with. And although I’d rather see Finn at least try to find his way in New York alongside Rachel and Kurt, the idea of him figuring out how to help McKinley High’s Glee Club is solid. But Monteith had to spend so much of his screen time tonight opposite middling “Glee Project” winner Blake Jenner (who is only marginally more promising than the other new additions) and almost all of it whining about how he hasn’t found himself a few months after graduating high school. What a waste.
And what an even bigger waste the show is making of Jane Lynch. I don’t mind the way Sue turns on a dime between glee club supporter and sworn enemy, but nothing that she did tonight made any sense. Even worse, it wasn’t any fun. Going on a narrow-minded tirade against Unique was something not even a reliable pro like Lynch could play convincingly. It doesn’t help that the real argument to be made against Unique isn’t that she’s transgender, it’s that Alex Newell is in way over his head as an actor on primetime TV. I don’t want to see Unique play Rizzo any more than Sue does, but that’s because I’m sick of the sassy head bobs and finger wagging that masquerade as choreography during Unique’s performances.
In other non-developments with the new characters, Becca Tobin’s Kitty is still singularly hateful without being remotely funny, Jacob Artist’s Jake is still completely dead behind the eyes (although he proved can tumble with the best of them… what an asset that will be to building a personality) and Melissa Benoist’s Marley is still so boring that not even Sue can figure out how to insult her.
Meanwhile, Chord Overstreet’s Sam and Heather Morris’ Brittany were essentially reduced to cameo appearances, Kevin McHale’s Artie did his usual thing of empowering someone else, Vanessa Lengies apparently picked up a paycheck without saying a single word as Sugar (why is she even there!?), and Amber Riley and Harry Shum Jr. had about as much material as when they were full-time regulars — which is, of course, not much at all until Riley powerfully belted out a few lines of “Born to Hand Jive” and Shum most excellently got his groove on. Plus, there was that random scene where Mike and Tina argued over the demise of their relationship. Now, that’s something I wish the show had more time to explore, instead of pretending we should care about whether or not Marley ends up with dumb or dumber.
But maybe “Glee’s” just not for me anymore. Or maybe just not this week.