Not an easy episode of ‘Glee’ to write about, but in the end the minuses outweighed the plusses. The themes this week were specific ones of body-image – hey, Mercedes – and sexuality – yo, Kurt – against a more general background of issues of belonging and acceptance. April (Kristin Chenoweth) is back, mistress to a rich older man, and owner of the Rinky Dink roller-disco, which she allows New Directions to use for rehearsal purposes. (Not that they seem to do very much performing of any sort these days, but I’ll let that pass for another week.) She and Will share a bed, but nothing happens; wise move, writers, although it would have been wiser still to give Chenoweth more to do – only one exchange really made use of her talent for breathless, machine-gun dialogue.
Meantime Mercedes (Amber Riley) has been bullied into a starvation diet by Sue, leading inexorably to a great big rendition of ‘Beautiful’, a song which I kind of hate. Mercedes sings the hell out of it, of course, but it’s probably not a song which needs the hell sung out of it. Inasmuch as I can judge what it needs, apart from a legal ban on its performance. And since when do the Cheerios sing? It wasn’t as bad as ‘Imagine’, but when everyone started getting up and singing along it was getting there. On the other hand, this storyline gave Dianna Agron as Quinn Fabray a small chance to show that she can play more than shrewish, deceitful and pregnant; and she took it.
Stand-out of the week on the dramatic side was undoubtedly the romance between Kurt’s widowed father and Finn’s widowed mother. Well played by both Mike O’Malley and Romy Rosemont, as a storyline it gave welcome depth to both Finn and Kurt, and it ended on an unexpectedly but well-judged unresolved note. On its own it couldn’t save the episode, however, and the music didn’t help, although it was nice to see Rachel being given a week off. The highlight for me was Will and April singing ‘Fire’, which is a fine song, and Matthew Morrison’s voice is a snug fit with Chenoweth’s. Apart from that, though, it was death by ballad and dull showtunes. And ‘Beautiful’. Look, guys – get the kids on a stage and let them sing. It isn’t difficult. They’re in a glee club after all.
There’s no point in watching a shamelessly manipulative show like ‘Glee’ and then complaining about being manipulated, so I won’t. But the writers really did push it; I don’t like the strings to be quite as visible as they were this week. There were touching moments, but the show was in real danger of allowing us to lose sight of them, and the music was nowhere near good enough to rescue it. Anyway, next week: Olivia Newton-John.