Thursday, November 4, 2010

Glee: Grilled Cheesus

As I said in my previous post, Glee's sophomore season has not been living up to its hype (if that's even possible). There's an unevenness that's become more apparent than last year's back nine. We're five episodes in and they have been all over the place.

Seriously, don't say I didn't warn you. 
Read on at your own risk

There are three storylines of importance in Grilled Cheesus - 

1) Finn sees what he believes to be Jesus in the grill marks of his sandwich, hence “Grilled Cheesus.” He attempts to pray and when what he prays for comes true, he believes it was due to a high power, leaving him with the desire to share this with the rest of the glee club. Later on, when something unfortunate happens to a fellow teammate but gives Finn something he asked for, he starts to question whether Grilled Cheesus is good or bad and eventually, his beliefs, already tentative and not fully formed, are seriously shaken and he’s left asking more questions.

2) Kurt goes through a family crisis. His father ends up in the hospital, comatose. The glee club tries to rally around Kurt, offering support and prayers. Kurt pushes them away because he doesn’t believe as they do and because he’s carrying around so much guilt, because of  his behavior prior to his father’s heart attack, that he has a hard time seeing how everyone is trying to help in their own way. For Kurt, his lesson is not about believing in God but believing in something more than what the five senses tell us.

3) Lastly, Sue’s story with her older sister, Jeannie, is a smaller storyline but just as important. Jeannie has Down’s Syndrome but that has never mattered to Sue. To Sue, she’s everything. She’s Sue’s hero, but Sue noticed, when they were very young, that people would treat Jeannie differently and cruelly. Sue would pray for her sister to get better and when she didn’t, Sue stopped believing. A conversation with Jeannie about God shows how at ease she is with her disorder, while Sue is the one who continues to struggle.

Memorable moments include -

Puck, giving one of the most profound and humorous statements of the show, saying, "Oh, I got no problem with the guy. I'm a total Jew for Jesus. He's my number one Heb. What I don't like seeing is people using J-money to cramp everyone else's style, 'cause it seems to me that true spirituality or whatever you want to call it is about enjoying the life that you've been given. I mean, I see God every time I make out with a new chick."

Brittnay - “Whenever I pray, I fall asleep.”

Jeannie says she doesn't believe God makes mistakes and asks Sue if she wants to be prayed for. Sue's voice cracking a tiny bit as she says, "That'd be nice."

Kurt singing a beautiful stripped down version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” with flashbacks documenting significant moments with his father, including a not to be missed tea party.

This was an interesting episode. It wanted to say a lot but aside from the stellar performances of Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch, I felt it missed the mark. Wanting to explore spirituality is one thing but to lay it on so thickly is off putting. Why was Rachel singing  "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" Was it because it had the word "papa" in it or was it one of the few "Jewish" songs they could find that wasn't overly religious? I don't know but as beautifully sung as it was, it didn't belong there. Giving Mercedes two spiritual songs, one of which took place in a church, was too much.  There were comments made that didn't feel authentic, as if they were just put there to continually convey the show's message. I strongly believe that the questions asked should be explored but it felt as if they were being crammed down our throats.

I'd also like to point out that I do not believe that Finn wouldn't have known earlier about Burt being in the hospital. Kurt might have forgotten to tell him but Finn's mother knew. Why wouldn't she tell him as soon as she found out? I just don't buy it. I'd also like to know how old was the grilled cheese sandwich before Finn finally ate it? I get the symbolism behind the gesture but eating a cold, several days old grilled cheese sandwich is not that appealing to me. It was moments like these that kept taking me out of the story. I had to keep re-watching in order to find the good moments and it turns out there are many of them.

Jane Lynch was stunning. You could see her pain and anger simmering beneath the surface. Her scene with her sister made me want to cry because it was Jeannie comforting Sue. Chris Colfer was beautiful. He can mesmerize a person with both his acting and singing. Not a small feat, especially for someone so young. Mike O'Malley's portrayal of Burt is unpretentious and wonderful and he didn't even do much in this episode. Even Cory Monteith at the end of the show had me interested. Seeing Finn's faith shaken added a new depth to the character that hadn't previously been there. It's nice to see him growing as an actor. I also want to acknowledge Robin Trocki, the actress who plays Jean Sylvester. It's not often that shows use actors with disabilities, especially older actors with disabilities, and I think it's fantastic Glee does this because not only does it helps color the world of Glee and make it more realistic, but she can act! It's about time. Other than Chris Burke, who played Corky on Life Goes On, when was the last time you saw someone with Down's Syndrome or any other disability playing a role that was meaningful and important? Life Goes On has been off the air since 1993! I don't know about you, but I want a world as diverse as possible when it comes to the shows I watch.

I don't get worked up about a show's message very often. I like asking questions, being forced to think and a good controversy. I might dislike the writing or acting, I might hate where a storyline is going or cheesy special effects (I look to you X-Men Origins: Wolverine) but "Grilled Cheesus" bothered me enough that for a moment, I seriously considered not watching Glee anymore. Then I stopped, thought about it, and decided I love the show too much to just give up on it like that. I'll keep watching and hoping the show pulls itself together and in the meantime, keep you informed on how it's progressing.

* Sorry for the delay.  The other ep. reviews will be out this week and then done as each new ep. comes in.

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