Season Analysis: In Season 3, Glee became the worst possible version of itself that its biggest critics think it always has been. (But the last few episodes were pretty good, so maybe not all hope is lost.)
When the “Here’s what you missed on Glee” portion of “Props” focused on consistently neglected Tina, it was clear that Glee was finally responding to its critics, and then some. Personally, I was so busy criticizing the show’s treatment of the characters that actually were still getting screen time that I did not even realize how underutilized Tina had been – basically, I had barely noticed her at all. Glee took a bit of a risk by essentially admitting, “We’re even worse than you thought,” but it was the right call creatively. As soon as Tina hit her head and entered into the body-swap fantasy world, it was clear that the show had turned a corner. Finally, Glee was willing to try out an unusual idea – the strategy that had made it interesting in the first place. This sequence allowed the show to address the annoying aspects of its characters in a way that did not break the fourth wall too much for a show like Glee, and everyone in the cast seemed to be having the most fun they’d had in a while. Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison particularly seemed to be enjoying themselves, with Morrison more amusing as Sue Sylvester than he’s ever been as Will Schuester. It was enough to save a show that I was thisclose to giving up on.
The most entertaining character in Glee is, of course, Sue Sylvester, but her presence was inexplicably tamped down a bit for Season 2. Thus, while my pick for last season’s best episode depended on Jane Lynch’s most memorable moment (the rant against Spanish as a “dead language”), this season’s pick was determined more by the music. The Fleetwood Mac-centric “Rumours” was the best themed episode so far, in that the theme did not feel so very forced. The internal strife affecting New Directions was, in fact, not unlike the strife that Fleetwood Mac endured before and during the recording of Rumours. A triumph of editing was at play as well, as the right songs came at just the right moment, particularly when a confrontation between Finn and Quinn that was reaching a fever pitch led right into a duet by those two of “I Don’t Want to Know.” There was an appropriate song for every moment, as this was just about the best album choice for Glee to build a themed episode around, with nine of the eleven tracks from Rumours still receiving significant classic radio rock airplay today.
Next up: Modern Family
Glee is serial in its format, and therefore the episodes tend to bleed into each other. Barring a few exceptions (the Madonna and Lady Gaga editions), they do not conspicuously stand out from the other episodes immediately before or after. Thus, my criterion for picking the best Glee episode of the year was based on which one featured the best Sue Sylvester moment of the year. The scene in Principal Figgins’ office in which Mr. Schuester took Sue to task over the issue of many of her Cheerios failing Spanish (“Oh, Will, we all know about your devotion to that dying language”) was enough to make “Throwdown” an instant classic in the span of two minutes.