The Valentine's Day special of Glee was an episode about tolerance, acceptance, and most importantly, love. Was it also an episode about religion? Maybe, but I think it was more an episode about faith, in yourself, in each other, in doing the right thing, and, if that's what you believe, in God.
So let's talk about faith, religion, tolerance and acceptance in Heart first. New character Joe Hart (Hart - geddit?!) was introduced through his membership of the God Squad, and has never met a gay person before. So when Santana asks the God Squad to sing a song to Brittany from her, Joe needs some time to think about whether his faith precludes him from singing to a same-sex couple. The discussion which follows is mature, and it's refreshing that religion isn't just dismissed or looked down upon. The other three members of the God Squad - Mercedes, Sam and Quinn - acknowledge that Joe needs time to think. Quinn's description of other things the Bible says are abomination reminds me a little of an episode of The West Wing where President Bartlett has a go at a heinous radio producer. While not as dramatic, the God Squad's discussion is as thought-provoking, particularly Quinn's final thought: "You have to look at the hard topics and dilemmas and be honest and truthful. If you ask me, that's what being Christian is really about."
Meanwhile Santana is battling against an unseen enemy - someone has complained to Principal Figgins about her and Brittany kissing in the hallway. While Figgins attempts to convey his reluctance to let the couple kiss as a quest against public displays of affection in general, Santana points out his hypocrisy - Rachel and Finn manage to slobber all over each other in the hallway to their heart's content, without anyone saying anything.
It's worth pointing out, this hypocrisy is something that's been getting the nerves of Glee fans for a while. The lack of screen time and romantic interaction between Santana and Brittany and between Kurt and Blaine compared to the constant contact between Rachel and Finn is argued about frequently in fandom. With Heart, Glee is addressing those concerns, and perhaps even showing it's been playing a long game, that it's fully aware of how different characters are treated differently, and that it is simply reflecting society by treating the straight couples differently to the gay couples in a bid to expose the hypocrisy.
This storyline has a partially happy ending in Heart. While the double standard of public displays of affection at school is not resolved (hopefully in the future), new boy Joe does accept Santana and Brittany's relationship in spite of, or perhaps because of, his religion. As he says: "Love is love, man." And, just for the fans, Santana and Brittany do get to indulge in a very public display of affection.
Talking of Rachel and Finn, they're still getting married. And now their families know. So comes our introduction, at last, to Rachel's two dads, hilariously played by Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell. They are seemingly accepting of the couple's decision to tie the knot, as are Carol and Burt. Luckily (and I guessed right here) it's all a clever ruse to get Rachel and Finn to realise they're not ready for marriage. Unluckily, it backfires. Still, hopefully this means we'll get to see more of the musical Mr Berry and Mr Berry.
Since this is an episode about love, it's only right that Sam and Mercedes get some screen time. I've loved the development of their storyline over the last few episodes, and Heart carries this on beautifully, if heartbreakingly. Taking Quinn's words about honesty to heart, Mercedes tells Shane she and Sam kissed, and tells Sam she can't be with him because she feels horrible about herself. The discussion, where you can visibly see Mercedes and Sam's hearts breaking, is followed by more tear-jerking, as Mercedes sings a gorgeous version of I Will Always Love You, which is of course particularly poignant coming just days after Whitney Houston's death (the episode is also dedicated to Whitney Houston).
If you thought all the drama so far was enough seriousness for one episode of Glee, think again, there's more before we get to the fun stuff. Kurt's storyline starts off fun. He's receiving Valentine's cards from a secret admirer, who he believes to be Blaine, still in his sick bed after Sebastian's slushie attack. But it turns out his secret admirer is Dave Karofsky. I admit, I didn't really see this coming. Someone in fandom joked about how they would throw something if Karofsky turned up this episode, but I never actually thought it would happen.
Karofsky confesses he thinks he's in love with Kurt, and that he may be ready to come out eventually. Kurt turns him down, explaining that he's in love with Blaine, that there's no way he'd ever be with Karofsky after everything he's done, and that Karofsky is just in love with the idea of Kurt. It's a sad moment, because even after all Karofsky's done to Kurt, I still felt sorry for him because he's so clueless, he really thinks there's a chance for him and a boy whose life he made pretty much unbearable. And I felt even more sorry for Karofsky when he realised one of the boys at his new school had seen everything. It seems this may not be the last time we see Karofsky.
On the lighter side, Blaine did come back this episode, and in a rather spectacular way, singing Love Shack with Kurt and the rest of the gang. It was fun to see Kurt and Blaine actually interacting with each other, instead of just sitting next to each other (or a few seats away from each other) - usually you can't even tell they're a couple, so at least this episode we actually saw them together. Still, would it have hurt Glee to have both Santana and Brittany and Kurt and Blaine indulging in a little affection in one episode?
On the lighter side, Sugar is facing a tough decision between Artie and Rory. Both are vying for her attention, and the trio provide the episode's comic relief, with a cute montage of scenes of each boy trying to outdo the other, two musical performances to win Sugar's heart, and then the inevitable dirty looks between the victor and the loser. Still, Rory's win is going to come back to bit him on the arse, as it was dependant on a lie.
This week's glee club assignment was about singing the greatest love songs, so the musical choices were a little disappointing. I loved I Will Always Love You, which IS one of the world's greatest love songs, and Love Shack was a fun number that rally suited the moment.
The other songs were done well, but I didn't feel any of them could be included in the pantheon of great love songs.
What Glee did well
A surprisingly plot-heavy, feelings-heavy episode that dealt with some big issues, started dealing with others, and still managed to have a lighter side.
Also, special mention to Quinn, who has recovered from her ridiculous plotline at the start of series three and morphed into the voice of reason and wisdom. Brava.