I loved, loved, loved (most of) this episode of Glee - Dynamic Duets.
Sure, it was far from perfect in some places, but in its best bits it showed some of what Glee does best. There were funny, silly storylines that held a deeper meaning, a serious issue tackled pretty well, and some insight into the mind of (arguably) one of Glee's best loved characters. Also, there were Warblers.
Part of the success of this episode lay with the focus. I love Kurt (and I guess Rachel), but splitting episodes between Ohio and New York has caused an already largely fractured programme to become even less coherent, so episodes that focus on one place, like Dynamic Duets, automatically are better at focussing.
There was still too much going on at times, but large parts of it fit together. The overarching comedy angle of the Secret Society of Superheroes or Society of Secret Superheroes or whatever it was called was brilliant, and worked as a theme for the episode.
For a start, it gave viewers something to smile about (in a similar way to the Christmas show within a show did during last season's Christmas special). It was also a pretty good metaphor for a lot of things happening in Glee currently, and was pretty witty at times.
Let's start with the good stuff. The superhero society (I'm calling it that for simplicity) was set up by Blaine - king of hiding himself away behind a costume. The society gives him the chance to be a hero, something he's not in his mind because he cheated on Kurt.
It also segued perfectly into a reintroduction of the Warblers (who are a kind of secret society themselves), and an introduction to new frontman Hunter Clarington. Hunter is (along with Sebastian) determined to lure Blaine back into the Warbler fold with tales of what a legend Blaine is, how he's the perfect Warbler, how the real Blaine needs the Warblers and Dalton. Trouble is, and I've been hoping this will be addressed all season, that Blaine doesn't really know who he is.
He slips back into his Warbler identity for Dark Side, a good fit for how Blaine is feeling - he wants to be loved for everything he is, including the dark side that led him to cheat on Kurt. But in this song, I don't think Blaine is asking other people to love him, I think it's a song about Blaine loving himself, forgiving himself.
But though Blaine's voice blends just as well with the Warblers as it always did, and though he picks up those dance moves quickly, there's something a little off still. The blazer doesn't fit quite right, he's not quite as energetic (much less furniture jumping) as he used to be with the Warblers, the smile isn't quite as perfect as it used to be.
Still, for Blaine it's almost enough, and he thinks it feels right. Everything at McKinley reminds him of Kurt, so a place where he's liked for the image he used to present and where slipping a blazer on is as much of a disguise as a lycra costume and cape is tempting, and he chooses to go back to Dalton (seriously, where are the parents?).
Thankfully, Sam manages to stop Blaine, and finally, finally, asks him exactly what Blaine did and what he's running from (I can't believe it's taken this long for people to start asking). And so we went to a flashback which made me physically hot because it was so uncomfortable and despairing (or it could just be the flu I'm battling). Anyway, Blaine did cheat. He didn't go over to some guy's house and sit around and come back, he didn't kiss some guy and then pull away and go home, he didn't hook up with an old friend. There was nudity involved, and sex with a stranger.
And that's what kills Blaine the most. He cheated with "a guy who friended me on Facebook" because he thought he and Kurt weren't made for each other, and as soon as he cheated, he realised he and Kurt were meant to be together. Blaine threw away his relationship for someone that didn't matter, and didn't make him feel better.
Hurray for Sam, who tells Blaine that he needs to forgive himself even if Kurt doesn't, that Blaine isn't a bad person, that he fits in at McKinley despite not being the same as everyone else, and that he can be a hero. I love Sam and Blaine as friends, and they do provide some of the best moments of this episode - a great rendition of David Bowie's Heroes (Sam's best musical performance to date) and a truely comedic scene that draws on the old episodes of Batman I used to watch as a kid (they were repeated, I'm not that old!) and brings up Sam and Blaine's friendship names on massive coloured fight bubbles (Blam! Slaine!) as they run off from Dalton with their trophy.
I feel this episode saw Blaine reach a good place, he's started to forgive himself and started to learn who he is, and only by doing those things is he ever going to be happy with himself.
The Blaine storyline was not the only thing that worked for me this episode. After initial disappointment when Ryder baited Jake into a fight at the beginning of this episode (old Finn-like behaviour, boring), I found myself loving Ryder again by the end of the episode. I thought his dyslexia story was handled very well, and was pretty realistic (even though it was crammed into one episode). It showed some of the difficulty people with dyslexia face, that it's nothing to do with being stupid but is to do with just having to learn differently, and that there is help out there. Ryder's confession to Jake, his talk with Finn and his defence of Jake in the cafeteria were a growth for this character, and I liked it.
So to the things I didn't like. I really dislike the whole Kitty and Marley storyline, and the Marley becoming bulimic storyline. I don't know what it is about it, but I just don't like it or the way it's being handled.
I also continue to dislike the Finn as leader storyline, which did disappear in the middle of the episode, thank goodness. Having said that, I did think Finn's response to being told he sounded like Yoda was brilliant: "Deal do we have?"
I don't love the Jake stuff. He's sweet and nice and everything, but he just bores me a bit. It was fun seeing Puck back, but if I'm honest, completely unnecessary.
I think my problem is that Ryder (even though I like him), Marley, Kitty and Jake are all just shadows of Finn (even though I don't like him), Rachel, Quinn and Puck. We've seen the new guys before, and the old guys were just better.
There was some harking back to previous episodes of Glee, and I really liked those little moments.
Blaine walking down the staircase at Dalton to meet Sebastian was almost a mirror version of Kurt walking down the staircase at Dalton to meet Blaine. It may have looked similar in terms of movement, but where Kurt was walking towards something new and exciting and good for him, Blaine in Dynamic Duets was talking towards something old and staid and bad for him. It was a nice touch.
I also liked the big group number at the end, where the New Directions wore jeans and red t-shirts - similar to the outfits they wore in the pilot of Glee when singing Don't Stop Believin'.
I liked Tina's quip about bringing Santana back, I liked that there was a theme for the episode that worked well, I liked pretty much every musical number, and, yes, even though they're what Vocal Adrenaline used to be to the New Directions, I liked (loved) the Warblers.
One final thought - anyone else notice that when Ryder had his hair slicked into a side parting he looked like Jackson Rathbone? Just me?