Friday, 30 November 2012

Glee recap/review: Thanksgiving

Dynamic Duets recap/review

Hello old New Directioners, this Thanksgiving (yes, I know it was last week) I'm thankful that you've come back to Glee.

Quinn, Puck, Mercedes, Mike and Santana made their way back to McKinley for Thanksgiving, joining Finn, who's already there. Despite the absence of Kurt and Rachel, who decided to stay back in New York because that's the mature thing to do, it was lovely seeing the old gang back together. That short scene where they all sat in Breadstix together laughing and catching up left a warm fuzzy feeling in my tummy.

In another way, though, it was bad seeing the old gang back together, because it only served to highlight how the new characters are simply shadows of their forebears. Jake and Ryder are nowhere near as interesting as Puck and Finn (and that's coming from someone who doesn't really like Finn), Kitty's not nearly as mean as Quinn even though mean!Quinn is tiring. And nobody dances as well as Mike - Jake and Ryder's attempts to do so are quite pathetic.

All these contrasts were set against a very, very familiar Glee storyline - sectionals.

The old gang were back  to help mentor the new New Directioners, and despite moving on not all the oldies had grown up. Quinn, it seems, has fallen back into her old ways - depending on a man, giving Kitty tips on how to win by using her looks, irrationally bitching out Jake and Puck, and getting into a fight with Santana. I don't like this Quinn. What happened to the self-assured, happy, mature Quinn we left at the end of the last season? I don't understand why the writers have brought crazy!Quinn back.

Quinn and Kitty was the only old and new New Directioner relationship we saw in any great detail. There were a brief few interludes between Marley and Santana, one of which led to the fight between Santana and Quinn over what a bitch Kitty is. I may not like this Quinn, but her and Santana know how to fight, and their disagreement was much more exciting and watchable than the last few episodes' worth of stuff we've seen between Marley and Kitty.

We saw lots of Jake and Ryder this week, whose friendship is going much better than Marley and Kitty's. They're truly bros now, checking the other is okay, offering to step aside so the other can have the girl/spotlight. It's sweet, but really, really boring. Not so boring is the return of Unique, who I do really like and who is the most interesting of the new characters.

We also saw lots of Marley this week, and heard a lot from her inner self. She has the same ambitions as Rachel, but she's a lot more unsure about them, and Kitty's constant niggling has proved toxic for Marley, who spent the whole episode looking ill, and finally collapsed at the end of New Directions' performance at sectionals. I've not enjoyed the bulimia/anorexia storyline, so I'm glad that it's almost over (at least, I hope it's almost over).

The New Directions went up against the Warblers at sectionals. It hurts me to say this, because I love the Warblers, but they weren't exactly brilliant. What happened to season two Warblers, who had great arrangements and who you couldn't look away from when they performed? This season's Warblers were good, but they've lost their spark, and it's made worse by the way they seem to have become really egotistical in the last two seasons. I thought Whistle was alright, but it's a song about blowjobs, so not entirely appropriate, and Live While We're Young was good, but not catchy enough. Also, what has happened to Sebastian's hair?

The other competition was a group called the Rosedale Mennonites, who actually put a smile on my face. Theirs was one of two strange performances this week, the other being the mash-up of Let's Have a Kiki and Turkey Lurkey Time. It was bonkers, but I kind of loved it, especially Kurt's voice.

Aside from the performance itself, it was also bonkers that a bunch of adults decided to spend their Thanksgiving hanging out at the flat of two teenagers. It was obviously Glee trying to hammer home how mature Kurt and Rachel are now, in case you didn't understand the first 10 times they said how mature they were. Only Kurt and Rachel aren't mature, they're still growing up. Saying you're mature and moving to New York doesn't make you mature. Where you are doesn't make you mature, it's what you do and how you feel that makes you mature.
Rachel hasn't quite grasped that yet. She thinks growing up is simply about being somewhere new and leaving behind all the things she knew as a child and taking a stand when she thinks she's been wronged. Brody, thank goodness, put her in her place. He pointed out that she has no right to be angry that he slept with Cassandra - he owes her nothing, especially as every time he's tried to get close to her Finn has got in the way. Rachel needed to hear that not everything revolves around her, and I was surprised, pleasantly, that that came from Brody. His advice to tell her to "not be that crazy girl" is the best piece of advice that Rachel can heed.

It's a nice development to see Brody and Rachel as friends, even though they're still clearly heading to something more. Their weird interaction over the turkey was slightly disturbing, and everyone watching was probably as freaked out as Kurt. Also, while we're talking about Rachel and food - what is going on? She used to be a vegan, then she cooked (burned) duck for Brody on their first date, and this episode she's a vegetarian. Please, writers of Glee, make up your freaking minds about Rachel's dietary habits.

Kurt, too, is trying to be mature but he's not really feeling it. It takes a talk from Isabelle to make him realise that growing up isn't about leaving people or things behind. In advice that really should have been delivered by Rachel if she's as good a friend as she thinks she is, Isabelle told Kurt that moving on is about acceptance, not forgetting. It's about accepting an apology or having an apology accepted, otherwise the hurt just stays with you and festers.

And so, because of Isabelle, Kurt and Blaine finally got a chance to talk. More than that Kurt finally got a chance to talk. We've seen that Blaine's sorry for cheating, and Kurt has had plenty of communication from Blaine about being sorry, but Kurt hasn't really had his say up to now.

Their phone conversation was an important point in Kurt and Blaine's relationship. Kurt can acknowledge that Blaine is sorry, but he's also able to acknowledge that that may not be enough, and that Kurt has to have time to decide whether he can forgive. And the two acknowledge that they love each other, even though they're not together, and may not be together for a long time (or ever). They acknowledge that they are each other's best friends and that's as important an aspect of their relationship as the romance. They make a date to talk things over properly, like they never have before.

And that discussion, more than skipping around New York, more than not going back home to show your independence, more than hosting a party full of fabulous adults, is what shows us that Kurt is really starting to mature, and that he and Blaine can now start to move on. And it's also one of the best scenes Glee has had in a while. And that's something to be thankful of this Thanksgiving.

Best moments
The musical numbers were a bit hit and miss for me this week. I loved Homeward Bound/Home, because it was great seeing the gang back together, but most of the other numbers didn't really excite me. What was great were the interactions between the former New Directioners, Sam channelling his stripper alter ego White Chocolate (so Glee's writers can remember this but not Rachel's veganism?) and the little comments and reactions from the old current New Directions, especially Artie's quip when Finn says any of the former members of the old gang could be president of the United States one day. Oh, and I loved the stolen Warbler laptop, and the interactions between Brody and Kurt.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Glee recap/review: Dynamic Duets

Glease recap/review

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. 

Best moments
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? 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Glee recap/review: Glease

The Role You Were Born to Play recap/review
"This is just another one of your ill-conceived, bizarrely sentimental schemes and displays absolutely no forethought and appears immediately ridiculous to everyone in America except you."
Is it just me, or do the above words from Sue Sylvester towards the beginning of Glease sum up Glee and its writers? Often the storylines, characters and their motivations make no sense, and I think Glease was one of those times.

Glease revolved around the McKinley High production of Grease, and introduced an eating disorder, saw some of its characters slide backwards into unattractive old behaviours, and continued to elevate Finn as some sort of god among men. 

Let's take Marley and the eating disorder storyline first. In the space of one episode Marley thought her "fat genes" had kicked in and caused her to gain enormous amounts of weight, all because one skirt, ONE SKIRT, didn't fit her properly. What happened to the confident Marley we knew who stood up to the glee kids for being mean about her mum? And while we're talking about her mum, why did she tell her daughter they would both be going on a "special diet"? Seriously, the encouraging mum of episodes past is gone, because in that one sentence Marley's mum managed to call her fat and tell her that she had to change her appearance to get by in the world, despite the fact her daughter is beautiful and healthy.

Marley's burgeoning eating disorder, prompted by the evil Kitty (even Quinn and Santana had redeeming features when they were first introduced, Kitty has none and it's boring), also led to the glee club girls making fun of her during Kitty's rendition of Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee. Five episodes ago, at the end of the first episode of this season, Tina, Sugar and Brittany all realised it wasn't worth being mean and popular, they'd rather have their friends. Suddenly they've forgotten this, and in doing so, forgotten the essence of glee club, which is about friendship and being there for each other.

While Marley was getting increasingly panicked, new boy Ryder was being sweet and lovely. Sue me, I actually like him. He's way nicer than Finn, and way more charming. He at least tried to do something about Marley, noticing something was wrong, unlike her so-called friends. On the other end, Jake is brooding and jealous and Ryder and Marley's budding romance. Er, dude, if you actually spoke to her once in a while and showed you cared, she might like you a bit more.

Marley's bestie Unique had a tough episode. Told that she couldn't be in the school musical because it might put her in danger, Unique became Wade for the entirety of Glease, and looked thoroughly miserable, and not just because he'd lost the role of Rizzo.

In a scene reminiscent of last season's rendition of Constant Craving by Santana, Shelby and Kurt, Santana took to the stage to sing Rizzo's seminal song There Are Worse Things I Could Do, joined by Cassandra and Wade. I think it would have been better without Cassandra, because she's a pretty unsympathetic character in this episode (she's sleeping with Bordy *yawn*), but it was a meaningful moment for Wade, and for Santana.

Talking of Santana, her and Brittany had some sweet moments this week, but I'm not really invested in their relationship. Their break-up was handled well, and I don't feel like I needed to see them discussing aspects of it again.

I may be in the minority, but I thought this episode of Glee was a bit of a mess (in case you can't tell already). I believe in artistic licence and suspending reality a little bit when it comes to films and television, but Glee is a comedy, not a fantasy. There has to be some semblance of realism. I found a series of questions running through my mind during Glease, with my inner voice becoming increasingly irate. Here are a few of those questions: 
  • Much as I love Santana, how on earth is an ex-student allowed to come back and play a starring role in a school musical? 
  • How did Tina, the seamstress, not notice the skirt she’d made for Marley had shrunk by six inches in the course of a few days? Or that all the other clothes she’d made still fit her fine?  
  • How is it okay for Cassandra to speak to a pupil the way she spoke to Rachel?  
  • What makes Rachel think she’s qualified to give advice to a teacher?  
  • In what world is it professional for a teacher to offer a pupil and their friend, both teenagers, their frequent flyer miles? And in what world is it okay for them to accept? 
  • When did Hummel Tires and Lube turn from a small mechanic's shop into what almost resembles a corporation?
  • Seriously, how is Finn allowed to take on an extra-curricular job at a school? Yes, he might only be volunteering, but surely there are checks that you need to pass. Surely there are standards.
  • Do Mercedes and Mike not have classes to go to? How long have they been in Lima? You're not telling me Grease has been put on in a week. 
And that was just the start of my dissatisfaction, because, let’s face it, most of my disappointment lies with the imbalance between Klaine and Finchel screentime. And now we get to the nub of it.

Finn and Rachel spent four minutes discussing how they were broken up. Yes, we know. You’ve been broken up since the last episode of season three, six episodes ago (even though Glee's writers forgot). Why are you still talking about it so much? Move on, I don't care. Nobody cares. You've had the same discussion multiple times. Please stop.

Kurt and Blaine, on the other hand, spent less than a minute talking about their break-up. Their break-up which occurred two episodes ago. Their break-up which was instigated by the fact that Blaine cheated on Kurt. After Kurt deciding he needed to see Blaine, prompting his visit to Ohio, he suddenly decided to completely ignore him, not even letting Blaine speak to him after the musical ended. I don’t buy that. 

I wanted to see some real movement with the Kurt and Blaine storyline, and there was nothing. A 40-second discussion of how Kurt couldn’t trust Blaine, and that was it. Where was the shouting, the accusations, the hurt? Most of it was contained in the looks exchanged by the pair during their first meeting backstage at McKinley, and then when Blaine was singing Beauty School Drop Out. Luckily Chris Colfer and Darren Criss use their faces pretty well (the pain is always in Blaine's eyes even when he's in the background of non-Kurt scenes), so we got a good idea of how Kurt and Blaine were feeling, but when Finn and Rachel get so much time to discuss a break-up that’s been discussed a dozen times before, why should Kurt and Blaine not get one decent conversation?

I don't want Kurt and Blaine back together straight away. They have a lot to work out. As Kurt said, he's lost his trust in Blaine. And while it wasn't mentioned (because nothing was mentioned) Blaine has probably lost some trust in Kurt, because the latter promised he wouldn't leave Blaine behind when he went to New York, and in a number of ways he did (not the moving on with his life and career, but the not calling and not listening). Kurt and Blaine need to talk to be able to move on, even if it's just as friends, or even acquaintances in the short term. And they didn't get the chance to talk. They were cut off in the same way Kurt cut Blaine off as Blaine said "I love you" during The Break Up.

Best moments
I've changed this section from best scene to best moments, since I've been struggling to find an entire scene I've managed to enjoy without getting frustrated. I liked Kurt's interaction with Cassandra, his reactions brought a smile to my face. I liked his acknowledgement of how hard he was taking The Break Up, and his reference to The Notebook. I liked Tina and Mike possibly reuniting (at least one couple I like is possibly getting back together). I sort of liked You're The One That I Want when it morphed into all the old glee club couples, but it also made me a bit sad (Klaine). The strongest musical number by miles was Beauty School Drop Out - as well as Darren Criss using a slightly deeper tone, his embodiment of the role and the glances between him and Kurt, it also had brilliant reactions from Sugar, who looks uncannily like Frenchie from the film version of Grease.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Reading challenge book 16: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Book 16 in my challenge to read one book (I haven't read before) a fortnight in 2012 is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

There was never going to be a chance that I wouldn't adore this book. I've loved every Neil Gaiman novel I've read, and Stardust (which was made into a film with Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer) is one of my favourite books ever.

The Graveyard Book is one of Gaiman's children's books, although that categorisation means next to nothing, since you would never guess this wasn't written for adults.

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a young boy being brought up by ghosts in a graveyard, after a mystery man called Jack murdered his parents when he was a baby. He is under the protection of those that live in the graveyard, but is still being hunted by his parents' killer.

Many of the book's chapters could read as standalone short stories as we follow Bod through adventures including his first meeting with a (real) girl, his getting to know various inhabitants of the graveyard, a trip to the underworld, and his going to school. It's that contrast of things that are firmly grounded in a fantasy world alongside normal, everyday occurances that make The Graveyard Book so appealing and so much fun to read.

In addition to the self-contained stories within chapters, a narrative thread runs subtly through the book, building and building until the climax in the graveyard. And alongside Bod's story we also get to know the fascinating Silas, Bod's mentor and guide in life. There are also a host of other interesting characters who play their part throughout Bod's formative years, and then are crucial when it comes to his survival.

Creepy illustrations by Chris Riddell add to the experience of reading of The Graveyard Book and seeing into Bod's life.

The Graveyard Book is as much a story of growing up as it is a fantasy novel. Yes, Bod lives in a graveyard and is being brought up by ghosts, but in other ways he's just a normal boy - curious about the world around him, interested in meeting new people, always getting into some sort of scrape, and then always getting back out again.

Like Gaiman's Coraline, The Graveyard Book has a dark and disturbing edge. And also like Coraline, even when I was nervous about what was going to happen I just gritted my teeth and carried on reading - and loved every moment of being freaked out.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...