Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Glee: I Kissed a Girl recap/review

"Rule wisely. Rule fabulously."

Before getting into an analysis of this week's episode, I feel we should all take a moment to consider the above quote from Kurt, and use it in our lives.

Glee's episodes tend to be hit and miss these days, and this one, while not as good as The First Time, was definitely in the hit category.

I Kissed a Girl was, at its core, about three things - friendship, acceptance and secrets.

Let's start with the last, although most of the secrets didn't stay secret for long. Using the elections as an obvious metaphor, the episode culminated in a big reveal, of election results, and of secrets.

Some of the secrets revealed may be better off out there, others may cause a great deal of damage. 

Let's start with Santana, whose storyline not only dealt in secrets, but also in friendship. We picked up moments after the last episode ended, with Santana about to be punished for slapping Finn. She was saved only by Finn, who has had yet another personality change (what is going on with him?!) and is this week being intuitive and the best friend a girl could have. It's a little (okay, a lot) out of character, and I'd have preferred Kurt to be the one helping Santana through, but let's overlook the ridiculousness.
Finn stepped up to the plate, heading the movement to let Santana know she has friends who will keep a secret for her, but who would rather she didn't have to, and who accept her for who she is. This was a great episode when it came to demonstrating the friendships between the characters. Seeing everyone rally round Santana was moving, but was saved from being sickly by the usual Santana-like comments ("With all the horrible crap I've been through in my life now I get to add that" - in response to Kurt and Blaine's duet). The boys showed they cared with an emotional rendition of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and the girls rallied round by singing an in-your-face (if inappropriate to the situation) version of I Kissed a Girl. Both showcased different sides of the friendship the group all have in the best way songs could have, although they could have just talked to Santana.

The sweetest scene this episode was between Finn and Santana. Standing at a locker, telling her she means something to him, that he wanted to do everything he could to help her, was so lovely (I'm ignoring the creepy "you were my first" thing). Who thought Finn could be this in touch with his emotions and this clued in? And seeing Santana mellow (slightly) and realise she doesn't have to so bitchy all the time was fun too. Her character is becoming really three dimensional. 

Of course, Santana's secret wasn't a secret from the glee club, it was a secret from her family. Her mum and dad supposedly accepted her, but it was clearly her grandmother whose reaction meant the most, and who disappointed the most. When Santana revealed the truth - that she is a lesbian - her grandmother reacted in the worst possible way, saying it was a secret that Santana would have been better off keeping.

Santana wasn't the only female this week to go through the emotional wringer. Rachel tried to do the best thing for Kurt, and in the name of (mostly) friendship attempted to rig the election for class president. That was a secret which had disastrous consequences, seeing Rachel banned from competing at Sectionals once she revealed the truth. But it was a secret better revealed, as otherwise it would have seen Kurt punished for something he didn't do.

Coach Bieste also revealed a secret this week - her love for Cooter Menkins. This was perhaps only a secret to Bieste and to Cooter, but facing up to a secret about yourself is probably the hardest thing. Again, hers was a secret better revealed. Although it makes her vulnerable, it also gives her a fighting chance for the affections of the man she loves.

The Bieste storyline has now given Sue a new focus. She is back to battling with Bieste, only this time the stakes are high - Cooter. Bieste loves Cooter, so it's easy to see why she would be prepared to fight so hard for him. For Sue, it's clearly just a power struggle, as I refuse to believe she could feel so strongly for Cooter so fast (no, I'm not counting the previous dalliances she may have had with him).

While Bieste, Rachel and Santana were all revealing secrets, Quinn was learning them while also accepting some home truths about herself. She found out about Puck and Shelby's relationship, which this week took a turn for the more disturbing when the two of them slept together. I know I say this every week, but I hate this storyline. It's something out of a bad soap, and has no place here. I can't see it ending well, not with Quinn in a vengeful mood following Puck telling her she's a mess.

It wasn't just the girls suffering this week, some of the boys were working their way through their fare share of heartache.

Kurt suffered yet another disappointment when he lost the election for class president, leaving him to accept the fact that his application to NYADA may not be strong enough to get him. In the meantime, he has the support of Blaine, who thinks he's perfect and supposedly will help Kurt "work something out". Seeing as the application has been sent, I don't see what working anything out now will do. Here's hoping New Directions win Nationals and that's enough to get Kurt in to the university of his choice.

Puck was also going through a gamut of feelings. He was down after his daughter got taken to the hospital following a fall, then high after he slept with Shelby. Then he was low again after Shelby threw him out. And finally, he and Quinn came to an understanding, which he then unknowingly ruined after telling Quinn about his relationship with Shelby. He thinks being rejected is bad...

Of course, there were happy moments. Burt beat Sue to become a member of the US Congress. It'll be interesting to see if this story is carried forward, or if we'll just occasionally hear about Burt doing Congress-type things. And Brittany won the election for class president. This wasn't great news for everyone, but Kurt was magnanimous in defeat, and Brittany's pixie sticks (however you spell them) will no doubt keep people on a sugar high.

As a side theme, this episode was also about feeling special. Santana was made to feel special by her friends, Quinn was told by Puck she doesn't need anyone else - not a man, not a baby - to make her special, and despite losing the election Kurt was told by Brittany he was still the most unicorn of them all.

There were a couple of things glaringly wrong in this episode. The first was a mistake (I think) with continuity. When the scenes on the day of the election start, Kurt, Rachel and a host of others are wearing certain outfits. Then everyone seems to change for glee club, then changes back to vote. Um, what's going on?

The second thing this episode did was bring this question to the forefront of my mind - what's happened to Artie? When was the last time he sang a solo? I honestly don't remember what his singing voice even sounds like. In fact, I don't think he's had a solo this season, which is a travesty. Tina also, hasn't had much to do. Those two will be around next season (if there is a next season) as they're younger than Rachel, Finn, Kurt and co, so maybe it's been decided that they'll have plenty of chance to sing next year. Still, Blaine is also younger, and he's been getting plenty of solos this year. This whole issue needs to be sorted.

There was lots going on in I Kissed a Girl, but instead of feeling rushed, this was an episode that worked, and worked well. I hope this trend continues. 

There's a big divide with this episode and the Glee fans. A lot of people hated it, thought it was condescending and handled Santana and her problems with coming out insensitively. I think it could have been better, as Glee always could, but overall I thought it was a pretty well constructed episode with a lot of strengths. I think the storyline with Santana was handled in a very Santana way. There was plenty of bitching and some inappropriate moments (I Kissed a Girl), which is Santana all over (she loves nothing more than to be bitch at inappropriate times), but there were also quieter, more contemplative moments (Santana and her grandmother), which show another side to Santana.

The music:
Musically, this episode was much stronger than the last. The numbers were a combination of meaningful and fun - both were things most of the numbers from last week's Mash Off (apart from the Adele tunes) lacked.

The strongest two were Perfect (not just because I love Kurt and Blaine), and the final number, Constant Craving.

Perfect was fun and sweet, and the start of Santana letting her walls down. 

Constant Craving was perfect (no pun intended) because it reflected so much so many characters were feeling. It's a song about wanting something badly, a song about being let down, a song about the realisation of truths about yourself. They were all things the characters who sang the song - Santana, Shelby and Kurt - were feeling.

Although Katy Perry is not my favourite, I Kissed a Girl was a great number (aside from slightly trivialising Santana and what she's going through), purely for the expressions flashing across Rory's face. Hilarious. There should be a segment of Rory just reacting to stuff. Apart from Rory's facial expressions, I could have done without this song.

What Glee did well this week:
In a week where so much was going on, Glee managed to keep all the balls in the air. It also showed us the emotional heart of characters like Santana and Finn, something we've been missing for a while (although horrid Finn looks set to return next week).

Next week:
Blaine confronts Finn about his bad attitude, Sam is back, and, oh yeah, it's Sectionals.

Monday, 28 November 2011

American Horror Story: Pilot recap/review

I'm a little late to the American Horror Story party, although considering it's a terrifying party, it's taken me a lot of courage to work my way here.

AHS is the newest offering from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the creators of Glee, and, aside from dealing with outsiders like Glee does, it couldn't be more different.

It has a pretty basic concept - family of three move into a house with a creepy past, and weird things start happening.

Only the weird things aren't creaking stairs, and glimpses of what could be ghosts in the mirror. Instead, there's a housekeeper who looks old to everyone but Ben Harman (Dylan McDermott), an episode in the basement which freaks out teenager Violet Harman (Taissa Farmiga), and a strange neighbour and her daughter who seem to be stalking Vivien Harman (Connie Britton).

The Harmans move across the country to Los Angeles when Vivien catches Ben in bed with one of his students months after she has had a horrific miscarriage. As they try to repair their marriage, daughter Violet tries to work out where she fits (or doesn't).

The previous owners of the house the Harmans have moved into died in the basement in a combined murder-suicide, which should be the first sign this is not a house anybody wants to live in.

The second sign is when Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), a girl with Down's Syndrome, breaks into the house and tells Vivien she is going to die there. Perceptive Adelaide was previously seen in a scene at the start of the episode, years earlier, telling two boys the same thing. They died. Foreshadowing anyone? Adelaide is inexplicably drawn to the house, and has been since she was a child.

But it's not Adelaide that's scary, it's her cruel, kleptomaniac, slightly mad mother Constance (Jessica Lange). She calls her daughter terrible names, steals jewellery from the Harmans and threatens the housekeeper.

Speaking of, housekeeper Moira O'Hara (the brilliant Frances Conroy from Six Feet Under) has looked after the house for years, and goodness knows how many deaths she's seen there, and what else she knows. She looks like a 60-something to most people, but Ben sees her as a flirty 20-something. The house barely takes any time before it starts affecting people and what they see.

Ben is the most vulnerable, perhaps because he is carrying around guilt from betraying Vivien, bringing his defences down. In addition to seeing the maid as a younger version of herself, he also sleepwalks multiple times, ending up in the kitchen where he lights the cooker. The reason for his fascination with fire is slightly explained when he meets a former occupant of the house - a man badly burnt when he set fire to the property, killing his wife and two children. He warns Ben to leave the house, that it will make him do bad things. Foolishly, Ben, a psychiatrist, ignores his pleas and writes him off as crazy. Big mistake.

Meanwhile, Violet is experiencing horror inside and outside of her house. At school she encounters what can only be described as a Mean Girl, one that has irrational moments where she tries to make Violet eat a cigarette and beats her up in the lunch room. As revenge, Violet teams up with one of her dad's patients, the creepy Tate, who convinces her to invite Mean Girl to her house and stage something that will freak her out and make her never so much as look at Violet again. But when Mean Girl and Violet go into the basement, what happens terrifies the two of them, as Tate seems to transform into a monster and attack the Mean Girl.

There are very few moments of lightness in this episode. Every one that I can think of is countered by something dark. When Vivien and Ben take a step forward in their reconciliation it's only for Vivien to later sleep with someone she thinks is her husband (only I don't think it is). That leads to the second moment of lightness, Vivien finding out she is pregnant again, being covered in darkness because we, as the viewer, know the baby might not be (is almost definitely not) Ben's.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is not how and why the house has such powers, but why the Harmans don't move out. Of course, if they did, that would make a short and rubbish television programme, so reality can be comfortably suspended for that query.

Instead, our focus is on what will happen next, what the house can do, why Adelaide can seemingly forsee events, how Constance is connected to the house and a dozen other things. With a stellar cast, I can only hope AHS continues in the same vein as this first episode - terrifying, well-constructed and brilliantly acted.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Battle of the ice rinks: Canary Wharf vs. Tower of London

I've been ice skating more in the last week than I have in the last 10 years, and my aching legs are the evidence.

But despite any aches and pains now, while I was out on the rink I was having a blast. I spent two consecutive evenings trying out two of the rinks on offer in London.

First up was the Canary Wharf venue, which is located in Canada Square Park. It's nestled among the business estate's skyscrapers. A quick glance up and you're looking through the windows of KPMG, HSBC and more.

The rink is pretty small, but serves its purpose. The crowd is a mix of people, but hardly any of those people would be found down at your local ice rink. Rather, the skaters are made up of bankers and lawyers from the city's biggest firms, easily identifiable by the thoroughly unsuitable suits and ties they're still sporting from a day at the office.

Still, it's a fun crowd to skate among, and a fun crowd to watch, even if it is only to chuckle when a slightly cocky banker stumbles while showing off. I'm cruel, I know.

Second up was the Tower of London ice rink, which is slightly bigger than that at Canary Wharf and nestled in the moat just by the Tower.

There's a much more diverse crowd at this rink, everyone from young children (wearing cute roller skate style skates) to older couples and, like us, groups of friends just there for a laugh. The atmosphere is more lively, and with a brass band playing the tunes it feels festive even though Christmas is more than a month off.

It's the atmosphere that marks Tower rink out as the winner in this battle. That, and its surroundings. While there is something beautiful about the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, it's the romanticism of the setting of the Tower rink that really makes the experience.

It's not just the river on one side, the Tower on the other and buildings like the Gherkin within sight. It's the little window in one of sections of the Tower, emitting a comforting orange glow, illuminating the flowers on the ledge. Some days I'd love to be the princess in the Tower waiting to get rescued by a handsome prince.

But on reflection I'm glad I'm actually the girl on the rink having a laugh with her friends.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Glee: Mash Off recap/review

Finn deserved it.

That slap? He deserved it. Somehow, over the course of this season, Finn has turned from a sort of loveable, clueless guy into a complete arse.

Sure, he has had his moments - telling Rory he wanted him to join New Directions, telling Santana, Brittany and Mercedes he still wanted to be their friend.

But then he just negates it all with his other actions. He was mean to Rory before he was ever nice to him. He said nasty things to Brittany, knowing full well what he was saying. He constantly makes snide remarks to Blaine or ignores him on purpose (is that storyline going somewhere?). And this week, in Mash Off, he outed Santana in a hallway in the middle of the school day. Nice work Finn. And then he was completely unsympathetic at pretty the end. See? He deserved that slap.

I don't know why he's become mean, but I don't like it and I don't really like Finn anymore. He's never been my favourite (or anywhere close) but now I just don't like him. I hope he redeems himself in future episodes, as I don't think Finn is a mean character at heart.

So, that slap was really what this episode was all about. It wasn't as good as last week's The First Time, but that was a particularly well crafted episode. Still, Mash Off was also not as bad as I expected, although it was a bit flat.

One good thing was the conclusion of the 'Quinn tries to steal her baby back' storyline, because at least now Shelby knows what she's up to.

I'm also more hopeful about the Shelby/Puck storyline. I'm happy they didn't kiss again, and hopefully Puck's crush will continue to be written as an unrequited crush, and one that he gets over eventually. Please, writers, please don't let this storyline go further down the wrong road.

This week saw a return to the class president storyline. Actually, calling it a return is probably an exaggeration, since it's never been delved into significantly. Still, this week we got to see some speeches, which at least moved that plot point along a little bit. Eventually we'll get to an election, and maybe by then the candidates will have graduated from college.

Anyway, hands up who saw Kurt's policy shift coming a mile away after he helped Rory off the floor? Obvious as it was, Kurt's speech was still very sweet, and totally believable. It was made better still by Blaine's earnest nod and the look on his face, pretty much the only direct indication (outside of the two of them in the background of scenes being couply) that they're closer than ever.

Rachel continued to become a more likeable character for me as she came to the realisation that she's not the best person for senior class president. That character is definitely maturing this season, and I like it.

Running on parallel to the senior class president race is the race for Congress. This whole race is being conducted in a completely unrealistic manner. There's no way any of those ads shown would ever be allowed to run. Ever. But Glee is a television programme, so I will suspend all knowledge of elections and just go with the flow here.

Time did a great piece recently about Sue Sylvester and how she has no purpose in Glee at the moment, amusing as her character is. I see this, and feel it. Sue is still funny, and Jane Lynch is brilliant to watch, but I don't love Sue as much as I used to. It may be controversial, but it's how I feel. It doesn't mean I don't like her, I thought she showed perfect Sue Sylvester-like sympathy towards Santana at the end, and her mocking of Burt is spot-on Sue, it's just not as funny anymore.

Talking of Santana - whew, what an emotional wringer of an episode it was for her. She was the emotional heart of this episode, and much as there were sweet or funny scenes, without Santana this episode would have been dull.

I love Santana, and think she rocks. However, there came a moment in this episode where I  thought she had gone too far in her bitchiness as she "apologised" to Finn. She can be a bully, I don't think there's any doubt about that. It's not right, and it needs to stop. And this week, she didn't just cross the line, she sprinted over it like Usain Bolt doing the 100m. The cliche "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me", has never been more untrue. Santana's words really do hurt people, and as the seasons have progressed they've gone from being funny comments to being mean ones.

But when Finn opened his mean mouth and outed her, I was back to feeling for her and back on her side (although she was still wrong). Finn was pretty much spot on in his assessment that Santana is always so harsh on other people because of how she feels about herself. He just went about telling her the wrong way. 

This week Naya Rivera did a brilliant job showing off Santana's layers. It's easy to see her as a bullying bitch with no substance (which she is a majority of the time), but Rivera shows the love Santana has for Brittany (both romantic and platonic), and the joy she feels at being valued in the Troubletones.

And then, the best bit, she's got a heck of a voice on her. The Adele mash up was the best performance by miles in this episode. Amber Riley's voice was flawless as always, but it was Rivera who stole the show with all the emotion she put into Someone Like You. You could see the feelings - anger, sadness, frustration - building and building throughout the number. And at the end, it all had to come out in a torrent of screaming. 

The music:
I wasn't hugely impressed with the musical numbers this week, but that's probably partially because I didn't know a lot of them, apart from the Adele songs and Blondie's One Way or Another.

I did enjoy the mash up during the dodgeball scene, but that's because it was a fun scene. And while we're talking about dodgeball, let's take a moment to appreciate how athletic a lot of the cast are, particularly Heather Morris with her brilliant no-handed flipping.

I was a bit freaked out by the New Directions mash up. If it hadn't been for the dodgy mustaches, I'd probably have happily bopped along. As it was, I was just spooked.

Compared to last week's emotion and drama filled musical numbers, this week's (apart from Rumour Has It/Someone Like You) seemed a little emotionless and boring. Again, that's probably because I don't know the songs, but I can safely say Glee has done better when it comes to mash ups.

Oh, I just remembered Hot for Teacher. That was alright, made better by Blaine and Mike dancing in the background. Way better.  

What Glee did well this week:
The writers revisited a bunch of ridiculous storylines and either moved them along or brought them to some sort of conclusion. It's comforting they haven't just forgotten about a bunch of plots introduced earlier in the season, or dragged them out for so long that they get more ridiculous.

Also, a little mention for the cute Rachel/Kurt scenes. Their friendship is sweet, and I've spoken lots before about how I enjoy the friendships in Glee.

Next week:
Another flipping hiatus.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Glee: The First Time recap/review

"You take my breath away."

And with that one line Kurt's character sums up what Glee does when it's at its best - it takes your breath away.

It goes from an episode like last week's, where everything was a bit hit and miss, where there was no real character development, where ridiculous plot lines took everything this.

Last week I ranted about the lack of focus on something other than romantic relationships, so it perhaps comes as a surprise that I loved this week's episode, which was almost exclusively about two romantic relationships. The difference is, this week the relationships showed the development of key characters, showed the real challenges facing teenagers and were handled with gentleness, maturity and, thank goodness, a lack of absolutely crazy drama. 

I know everyone's attention was on the "first times" shown (or not) that give this episode its name. I could go on and on about that particular aspect but much of it has been said already, so I'll try and focus on some of the other things we saw and the build-up. Before I get there though, I will say those final scenes were just right and they showed, that with Kurt and Blaine, and with Rachel and Finn, the first time was not about sex, it was about love.

This episode had a lovely, quiet feel. Even the drama was quiet, in the sense that it was real drama - the realisation someone else finds your boyfriend attractive or that your ambition has the ability to hurt people. It was a welcome change from plotting to steal back a baby or dealing with ginger supremacist parents.

In addition to the sex, there were plenty of other first times in this episode: the first time Mike stands up to his dad (thank goodness the writers haven't forgotten about this plot), the first time Finn realises his dreams may not come true, the first time Coach Bieste realises someone sees her as the "pretty" one.

We got to hear from Artie, who gave an emotional speech about being accepted and feeling good about himself, about feeling like a man for the first time. He is one of the many characters we're seeing mature this year, and it's lovely to watch.

Another character who we got to see a mature side of was Tina. For once, she got to say more than two words, and was separated from Mike for an entire scene. And the world didn't end. We got to see and hear Tina sound like she's growing up, and we heard about a side of her and Mike's relationship (the talking) that we usually don't (it's usually all about his abs). 

Among the firsts was the chance to see Karofsky and Kurt interacting outside of the school environment, and as equals. In those brief minutes they spoke, they understood each other. Yes, Karofsky wasn't likeable in most of the previous episodes, but you have to remember he's a scared boy who feels like he doesn't fit in the world he lives in, and he can't handle that the way Kurt can. Seeing him relaxed was nice, and props to Max Adler for acting his socks off there.

Since we're at Scandals (what a horrid looking place that was), I loved Kurt's flounce over to Blaine, showing Sebastian just how powerful and gorgeous he is. And I thought the scene in the car park was handled brilliantly. I felt for both Kurt and Blaine. Yes, Blaine was in the wrong here. He was insensitive, and stupid, and really hurt Kurt. But more than that, he hurt himself just as much, if not more. It was heartbreaking to watch.

Which leads nicely onto the next Kurt and Blaine scene in the auditorium. So perfect. Blaine's pain was clear to see, and Kurt handled it beautifully, drawing Blaine out of himself and letting him know how proud he was. Kurt teasing Blaine about kissing Rachel was cute (see also the earlier scene with Blaine teasing Kurt about his layers), and just showed these boys get each other. 

I now want to see some of Blaine's backstory. There seems to be a lot of pain hidden away, perhaps the hurt when Kurt shouted at him, the need to get a perfect dance move more perfect, and the emotion at being told Kurt was proud of him are signs of something in Blaine's family life? Or maybe I'm too caught up in fandom chat!

Rachel and Finn were also sweet together, although it seems there's less of a connection between them than there is Kurt and Blaine. Maybe that's just the acting?

I loved Finn this week though, I thought we saw a really well-rounded character, and one who's becoming more aware of himself and what's going on around him, instead of living in his sheltered world.

Rachel, too, matured in this episode, and was surprisingly not annoying. At all. This must be some kind of record.

One of the things I loved most was the juxtaposition of scenes in the characters' real lives with their rehearsals and performances for West Side Story

The cleverest was Finn's fist hitting the shower wall before the cast of West Side Story set up for America. Those few seconds went unexplained until Finn told Rachel about failing to catch the scout's eye, and even then I confess I didn't remember it until later when I was rethinking the episode. Much as I love Glee it's rare that it has layers that go unnoticed in a first watch, but this episode had as many layers as Kurt's outfits.

Another of my favourite parts of this episode was that glimpse, just a few seconds, of Kurt running the fingers of one hand over the other after Blaine walked away in the hallway. A clever nod back to the sometimes "the touch of a fingertips is as sexy as it gets" scene from Sexy in season two.

Of course, in addition to the quiet moments there were some great "louder" scenes. First off, the Warblers. I love these guys. I want someone to create a spin-off set at Dalton Academy, mainly focusing on the Warblers dancing around the school, jumping on furniture and doing backflips. In fact, I may start a petition for this to happen. Who wants to sign it?

With the Warblers came new boy Sebastian Smythe, who was taught to flirt at the Joey Tribbiani School of Subtlety. But it was funny, it moved the plot forward, and he's a very interesting character. I look forward to seeing where his story goes, as he's clearly not coming between Kurt and Blaine anytime soon. 

The music:
So, nearly every number was from West Side Story, which is truly a great musical. I did love America, and bringing the Jets in may have been a risky decision, but it worked.

My favourite of the West Side Story numbers was A Boy Like That, because Santana rocks.

The Warblers doing Uptown Girl was brilliant, because I love the Warblers. I will not hear a bad word said about them. Also, I love that so far the only teacher we've ever seen at Dalton is a very attractive librarian-like woman.

There was also some great uses of music not sung by the cast, including Don't Leave Me This Way in the club scene. 

What Glee did well this week:
Everything. There are so many great moments I haven't mentioned: Blaine dancing around his room, all the scenes with Coach Bieste, Quinn and Santana's advice to Rachel, the Warblers going to see West Side Story in uniform (hilarious). The list could go on and on. 

Next week:
The two glee clubs do battle, there is a medley of Adele songs, and the return of the Puck/Shelby plot.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Glee: Pot O' Gold recap/review

It's safe to say Glee crammed a lot into Pot O' Gold, its first episode back after hiatus.

I'll start at the end, with the Shelby/Puck kiss I was dreading. Hands up who saw this coming a mile off? Oh look, everyone's hands are up. 

Surely I am not the only one slightly disturbed by this? Yes, Puck has a thing for older women, but would Shelby really have a moment of weakness just because she's tired? Remember, she was the hard-nosed Vocal Adrenaline coach. She's not a woman to be brought down easily.

I don't think I really want to see where this "relationship" is heading, although I may not have a choice.

This episode also saw the introduction of Rory Flanagan, played by Damian McGinty, the joint winner of The Glee Project. It's a strange introduction, and I'm not sure whether Brittany thinking he was a leprecaun was funny, or just a little bit insulting. Can it be a strange mix of both? Ultimately, he's a very sweet character ("No, I haven't met Colin Farrell yet"; "Would you be my friend, Finn? It would be an honour"), and it's lovely to see him as part of the glee club.

Returning this week was the horrid Quinn who wants her baby back, and will do silly things to make sure that happens. I still stand by my earlier opinion that this is a ridiculous storyline and I plan to ignore it as much as possible.

Santana and Brittany left Mr Schuester's glee club to join Shelby's, which resulted in a brilliant rendition of Candyman with Mercedes. I'm not sure how long having two glee clubs is feasible for, but the Troubletones do rock.

Someone else who rocks is Burt Hummel. Every time Mike O'Malley has a scene he's utterly brilliant, but this episode saw Burt Hummel go to a whole new level of excellence. I look forward to more Sue/Burt confrontations and great quips.

This episode also included constant mentions of Brittany, Rachel and Kurt's presidential campaigns (although I would like to see some actual campaigning being done); Finn feeling threatened by Blaine so being, in turn, a really bad spy, a really bad friend, and just plain mean; and Blaine mentioning yet again "what the Warblers would do" (really unsubtle setting up for the return of everyone's favourite uniformed boys).

Phew, I think that's everything. With such a huge amount of stuff going on, it seems like Glee isn't missing anything out. But it is. (Warning, rant ahead.)
My favourite part of this episode was such a small moment it may have passed many people by. It was the moment when Kurt, Tina and Artie waved and smiled at Mercedes, Santana and Brittany as the Troubletones rehearsed.

My second favourite was Finn reaching out to Rory at the end of the episode and bringing him into the group.

And my third was Finn apologising to Brittany (after being so, so mean) and telling the Troubletones he still wanted to friends.

Those moments showed exactly what I miss about Glee, and what it needs to do more of - storylines that are centred on non-romantic relationships among the glee clubbers.

Where have all the friendships gone this series? Sure, we had a Kurt/Rachel moment in episode one, but that friendship soon disappeared. And when was the last time you saw Kurt and Mercedes, meant to be really close, bonding as friends? When Glee started, sure, there were romantic entanglements, but it was also about friendship.

Fast forward two series, and we get this episode, which contained the following (mostly) romantic relationships to drive the plot forward: a Santana/Brittany/Rory love triangle and a messed up Quinn/Puck/Shelby not quite love triangle. In addition Kurt and Blaine were doing the "we're a couple but Ryan Murphy doesn't want to show it quite yet so he's sitting us four chairs apart" dance, Rachel and Finn were doing the "we're the annoying couple" dance, and Tina and Mike were doing the "inseparable because no one can give us a proper storyline so we're going to practically sit in each other's lap and have that define us" dance.

Artie barely got a look in this episode, because, oh wait, he's not in a relationship. Even Mercedes didn't feature beyond being the catalyst to get Brittany and Santana into the Troubletones, because her relationship is pretty boring.

Bring back the friendships, Glee! I want to see more Kurt/Rachel/Mercedes sleepovers, more Mercedes/Quinn friendship scenes, more of the guys bonding and the girls gossiping.

The end of the episode made a start, with Rory being welcomed to the group, so let's hope it continues.

The music:
Darren Criss as Blaine rocked Katy Perry's Last Friday Night with some great facial expressions and acting. It was also good to see the glee clubbers doing a fun number together.

Mark Salling was great with his guitar on Waiting for a Girl Like You, and I've already mentioned how much I think the Troubletones rocked with Candyman.

But the star this week was Rory. New boy Damian McGinty got to show off his vocal chops, and demonstrate why he was a winner on The Glee Project, by singing Being Green and Take Care of Yourself. The latter was gorgeous, and probably resulted in a few more people than just Kurt Hummel getting tears in their eyes.

What Glee did well this week:
Even if there were too many things going on (which I think there were), at least the team behind Glee remembered all their storylines and didn't just ignore major plot points introduced earlier in the season.

Also great this week was Burt and his rotary club friends, and the angry woman outside Figgins' office. It's the little things.
Next week:
Seriously, do I even need to tell you?!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Glee spoilers - like eating a burger and chips

So, over the past few weeks Glee has been on a "hiatus".

This is despite the fact that the series was only three episodes in before it went on its break. But baseball season or something got in the way, so it had to go off air. 

Anyway, American television scheduling and its utter ridiculousness is a blog post for another time.

This post is all about spoilers - one of the most annoying things the development of social networking has brought with it.

Since Glee has been on hiatus, there are a lot of impatient people awaiting its return, and I am one of them.

Because when Glee comes back, it's not just returning. Oh no, it's returning with some massive storylines. There are new characters causing conflict, old characters returning, and an episode called The First Time.

It's that episode that has been driving the fangirls and boys to distraction on Twitter, Tumblr and any and all other social media.

I stayed firmly away from spoilers for a long time, even though I, like anyone with half a brain who's been watching Glee for two and a bit seasons, could partially guess what the episode is going to be about.

And then, one day, I found myself reading something non-spoilery, but alluding to spoilers, and before I knew it I'd pulled up a new browser tab, brought up Google, typed in a search term and read spoilers.

Oh, it felt good for about 30 seconds, and then I was consumed with guilt and disappointment, guilt and disappointment in myself for giving in.

You see, a spoiler is a bit like having a burger and chips. You sort of know what it's going to be like and how good it's going to taste. Then one day you find yourself irresistably drawn to a fast food restaurant*, and for some reason think it's going to be the place for you to indulge. Before you know it you're scarfing down the aforementioned burger and chips from this fast food place.

It feels good. For about an hour, and then it just feels rubbish. It makes you feel sluggish, and you wish you'd waited to get home and make your own burger and chips, because that would have been tastier and healthier and much more satisfying.

I felt a bit like that after reading those Glee spoilers. I wish I'd just waited for the episode to air, because it would have been so much better.

Yes, it's still going to be brilliant, but half the fun is in the anticipation. And now there's going to be no anticipation. I'm just going to be expecting (not anticipating - there is a difference) certain scenes, and there'll be no surprises.

In the days before the internet was the place you could find out everything, spoilers were much harder to get hold of, and a younger me actually enjoyed reading them when I found them (and then being really mean and spoiling things for my friends - to an unnamed friend, I'm really sorry about telling you how Cruel Intentions ended).

But the older, more mature me understands that anticipation is a great part of life, and that sometimes waiting for something makes it better.

I just wish I'd remembered that before I'd typed those fateful words into Google.

*Insert name of your fast food restaurant of choice here.


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