Tonight’s Glee episode, simply titled “Funeral” was simply moving. This is a good example of an episode that didn’t overstretch us with guest stars and stunts and zany antics to the point of over-stimulation. Instead, it focused its emotional energies on love and loss, centered around the sad passing of Sue’s sister Jean. At the same time, it allowed many of our characters to re-examine some of their own dilemmas and start new chapters in their lives. All in all, I would say this was a very satisfying Glee that nicely set the stage for a dramatic conclusion next week at Nationals.
When Becky is let go from the Cheerios, Will and Glee Club quickly learned that Sue had her reasons for firing her beloved assistant: Sue’s sister, Jean, who also had Down Syndrome, passed away the day before and Sue therefore couldn’t face Becky. A subdued and hurting Sue still slung out some of her typical put-downs, but it was clear that these were coming from a place of pain and anger over her loss. Despite their many, many differences, Will wanted to be there for Sue and so did the Glee Club. Finn and Kurt (or Herman and Eddie Munster, as Sue called them) especially reached out to Sue since they have each lost a parent. Finn stepped up as a leader and urged them all to help with funeral preparations.
The funeral itself was extremely touching, as Glee learned that Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory had been Jean’s favorite movie. The magical décor and the singing of “Pure Imagination” were truly appreciated by Sue. I never would have imagined that song for a funeral, but wow—it really was perfect to celebrate Jean’s life. Pretty much everyone got choked up, and Sue’s loving speech (recited by Will when Sue could not go on) even made Finn realize (finally!) that his relationship with Quinn was not based on love. He ended things in the parking lot after the service, which seems odd to write, but strangely it made a lot of sense.
The episode wasn’t all sadness, though, as the preparations for Nationals heated up. Honestly, this plotline was so not necessary since it has been done time and time again: everyone argues over who the featured soloist should be and Will makes them compete, only to eventually decide “we are a team, damnit!” However, the difference in this case was the involvement of Jesse St. James (or Jesse St. Sucks as Kurt calls him). Obviously Jesse knows how to rile up all the Glee members with his condescending approach and power trips. But, he was good for several laughs in that he spoke of his UCLA college course in judging reality show competitions. Sadly, I bet these classes are close to actually existing, if they don’t already.
We did get a lengthy string of pure performances from Santana, Kurt, Mercedes and Rachel as they each auditioned and were critiqued by Jesse. While they all have awesome voices, there really is a reason why Mercedes and Rachel are the battling divas of the group—each is truly a powerhouse in their own right. By the end of the night, we got some important decisions not just about Nationals, but in some character arcs that have been playing out since season one. Terri decided to fix Glee’s sabotaged flight through Libya (yes, Libya) and get the Glee Club bumped to First Class for their trip to NYC. She also finally told Will she is moving on and taking a job in Miami…which means, goodbye Terri! Sue told Will “Good Luck” and for once genuinely meant it. She also informed him that she is done messing with Glee (is this to be believed?) because she now has bigger fish to fry: she plans to run for the U.S. House of Representatives as a way to fight for better health care in honor of her sister. I hope that the show actually goes through with this development! I think it could finally give Sue something else (that is both meaningful and hilarious) to do.
Of course Will ultimately decided that Glee is at its best when performing as a true team…so original songs it is! I love how Glee can not only write but learn and choreograph entire original numbers in one week, but such is the power of television. Among the poignant moments tonight we got a little dose of funny:
- “I am lactating with rage!” (Sue to Honey Badger regarding her lack of villain skills), right before naming Terri’s Asian former co-worker “Panda Express”
- Jesse trying to get New Directions to push themselves hard, because “Vocal Adrenaline is already on IV drip in their preparations—and if someone keels over they use them as a prop like Weekend at Bernie’s.”
- Jesse not accustomed to this amateur way of judging performances at McKinley, since normally right after a critique “we would go to commercial break and have our make-up retouched.”
- Brittany asking Jesse to come on her “Fondue for Two” web show to judge her cat.
Next week is the big finale in NYC and we are being set up for a big decision for Will and a potential sabotage by Quinn. It seems that Will is secretly planning to stay in NYC to work on Broadway for the summer—with Emma supporting his dreams and love of Chandler Bing sweater vests. Meanwhile, a rejected Quinn may try to seek revenge from within Glee Club. So which do you prefer: the more emotionally draining episodes or the more outlandish episodes?