Glee‘s mid-season opener is friendly enough, with lots of drama and some truly impressive musical numbers, but despite the music, fans are once again finding these beloved characters falling back on bad habits and hysterics. Though it finally started to feel like Rachel was actually finding herself in New York, after four tumultuous years at McKinley and the loss of her first love, Finn Hudson, she’s hit a new low. Watching her slap Santana across the face prompts flashbacks to the time Rachel sent Sunshine Corazon to a crack house so she wouldn’t be able to audition for Glee. While Santana probably should have tempered Rachel by letting her know she planned to audition, one can’t really blame her for wanting to avoid Rachel’s wrath twice over and she is also in rare form this week, slinging every possible insult. Perhaps having those two tolerate each other really is too much to ask. Regardless, there is a lot of really funny dialogue between them.
While we are talking about the crazy which has taken over the glee club of past and present, can we talk about Tina for a second? Why do they keep falling back on this particular character flaw? Tina truly is the biggest b*tch in McKinley right now and even though she has always managed to wiggle back into everyone’s good graces, it is frustrating to see her falling into her self-set traps. Flip flopping from vulnerable at her auditorium lunch with Artie to knocking her wheelchair-bound classmate to the ground during a very aggressive dance battle diva-off in a matter of hours seems, well, bipolar.
Adam “Starchild” Lambert, please never leave. Kurt’s seemingly ill-fated band, Pamela Lansbury, can’t fail because we all need Elliot’s sweet riffs gracing our speakers on a weekly basis. Kurt feels very much in character, playing into his tendency to panic and turn into a control freak while still managing to act as the peacekeeper and a confidant to his friends. Finally we are seeing a friendship between two gay men that is a) not a hookup and b) mutually beneficial. Despite the rocky start and awkward heart to heart, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” proves both these young men have the talent and range to do something awesome.
Despite the dramatics running high, all the songs are pretty great. Between Artie and Tina serenading each other with “Whenever I Call You Friend” and Rachel and Santana’s fierce version of “Brave”, with a sprinkle of rock and roll provided by the Elliott/Kurt “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” duet, the audience isn’t left wanting for much, musically speaking.
The characterization, however, continually falls back on crutches instead of actually developing our leads into dynamic and semi-believable people. As ever, the somewhat shoddy writing is propped up with a slew of well-executed musical numbers, which will always be the heart of the show. At its core, Glee is a platform for using music as a means of story-telling and this episode accomplishes that, with a stripper pole and ample air guitaring.