“100” is that alternate-universe reunion special that came a few years after Glee got canceled young. It brings back most of the old gang, hits its marks, gets out on time. When I saw that the episode was written by the three creators—Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan—don’t tell anyone but I had high hopes for some crazy plotting and weapons-grade snark and probably a Lady Gaga climax spectacular in support of both gay marriage and the Pyrenean desman. Instead it’s just another rote reunion. Even the credits are just going through the motions.
Here’s what you missed on Glee: The glee club is closing because New Directions didn’t win Nationals, and it’s with heavy heart and also a lot of vehemence, psychological manipulation, and cruelty that Sue Sylvester reluctantly cuts the program, makes sure it’s cut, and plans to bulldoze the auditorium herself. So many of the Old New Directions come back for one last celebration, but nobody thinks to put on a benefit performance like Zack Morris did to save The Max. Anyway, one such Old New Direction is Will’s special guest, April Rhodes, who, by way of some soap-opera contract stuff, is actually in charge of what goes on in that auditorium as long as she’s funding it. Yay! But then Sue finds out that April’s assets were frozen because her last john was Bernie Madoff, so glee club is canceled again. Boo! But then Will sheds a tear thanking the New Directions past and present in the auditorium, and maybe it’s the Cory Monteith plaque, but I find it a genuinely moving bit by Matthew Morrison, and that inspires April and Holly, sitting in the rafters like drunk angels, to save the glee club after all. Yay! To be continued.
Is it the writing or the performance or both—and probably some bad editing considering the cuts we wound up with—that make pretty much every line out of Kristin Chenoweth and Gwyneth Paltrow sound like Dr. Phil stretching for folksy metaphors? April’s basically a heckler at a museum, which is a breath of fresh air in my book. If this is about remembering glee club as it was, then April giving Kurt and Blaine wedding flasks (to dull the pains of wedding night sodomy and divorce a couple months later) is a lot more on-point than Rachel confessing to Mercedes that she always thought of them as a duo or Quinn telling Puck she admires his newfound confidence. (“Newfound”? That makes no sense—he’s always been cocky.) I mean, did the writers even try to remember how the characters behaved in high school? But April’s twang is as overblown as her dialogue, and she rubs off on Holly, who isn’t even country. Meanwhile, Paltrow looks like she’s reading cue cards. Watch her eyes when she takes seven hours to spit out, “This hot bitch is not looking in the rear-view mirror. She’s looking forward.” It ought to be a goddamn power line. Instead she hobbles into her rendition of “Happy.”
For all the reunions, only three pairs really matter. Rachel and Mercedes decide to have one, fourth-last diva-off to settle once for now who’s the biggest diva of New Directions ever, all rules, including the aforementioned finality of this contest, subject to change. Quinn is dating an old money Yalie snot named Biff McIntosh who doesn’t know about her phase-heavy past, and Puck is all cleaned up and in uniform now, and apparently he still loves Quinn. And Brittany is a math-slave at MIT, so Santana is trying to reawaken her creativity, the two being mutually exclusive. Long story short: Your high-school romance is the only one that will ever fulfill you. As April tells Kurt and Blaine, whom I’ve already over-mentioned considering their importance to this episode, “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: The one thing this country needs more of is teen marriage.”
The implication doesn’t rankle nearly as much as the execution. Brittany and Santana’s big romantic scene—well, the one in dialogue, anyway—involves sitting off to the side in some empty classroom. Absence should make the heart grow fonder. How did this top-two couple get so drained of energy? Biff is a total clown, but also he’s not a New Direction and Puck is, so that makes it pretty easy to exclude him. It’s all so tepid.
The musical numbers get no reprieve. The reason glee club is over according to Sue is “Will Schuester’s profligate spending and his penchant for staging elaborate private bacchanalia replete with extravagant scenery and costumes not seen since the reign of Caligula.” So why are these so plain? Not all of them. The rightful Cheerios stage “Toxic” as an imaginary, steamy, “Cell Block Tango”-style dance of arms and tightly controlled physicality. The rest are checking off boxes, for better or worse. I love the cutaways to the Cheerios singing together during “Raise Your Glass” and Will leading—I want to say their names are Ryder and Jake—in a trio dance. If all these songs are is a bunch of people jamming together, then those moments of life, those bits where you see a character’s personality informing his actions during the number, are what sell it.
“Valerie” is the best, because something’s actually happening. Santana hijacks the glee club—a tradition, she appreciates—by singing this to Brittany to help stir some of her dance memory. Over the course of it, Santana reenacts Brittany’s dance with Mike, Brittany reenacts some of Santana’s vocals from that same number, and at the end, they wind up dancing together. Now, that’s Glee making the most of its own history. Sure it’s nice to see Kurt redeem himself on “Defying Gravity,” but if we’re going to have another montage diva-off, couldn’t we at least see something new and exciting? I’m falling asleep over here.
- And still after all that, that preview has me on the edge of my seat for next week. I’m a sucker.
- Brittany: “I need to focus on what I’m good at, quantitative algorithms.”
- At least the writers remember the old Quinn: “I am trying to present myself in a particular way.”
- In “Defying Gravity” there’s a profound disconnect between the lip-syncing and the audio. Not continuity-wise, necessarily, but it doesn’t at all play like those people are singing, and I could swear there was some Chris Colfer in Rachel’s performance.
- Oh, Puck leads a performance of “Keep Holding On” for Quinn. She cries, because “in a couple years we’ll forget all of this.” “That’s why you gotta keep holding on to your past.”
- Santana challenges Rachel to prove that she doesn’t think she’s above the New Directions by seeing if she can name Ryder. “…Rick.”
- Holly glides into the classroom. “April, thank you for buttering the floor for me. You know I like to make an entrance.”