When I was in high school, we went on high-alert or something one day because there was a shot fired, maybe three, at the junior high. It turned out that one of the teachers, an infamous hard-ass, had fired a gun in her classroom before school had started that morning. Then, a few hours later, she reported that someone shot a gun in or at her classroom, which was a barely-walled one-room annex. She was eventually fired with a criminal trial pending, and that’s the last I heard of it. What’s weird is that no gun was ever recovered from the incident. Looking into it now, I can’t find any word on the result. What I can find is the complicating fact that on the day of the shooting, three students made a video talking about how they hated her and discussing a gun that they were going to bury. From what I gather, they were talking about the gun. The video was brought to the police by one of their parents. I can’t imagine such a video would not have been investigated, but I can’t find any information online about what happened to either the teacher or the students after that. The teacher has always protested her innocence. I’ll never know if she fired the gun or not, but I’ll remember until I die that “Shooting Star” is trash.
See what I did there? I invoked a real-life campus gun incident in Texas, a joint effort of yeehaw regulation and low mental-health care, all so I could make some trivial point. But I sure was emphatic. That’s what “Shooting Star” is. However it all turned out, and we’ll get to that, for 20 minutes, we’re stuck in a dark choir room watching teenagers cry, fail to make contact with their loved ones outside, and record their final messages for their parents, all so that they could ultimately come together and live for the day and say what they need to say. Maybe it’s hypocritical to draw the line here, after all the cancer patients and domestic abuse and that “Gangnam Style” routine eaten up by the Glee machine and spat out in some thick glob of well-directed schmaltz. But here I am stamping my foot and bellowing into the night. There are some things that are bigger than Regionals.
Oh, I cried, all right. I bawled my eyes out at every cut to poor Brittany sitting there alone and scared in a bathroom stall. I probably would have done so even if that wasn’t Brittany but Vanessa, some student I just made up. I cheered for Will and Beiste physically restraining Sam and going through the PSA spiel about how he’d be endangering everyone in that room if he went to check on Brittany. I scratched my head about Will leaving anyway, but only after I stopped crying upon her hugging him. It’s an intense, emotional episode. It would really be something if it weren’t. Pardon the expression, but if shooting fish in a barrel were an Olympic sport, “Shooting Star” would compete against those Sarah McLachlan ASPCA ads and people who make fun of teenagers for not liking Spring Breakers. (In happier news, Heather Morris’ appearance in Spring Breakers has me hoping to see more from her on the big screen as long as it’s not at the expense of a New York Glee spinoff.)
It’s the cheapness that nauseates me. The teachable moment plotting and the exploitative camerawork. This show is unforgettably marketed as The School-Shooting Episode, and every other shot is designed to make you squirm: The sudden, desaturated swirly dolly on Brittany; the front-lines documentary shots; a glimpse of Beiste’s date through a rack, as if someone’s watching. When Ryder storms off from his friends, depressed and alienated, and then is missing from the next glee rehearsal, the “twist” starts to look grim. Even the ghostly long shot that hovers around the characters in that immaculately composed classroom scene is setting the mood. Yes, that’s it. It isn’t just that “Shooting Star” turns a school shooting into another empty inspirational card. It’s also that it spends so much time stylishly setting the mood for a school shooting. Will locks up after work alone and actually whistles down the halls! Tell me that isn’t some contrived fucking suspense. This isn’t M, and it isn’t Elephant. There isn’t even an actual shooter.
A school-shooting episode certainly shouldn’t be off-limits for a 21st-century high-school show, and I actually believe that this electric boogaloo could pull it off, could find some smart, creative way to dramatize an emergency. Glee, being half-PSA anyway, goes didactic in a way I don’t actually mind, not just in the educational-video sequences about What To Do When but also in the scene where Sue lays out some of the arguments surrounding the proliferation of guns and the rise of public shootings in America. Naturally, even that scene eventually turns. Sue was just protecting a student. One who brought a gun to school.
Apparently “Shooting Star” is what someone came up with when Jane Lynch asked to leave the show. (I don’t actually know the production details. I just know that this episode looks like an “innovative” way to write out a regular character.) She gets a noble exit, and nobody but Jane Lynch could have played that resignation scene so well. It’s another elaborate, ridiculous story about how she covered up the gunshots, but Lynch drains the outlandishness perfectly. Figgins says his hands are tied, that there are zero-tolerance policies. No problem, Sue. Come to Texas.
- I mean, the title pun alone.
- More progress on the pedophile front! After Ryder serenades a girl he thinks is “Katie” with an Elton update I’m calling “Yr So-o-ong,” she tells him that she’s not the person he’s been chatting with. “Oh my God, someone’s catfishing you. It happened to Manti Te’o.” Oh, honey.
- Speaking of which, Ryder just accepts that Not Katie knows who he is like he’s some kind of local celebrity. Ugh, that kid.
- It doesn’t translate, but this one, very specific line reading of Matthew Morrison’s had me cracking up. After Beiste tells him she boiled their spaghetti in the hot-tub to achieve the perfect al dente, he says, “All right,” like he’s trying not to vomit.
- Yes, on top of the school shooting fiasco, there are some other stories. In one, Ryder tries desperately to figure out who’s catfishing him because he loves her even though he doesn’t know her. In the next, Brittany repeats her storyline from Christmas, which was eight episodes ago. In another, Beiste reminisces about that time Will made her lovable by platonically stealing her kiss virginity and gives us the sequel, where she wants him to love her and he makes an online dating profile for her. Yeah, just F-material all around.
- Brittany gives Becky the moral of the story, yes, the moral of the school-shooting incident: “If you really prepare yourself, the world won’t seem like such a scary place.”