‘Glee’ Recap (Season 2, Episode 21): Putting the F-U In Funeral

'Glee' Recap (Season 2, Episode 21): Putting the F-U In FuneralDear Glee: blow me. For real. Penultimate episodes of the season are always kind of hard, since the writers have to push the current storylines towards resolution and set up new ones for next season all at once, but for the love of God, did they have to do such a crappy job of it?

It’s not that “Funeral” didn’t have its moments. I’ll say this for all the actors involved, they’ve gotten very, very good at playing these roles even as the roles themselves have deteriorated into crude caricatures of human beings who don’t even behave remotely like real people anymore. It’s a flaw in the writing more than the acting, and it pretty much just undermines how crushingly mediocre the results from this “more story, less songs” plan the creators lined up for this season have been. Let’s be honest: it’s high school. A lot of what everyone goes through in high school can’t be shown on a family program, and most of the other storylines are kind of redundant what with all the teen angst and such.

What I’m trying to say is: there are very few storylines this show could possibly tackle that haven’t been done to death on, say, Saved By the Bell or something. What this show had going for it, more than anything else, was the singing. And it’s taken a backseat to half-baked storylines (The Stamos, anyone?) and repetitive plot twists (to paraphrase a great man, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHO FINN IS DATING!!!). Shame on them, really, because all that’s left for us to do is hobble towards the finish line and hope next season works out better.

And make no mistake: hobble we certainly do. This new episode features Glee’s first character death, and not only does it happen offscreen, but it happens to a character we only really knew on a peripheral level: Sue’s mentally handicapped sister, Jean. Now, I know the obvious counter is that her love for Jean was pretty much Sue’s one redeeming quality, but the obvious counter to that counter is that Sue has plenty of redeeming qualities, first and foremost being that she is an excellent educator who believes in the system. Plus, her love for Jean couldn’t have been humanizing her all that much, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten two seasons of her meddling schemes.

In any case, Jean dies and the shock of it turns Sue into a soft-voiced husk of her former self (well-played by Jane Lynch, here). In her grief, she kicks Becky off the Cheerios because she can’t stand to be reminded of her sister, and enlists the Gleeks to help plan/perform at the service and clean out Jean’s room. The motivation behind that little twist is that 1) Sue won’t have to be left alone with Jean’s things when deciding what to pitch and what to keep, and 2) if the Gleeks are in attendance at least someone will be there to send her sister off.

Throughout this mishegoss, it comes out that Jean’s favorite movie is the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so the Gleeks plan out a crude, if not charming, Willy Wonka-themed service where Jean’s casket is festooned with big-ass mushrooms and a chocolate fountain. Sue breaks down mid-eulogy, and Schuester, in his infinite magnanimousness, sweeps in and delivers the testimonial himself, because him reading Sue’s words is so much more goddamn meaningful than the actual family member’s. Ugh. If anyone does that at my funeral, remind me to haunt their ass for the rest of their days.

In any case, Sue is moved to compassion by the Gleeks’ kindness, like everyone else on this damn show, so she calls off any and all plans to destroy the Glee Club and instead announces her candidacy for the House of Representatives, where she’ll be running on a platform of healthcare reform inspired by the baffling medical bills Jean incured during her lifetime. I give it a week.

B-plots: Jesse St. Trainwreck is the Gleeks’ new official consultant, and he suggests that the Gleeks build their Nationals strategy by structuring their numbers around one really good singer like Vocal Adrenaline did with him the previous year. This leads to an all-out competition where he and Schuester judge the contestants like a reality show. Rachel wins, which everyone else cries foul over, but it doesn’t matter because Schuester overturns Jesse St. Trainwreck and decrees that the Gleeks will return to the strategy that got them to Nationals in the first place: original fucking songs. So it is written, so shall it be done.

Oh, and Finn dumps Quinn for Rachel, who’s back with Jesse St. Trainwreck (fuck y’all), but Quinn has some evil plot in store for them in New York; Schuester is going to Broadway to help with April’s show but he expects to fail spectacularly so doesn’t bother telling anyone; he really does have a whole closet full of vests; Terri somehow comps the Gleeks’ plane tickets as a parting kindness before moving to Miami. That whole League of Evil thing was really worth devoting my time to watching then, yeah? One more week, that’s all. One more week.

The songs:

Amy Winehouse; “Back to Black”: If there is one problem with this cover (and there might only be one problem, it’s so good), it’s that the arrangement is a straight-up redo of Wino’s original, brought down an octave or two to match Santana’s purr. With that said, Naya Rivera’s delivery gives this song its smoldering swagger; she gives what could have been an unremarkable flop some serious legs. A-

http://youtu.be/KErimAvzerA

Gypsy; “Some People”: I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know the first goddamn thing about this play or this song, and my understanding is that it’s actually kind of a boring cover by Mr. Chris Colfer. Fair enough, I can’t say I was moved to toe-tapping throughout the performance, but a catchy melody isn’t really the point of a show-tune. It’s more about the voice, and his is great, but that’s about all this has going for it. B-

http://youtu.be/fg002ZbrIqc

Otis Redding; “Try a Little Tenderness”: Is it bad that, until now, my only contact with this song was when Eddie Murphy sung a few bars of it in Shrek? I think it’s bad. In any case, this cover is like having all of Mercedes’ high notes strung together into one big blast of soul-sister oomph. She hits a little too hard for my taste, really; the vocals are so showy they threaten to engulf the song itself. But then again, Amber Riley doesn’t get a whole lot of moments to shine on this show. Best take what we can get, yeah? B+

http://youtu.be/Z-ttleDqdkQ

Barbra Streisand; “My Man”: Evidently this is a cover of a cover of a cover; the original was an Edith Piaf song called “Mon Homme.” But since it’s Rachel, it’s always best to go with a Babs version if available. Well, I mean, there’s not a lot to say about the delivery; Rachel sings this into an empty auditorium, with tears rolling down her face and visions of Finn dancing in her head. Again. And as much as I complained about this last week, I have to backpedal a bit and say that her voice is the single saving grace for this cover, which otherwise would have just been a repetition of the other ten million frigging times Rachel did this exact same type of thing. But I gotta say, even by Lea Michele’s standards, the vocals here are fan-fucking-tastic. A

http://youtu.be/XcMGtugEulo

Gene Wilder; “Pure Imagination”: The Gleeks sing this Willy Wonka standard at Jean Sylvester’s funeral, and while the stupidity of the scene it’s in kind of takes away from the song (which, while we’re at it, is really quite good), big points to the Gleeks for managing to keep it sentimental for the context, without losing the inherent creepiness of the original version. Plus, extra credit for Artie singing something that wasn’t originally done by a rapper. B+

http://youtu.be/7SoB8d5Dnto

READ: More Faster Glee recaps:
-2×20: “Prom”: Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
-2×19: “Rumours”: Rumour Has It
-2×18: “Born This Way”: Corny This Way
-2×17: “A Night of Neglect”: Nobody Likes You, Either.
-2×16: “Original Song”: Everyone Loses
-2×15: “Sexy”: Sexy Time, Very Nice
-2×14: “Blame It On the Alcohol”: They Be Actin’ Like They Drunk
-2×13: “Comeback”: Biebermania
-2×12: “Silly Love Songs”: A Friggin’ Ohio Lovefest
-2×11: “The Sue Syvester Shuffle”: The Championship Game

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