Glee: Sectionals

Ah, the midseason finale, otherwise known as “the episode in which Will gets everything and the story is wrapped up with a neat little bow.” Which brings me to wonder what we will be coming back with when Glee returns, which will hopefully be…never. (I kid, I kid, I can barely wait until it comes back from hiatus!) This is going to be a quick review, just pulling my thoughts together a bit because I believe that Anna and I are doing a bigger writeup over at FWD later, so consider this abstract thoughts more than anything else.

Seriously, did anyone notice that Will got…everything he wanted? This was the episode in which his trampling on others finally paid off, and perfect, martyred Will got to Beat Sue, take the glee club back, and Get the Girl. So, let’s examine things a bit.

Beating Sue: Will finally got to out Sue’s machinations which had been going on throughout the season, and the other show choir directors were even shamed into confessing about the cheating with the set list. Which set the stage for one of the most awkward and bizarre scenes I have ever witnessed, in which Will got to sit smugly in the principal’s office watching Sue get her dressing down. That seemed to be part of a theme of this episode, which was also “the episode in which the ladies get their comeuppance.” Can you imagine, for a moment, how humiliating that would be in real life, to be hauled in for punishment and to have your chief rival witness it?

Taking the glee club back: Of course, we knew that this had to happen because of the structure of the show. Will selflessly took the fall of the glee club’s mistake last episode, so of course he regains control with this episode, as part of the larger Vindication of Will plot. And of course the glee club welcomes him back, the conquering hero, with a special number they prepared just for him. (During which, as Anna pointed out, he looked incredibly bored.)

Getting the Girl: Ah, yes, let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about the scene in the bedroom in which Will’s mentally ill wife tells him that she’s seeking out counseling, abases herself, tries to make herself as pathetic as possible, all the hopes of getting that real prize back. And Will rejects her to hurry to Emma. Dressed in virginal white, of course. I’ve been hating the characterization of Terri all season, and I’m still on the fence. She’s either a really well written mentally ill character (and it bears noting that people are more likely to abuse women with mental illnesses), or she’s a total mess of a stereotypical manipulative woman character, and the writers just completely missed the whole mentally ill angle.

The women of Glee in this episode. Sigh. Oh, so much sighing. Let’s start with Rachel, who once again got to be the star, rescuing the Glee club in the process. She is not the better singer. They’re just setting her up that way. Of course Mercedes couldn’t perform a ballad on the fly to save the club! Rachel needs to be the center of attention.

And, of course, Rachel gets there by stomping on others, by being ruthless and cruel. As seen in the scene in which the Second Unmasking of the Deceiver happens, and Quinn is outed as the lying, deceitful sneaky mcsneakerson that she is. Which Quinn proceeds to thank Rachel for, with a reference to “bravery.” There’s nothing brave about disclosing private information about someone else to try and steal her guy. Rachel didn’t risk anything by doing it. And, of course, Finn had to respond with violence, because that’s what the heroic men of Glee do! They get violent when they realize that teh ladiez are all liars.

We also had the gay quotient upped this episode, with the obligatory titillating bicurious cheerleaders. Of course, it’s safe for them to come out, unlike Kurt, and it will also be safe to display their sexuality on screen, unlike Kurt’s. I assume that this will become a bit of a running gag on the show, perhaps in part to distract us from the fact that Kurt is basically not allowed to be sexual. “But see, we have gay people!”

I don’t really want to go into the sectionals performance that much. It was incredibly painful and troped; look at the underdog club with their Handi-Capable bus inspiring the audience to sing and dance! But, think on this; why did they not show the Deaf choir performing? Why did they, instead, show the audience reacting with hankies? (A throwback to all the obsequious praise in the media after “Wheels” from people saying that they “bawled” at the “inspiring” scenes with the Deaf choir.) We saw song and dance numbers with everyone else, but the Deaf choir, apparently, was not worth watching.

Which seems pretty par for the course, for Glee. Ultimately, the white able people get everything, including the focus. This was really brought home to me early in the episode, when the choir was seated during practice and I realized that all of the white people were on one side, and Artie and the people of colour were on the other. This separation persists throughout the series; the characters are not fully integrated and do not feel like a whole group because they are consistently divided. From Very Special Episodes dedicated to specific minorities because their plot lines are too unimportant to flow naturally through the series, to blatant segregation on screen as seen when Will and Sue were codirecting the glee club. And this show won a diversity award.

There was one high note in this episode; what was probably intended as a throwaway line from Sue, in which she scathingly tells Will “you’d never hit a woman, would you?” This makes her, to date, the only character who has called Will out for abusing his wife. Funny how Sue was the only one who could do that.

Edited to add: You can also check out Laura’s review of “Sectionals” at Adventures of a Young Feminist!

8 Replies to “Glee: Sectionals”

  1. And OF COURSE Mercedes was going to perform “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” what OTHER ballad would a fat black girl perform? And the girls from the correctional school, who were mostly girls of colour, had a highly sexualised dance routine, and in the end, it was the straight white male lead who saved the day for the glee club. Gee, thanks Finn. *eyeroll*

    Looking forward to the post on FWD!

  2. Yes to all of this. I tend to think of Terri more as a stereotypical, manipulative, horrible female character, but there have been a few times when the show has obfuscated the issue. Such as last night, when she said “I’m sorry I let my anxiety get the better of me.” Because having anxiety is a personal failing, and we all could overcome it easily if we just had enough willpower.

    The wheelchair dancing was even more bothersome here than it was in the first episode, I thought, because ALL of the Jane Addams girls were in crip drag. Not cool. Of course, that’s technically the case for the William McKinley Glee club as well, considering that Kevin McHale is only pretending to be a wheelchair user. And the representation of the Deaf choir was full of fail, again.

    And calixti, I so agree on “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Such a stereotype. Because that’s the only song fat Black women can perform, apparently.

  3. I suspect they didn’t show the Deaf choir performing because they made their performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” intentionally (and unrealistically) bad and played it for laughs, and showing the performers would humanize them and make the audience feel bad about themselves.

  4. I have to say I was really disappointed that things turned out so well for Will in the end. I think Glee has been sort of torn with whether it wants to be an occasionally biting but overall heartwarming show, or whether it wants to be a show that parades as heartwarming and happy but is, at its core, very dark and even vicious. I’m hoping that the reason things wrapped up so neatly was because (I assume) that episode was written before they knew for sure whether they’d get a full-season order, and thus they wanted to be able to end on a high note if they didn’t get to continue, and that in the spring we see, for example, things not going happily ever after between Will & Emma so easily, Sue coming back more evil than ever, and Will messing up in a way that other characters acknowledge (I also really hope we haven’t seen the last of Terri, because despite my problems with the way they write her, the actress who plays her is AMAZING and I would happily watch her do just about anything.)

    Because here’s the thing, for me: some of the stereotypes I find problematic (Mercedes is the big one here, just because I don’t get what they’re going for by making her so stereotypical; it’s not even like, over the top enough to be played as ostensible satire), and suspect I will continue to do so, but I am actually overall okay with the fact that all the women on the show fall somewhere between conniving and sociopathic, because all of the men have their major failings also, and I’m actually happy to watch a show populated entirely by dysfunctional and sometimes even cruel people. I enjoyed (well, maybe that’s not the word), for example, the scene with Finn beating up Puck, because it was really frickin intense and because I don’t think the show was portraying that as the right call, just a believable one (which I think it really was).

    So in other words, if Glee decides to be unapologetically dysfunctional, vicious, and sad, then I’m on board. but if it continues portraying as genuine its not-really-earned heartwarming moments, I’ll be disappointed (but still watch because yay! song and dance numbers!). I’m cautiously optimistic that it’ll be more upfront about its darkness in the spring, because I actually think it was developing that trend (with things like the Will/Terri scene from last week’s episode, and also the fact that last week’s episode used as the FINAL SHOT the yearbook getting defaced, and before that Quinn getting thrown out of her house – that was NOT a development I would have expected from the show I thought it was going to be after the first episode) and then backtracked in this episode because, again, if they got cancelled they wanted to have an ending that felt like an ending. But we’ll see.

  5. I read an interview with the actress who plays Terri and she’s coming back in the spring, but I don’t know in what capacity.

  6. I found it disturbing that Brittany said, “If [sex was] dating, then Santana and I would be dating,” in a way that implied that meaningful same-sex relationships are out of the question. That lesbian sex is only for the experimentation phase, and nothing else. Ugh.

    (I didn’t think Will looked bored, but more like the lyrics were making him think of someone else– which, I think, a lot of people can relate to.)

    It was awful that Will didn’t want to try couples counseling– they obviously had communication and trust issues. Love is hard work, which he apparently didn’t want to deal with. He didn’t care to find out why she felt like she had to lie, and she ended up blaming herself and trying to do all the work to keep the marriage alive.

  7. Also, I don’t think Sue was even aware of what Will had done– Will had only said he slept in the office because of his shaky marriage in the previous episode. I think Sue’s line was more or less reaffirming his Good Guy status. It’s telling us that hey, Will’s still a good guy because he didn’t actually hit sneaky, manipulative Terri. Because, of course, it’s not domestic abuse unless someone gets hit.

  8. My issues with “Glee” were growing all season, but ‘Sectionals’ was, like, a cornucopia of Fail that made me realize that whatever pleasure I got out of the musical numbers was vastly outweighed by all the ways in which the show made me so completely angry from week to week. In fact, I found this blog (and FWD) largely because I was looking for critiques of the show that addressed the ways in which it fails when it comes to race, gender and disability. ‘Sectionals’ was pretty much everything about the show that infuriates me and nothing about the show that mitigates how infuriating it is (even the musical numbers weren’t that appealing, particularly because of the way they were All Rachel and/or Finn, All the Time).

    If the season as a whole hadn’t worn me down, I think I could be optimistic like Isabel above that maybe the point of the show is that most of the characters are supposed to be horrible, awful people. But I’m not convinced that’s really where we’re headed. I don’t think that “Sectionals” *had* to end with Will getting everything he wanted just because it might have been the final episode; there’s plenty of stories, in literature and pop culture, that gain their power from the fact that they end with the hero/protagonist in ruins. In a lot of ways, this is exactly why “Glee” is so frustrating to me — every time I want to believe that Will’s going to get his comeuppance, or that the minority characters will become fleshed-out focal points for the storytelling, the show hits a reset button at the end, with Will a hero and all the straight, white, able-bodied characters still the central emotional focus. Thirteen episodes is plenty of time to establish a series’ actual M.O. And the M.O. for “Glee” is something that makes me miserable more often than it makes me smile.

    Thanks for pointing out why that is.

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