Glee, Season 1, Episode 22 “Journey”
Fact: I’m one of the biggest Journey fans you know, so it’s easy to see why I appreciate Glee’s love affair with Steve Perry and Co. The pilot’s use of multiple Journey hits (among them the criminally underused “Separate Ways”) hooked me early, and the season one finale had me nearly frothing at the mouth by using the band’s name as the title of the episode. But I must say - even with the medley during Regionals, I was slightly disappointed with the lack of Journey songs. [Note - my disappointment stems from a selfish wish to see the group tackle a 45 minute Journey concert with no regard for standard storytelling practices, so take this mini-review with a grain of salt.]
While the series has taken a bit of a dive recently with the Gaga-infused “Theatricality” and the uninspired “Funk” airing last week (one of the season’s low points, in my opinion), “Journey” returned the series to its soaring highs and reminded us - and capitalizing on every opportunity to go over the top - how much fun this show can be when it loses all inhibitions and just goes for it.
I was as surprised as anyone when the Regionals performance came 12 minutes into the episode, as I naturally expected it to come near the end. “Faithfully” was great - boy, that Lea Michele has got some freakin’ pipes - but the rest of the mashup (“Any Way You Want It,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” “Don’t Stop Believin’”) didn’t match the intensity of the initial performance and left me a little unaffected. It was fun to rock out to some Journey, but I think they wasted an opportunity to explore some stuff that we haven’t heard yet (“Be Good to Yourself” seemed like the obvious choice). Finn and Rachel’s reconciliation was fitting with the finale nature of the show. Of course we all expected something like that to happen (ditto with Will and Emma), so I don’t feel the need to discuss those aspects further.
But the structure of this episode was well-conceived, allowing for the borderline brilliant piece of television that featured the birth of Quinn’s child edited against Vocal Adrenaline’s rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I call it “borderline” because I think it walked that line a bit too tightly and tipped over into some iffy territory at some parts, which - naturally - I’ll spell out for you now.
[Quick note: during the Journey medley, I told my friend that if I were a judge, I would preemptively award New Directions first prize based on song choice alone, and tell everyone else to go home without performing. I quickly amended that statement with, “unless, of course, one of the groups did a Queen medley, in which case I’d listen to it, and then award New Directions first prize anyway.” As you’re well aware by now, this exact situation almost came to pass, so I just thought it was funny and semi-prophetic.]
My problems with the “Bohemian Rhapsody” piece are with more than the drawn-out and uninteresting choreography of Vocal Adrenaline: I feel like the introduction of Quinn’s mom (who we haven’t seen in FOREVER) was included exclusively so the cutting back and forth would make sense with Quinn shouting “Mama!” along with the song lyrics. These types of touches are typically kind of cute in this show, but this one was a bit overkill for me. The editing was pretty great for the first half of this performance/birth, but at some point near the halfway mark, it lost its mojo and became too cliche for its own good. This is the balance that the show itself strikes on a weekly basis - it’s so cheesy that sometimes it heads into after-school special territory, but can occasionally turn out a great episode that feels confident and coherent.
Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester’s one liners were a thing of beauty this week, comprising some of the best writing for the character in the series so far. Her confidence in New Directions has been hinted at for a long time now, and for those who claim the first place vote for the Glee club was out of character, the writers came up with a creative way to answer those cries: have Sue be mistreated by the other “celebrity” judges, and play on her self-esteem and spitefulness. Personally, these were my least favorite sequences in the episode; I assume this is partly because of my utter indifference toward Josh Groban and my disgust with Olivia Newton-John and her general demeanor. Also: how is the news anchor any more of a celebrity than Sue Sylvester? At least Sue has won multiple national titles and is a known personality in her niche; Newton-John neglected to mention the anchor would also “stay in Ohio” after the performance was over, undercutting the entire point of her argument.
I’ve also decided that Principal Figgins is one of the most inept characters in the history of television. Blackmail or not, the guy never does anything but sit and listen to Will and Sue argue week after week. Get him out of the picture - he’s useless.
And considering this show’s propensity for breakneck pacing, I’m surprised and pleased that the writers chose to show a bit of restraint in this season finale. I worried that the epic nature of a finale meant they might amp it up and “out-Glee” themselves, but the showrunners wisely took the opposite approach: relationships were left unfixed (or at least, un-finalized; see: Will & Emma, Finn & Rachel), and they didn’t bother going through every character in depth to get a sense of resolve from each of them. Instead, they focused on the major character relationships that have been brewing all season and relegated the others to a series of small montage moments, a move that I found discouraging at first (since I generally like the secondary characters more than the main ones) but have since realized was probably a smart move. Artie, Mercedes, Kurt, and Tina have all had their moments throughout the season, so there’s no need to hurriedly revisit them and marginalize their characters even further.
And, gay as it may be, I enjoyed Will and Puck’s acoustic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to close the episode. I can see many worse situations - most of them literal - in which the show could have chosen to employ that song, but this one was unoffensive and fit well with the quietly triumphant tone that wrapped up an interesting first season of television.
At least, that’s the way I “C” it.
Justified, Season 1, Episode 13 “Bulletville”
If you somehow missed Justified this season, I implore you to go back and catch up on all thirteen episodes this summer. After worrying me in the beginning with some one-off episodes that didn’t matter to the overarching storyline, the serialized nature of the show returned in full force in the form of Boyd Crowder, one of the most interesting characters on any TV show that I currently watch. Walton Goggins does tremendous work playing that character, and tonight was a coming out party for him.
We finally got to see Boyd singled out in the woods, away from other characters and completely on his own in his element. Up until this point, the audience has been unsure as to Boyd’s true motivations: since Raylan is suspicious of Boyd’s conversion, the audience mirrors those concerns. We haven’t seen Boyd alone with himself since his conversion, so there was always the chance that he was putting on a show for people to hide some underlying scheme. But tonight we see that wasn’t the case - barring some epic “old Chinese guy with the fishbowl from The Prestige” reveal, it appears that Boyd truly practiced what he preached after he emerged from prison a changed man.
This was an excellent finale - Olyphant was phenomenal as usual, the episode was action packed, and everyone stayed true to their characters. The shootout in the woods was more tense than it would have been in other episodes since major characters were dying off left and right, so the threat of danger and consequence felt very real. It also raises some interesting questions about next season: what happens with the cartel comes to collect on their investment? Will Raylan hook back up with Winona, or Ava? (For the record, I prefer Winona - both personally and for Raylan.) Is Bo Crowder really dead? Consider me hyped for next season.
[They can’t kill Bo, right? He’s such a great character, and M.C. Gainey does a fantastic job portraying him. It’d be a shame to only have him for one season.]