Watching Glee Until It Gets Bad S1E2: Showmance

by thethreepennyguignol

Episode two! Thank you so much for your support, comments, offers of mental health aid, and other such interaction with the first part of this series – it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and I’m glad a few of you seem to be on board with my phenomenally stupid idea.

But no time for that – let’s talk about Glee’s second episode, the chaotic, hilarious, and utterly weird Showmance.

I think one of the things that makes this such a fantastic first season is how fully-formed Glee already seems, especially as a comedy show. There’s a POV shot from inside of a toilet while Emma and Rachel discuss bulimia, there’s a cutaway gag about Finn mowing down a mailman and how he uses the memory to keep from ejaculating too soon, and it’s that high-level bizzaro surrealism and even stranger execution that gives Glee such a distinct feel already. The first episode was a little more on the melancholy side, but Showmance is completely diving head-first into the comedy. It’s hard to choose who’s got the best line, the best comedy moment this episode, because there’s just so damn much to choose from – Sue’s “offensive” in the face of Will saying something utterly innocous, Terri’s absolute commitment to a deranged lifestyle she cannot afford, Dianna Agron’s Gorgon-eyed celibacy club leader; it’s so, so fucking funny, even though I’ve already seen this show at least a few times through, and it’s a reminder of why so many people stuck with it for so long. I don’t think any show has precisely captured this sort of measured madness the way Glee has, and it’s so much fun to see it in the first flush of it’s comedy. This is brilliant comedy, no matter what else you think of the show, and probably the most impressive aspect of this second episode.

The drama, though…okay, look. Most of the drama here revolves around Will, Terri, and Emma in a hideous love triangle that haunts me to this day, and the show struggles to ground it. Jessalyn Gilsig is so unhinged and plays it so, so straight, it’s hard to take a lot of it seriously, even as Matthew Morrison huffs around sadly in the background of every other shot of this episode. And, unfortunately, I have to get up on my soapbox here and complain about the bullshit way the show tries to address Emma’s OCD here – as a person with OCD, it’s especially infuriating to see anything suggesting that the best way – or even an effective way – to help someone get past it is to do something to trigger their compulsions without their consent. I get that the show was just trying to have this moment of Will and Emma getting closer while showing how much Will accepted and supported her through her issues, but, knowing the actual impact something like this could have, it’s a bit grotesque for me. Deliberately triggering someone’s compulsive behaviour is not cute, it’s not kind, and if you try it on me, I’m going to set my cat on you. Yes, the big one.

Anyway, I think this plot manages to pull back around in the third act, as Emma tells Will they’re basically living in a fantasy they need to get over. I really love the chemistry Jayma Mays and Matthew Morrison have in general in the first few seasons, and it feels like a solid addendum to the first episode’s arc of not being able to face the reality of adult life. It’s got a little of the melancholy I look for in the best version of this show, and it’s good to see it here. It’s still by far the weakest aspect of this episode – to the point I was wondering if this series really was going to be embarrassingly short – but it manages to pull it together in the end.

Which brings me to the music. This episode has some wobbly performances here – Matthew Morrison doing Gold Digger is genuinely punishing in a way that makes me want to start a class action lawsuit – but it also features the Glee club performing Push It, which just about saves the whole thing.

This early in the series, it’s fun to see the different performance styles of each of the members come to life – Cory Monteith’s charmingly gangling wander like a recently defrosted Otzi the Iceman, Lea Michelle’s intense earnestness – and it feels a little messy and over-enthusiastic the way an actual Glee club performance might be. There’s so much character here, from the awkward sexual dance-humping to Finn’s nervous glances towards the audience to make sure he’s not making a total fool of himself, and it’s the perfect choice of song to underline it. This is also the first time Kevin McHale as Artie really gets a chance to shine, and reminds me instantly why he’s one of my favourite performers on the entire show’s run; he’s got a tongue-in-cheek old-school pop vibe to him, and crazy charisma to boot. Some of the best moments of the rest of this season come directly from Kevin McHale, and I am looking forward to stanning him unreptantly for the rest of the show’s run. Anyway, here’s a really fun drag performance from Kevin McHale that brings me enormous amounts of joy.

Showmance is already a bit of a wobbly episode in terms of delivering on the three aspects the show promises, but it’s so damn funny it pretty much gets away with it anyway. Watching Showmance, I found myself genuinely excited to get into the rest of this season, and I think that’s the biggest compliment I can give it.

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(header image via Fanpop)