Watching Glee Until It Gets Bad S1E7: Throwdown

by thethreepennyguignol

Happy holidays to one and all, if you celebrate, and if you don’t, I’ll give you something to be happy about, dammit. Which is a new part of my Glee series. Peace and love on planet Earth, and all that, eh?

Anyway. Let’s get into Throwdown, the seventh episode of the first season of Glee – hard to believe I’ve already been doing this for a couple of months, but here we are. I honestly wasn’t sure I would even make it this far before the show fumbled the bag on either comedy, drama, or music in some way; I half-expected to hit a random episode early in the first season as it was finding it’s feet that would put this series to an abrupt end, but honestly, this is still a really strong opening run for the show.

Or at least, it was, until this episode.

Okay, I have to admit, I was dithering about whether this really was the first bad episode of Glee. The comedy is so, so good, but the other aspects struggle in a serious way. Throwdown is an episode I’ve been looking forward to, because it’s essentially a highlight reel of Sue Sylvester moments; with Sue finally part of the Glee club officially, this is a forty-minute excuse to have Jane Lynch say the worst stuff imaginable while I fall off my chair laughing. I feel like every single recap is just me explaining that the show will always have comedy covered as long as Sue’s there, but seriously, this episode is a full-blown physical assault in terms of her deranged comedy stylings. Seeing gay icon Jane Lynch exit the club on account of it being “too fruity” had me heaving, and the monstrous side she brings out of Will is by far the funniest thing Matthew Morrison gets to show on Glee. They bring out the worst in each other, and there is no greater joy in my life than seeing a decent character brought low by an absolute shithead. About 40% of any best-of video you’ll find on YouTube of this character comes right from this episode, as well it should.

(I also personally find Finn’s suggestion to name his daughter Drizzle so fucking funny I nearly actually gave that name to my sweet old-lady rescue cat when I got her eight years ago, but that might just be me)

But honestly, aside from the comedy, this episode is kind of struggle bus.

Musically, Throwdown is an episode packed with extended cutaway fantasy sequences, which are great if you happen to love the songs they’ve covering – it’s just that I hate most of them. The No Air cover is the first one I’ve actually skipped through, not because I think it’s in any way badly-executed or put-together, but just because the song makes my jaw uncontrollably clench until all my teeth explode outwards and that’s not going to look right with the dress I have picked out for the Christmas party this year. Keep Holding On is a similarly cringe number for me, especially acting as the emotional crescendo of this episode; again, it’s not badly-done, it’s just that the bones of this song are rotten to me and nothing could turn them into something good, let alone a Glee cover, which more often than not serves to make the music in question marginally worse.

Quinn’s cover of Keep Me Hangin’ On is really well-choreographed and nicely-shot, but I don’t think Dianna Agron’s voice is as commanding as it needs to be to really make it work; in fact, it’s the only performance this season that has had me thinking was that it? Which isn’t exactly a good sign – even at it’s dodgiest, I’ve felt the other performances have had their kind of cheesy charm, whereas this one just falls totally flat for me. The only number I actually love this week is Hate On Me, because I will do anything in my power to hear Amber Riley sing and the season has still been criminally scant of her performances.

The drama is where the show really struggles here, because the plots are getting to a kind of terminal velocity of absurdity that almost makes it impossible to take them seriously. I genuinely understand that Glee wants me to look at Terri faking her pregnancy as a real conflict, but it’s so unfathomably silly as to make it virtually impossible. But there’s just enough here to bring it into the realm of decency. The opening scenes with Finn and Quinn at their baby’s scan are played straight enough, and unfettered enough by the insanity around them, to make me feel something, especially when Quinn asks the doctor not to get any of the KY jelly on her cheerleading uniform – it’s a perfect juxtaposition of her youth and vulnerability and the enormity of the situation she’s currently navigating. In an episode as outrageous as this, with Jane Lynch taking things up to fifteen in the manic unhingedness stakes, it feels almost unfair to expect the show to do anything serious, but those are the rules (that I made up and can change at any time).

Throwdown is without a doubt one of the funniest episodes of the show so far, but cracks are beginning to flare up in the other aspects of it’s execution (or at least, for me, it’s song choice). It’s far from bad yet, but the unwieldy enormity of it feels as though it’s starting to get away from itself a little. How long can it hang on to some vague semblance of sense? Tune in next week to find out!

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(header image via IMDB)