Watching Glee Until It Gets Bad S1E14: Hell-O

by thethreepennyguignol

Okay, so, after our midseason finale, Hell-O is (appropriately enough), a re-introduction to the Glee we know and love like endure for reasons still not entirely clear to any of us.

I think Sectionals is probably the most cohesive episode of the season so far, which means that this one had a lot to live up to. And it…does and doesn’t, I think, though overall I do like it more than I don’t.

It’s a quintessential Glee episode in a lot of ways, because this is just hurling a lot of shit at the wall to see what sticks. It makes sense, given that this is a re-calibration after the midseason break, but God, it’s a lot. Hell-O is a packed episode, trying to get the show’s feet under itself again for the second half of the first season, and not all of it works.

There’s a good amount that does, though, so let’s start with that. I mean, you know I’m going to be talking about Sue Sylvester first, right? She’s back and out for blood, fully unhinged in a delightful turn from Jane Lynch that reminded me once more why she is my favourite part of this show and likely always will be (until Dot Marie-Jones turns up, at least). I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already said a million times about this character and this performance, but it’s still just as perfect as it ever was. She’s from the Gayle school of approaching utter banality with the sakes of a Mission Impossible movie, and I am perma-obsessed (also, watch the Gayle series).

This is also the episode that introduces Indina Menzel and Johnathan Groff to the Glee-niverse, and it is surgically impossible for me not to love it. Getting too Broadway heavy-hitters into the recurring cast for this season is pretty solid proof of just how big the show had become, even so soon after it had come out, and they bring so much to the show. Expanding the universe as things move forward makes perfect sense, and making rivals Vocal Adrenalin such a huge part of the drama is exactly the kind of juicy I’m here for. Of course, I adore Indina Menzel because I’m not a fucking idiot, but it’s Johnathan Groff I love the most as an addition to the show.

Lea Michele has a lot of chemistry with plenty of actors on Glee, but, for my money, none more than Johnathan Groff. Their then-recent work together on Spring Awakening gives them this amazing on-screen presence together, both Jesse and Rachel committed to exactly the same kind of deranged musical theater fantasy that brings out the best in each other. Their first number together, a cover of Lionel Richie’s Hello, is exactly the kind of silly, overwrought, teenage bullshit that makes me shriek with delight. I love what they bring as a pairing on the show, and I think it’s clear that they adored working together like this. Making Rachel’s counterpoint in Vocal Adrenalin both a rival and a love interest is the kind of fanfiction nonsense that I get my whole entire life from, thank you very much.

What I don’t care for as much this episode is the other major romance, between Will and Emma, as they try to navigate their relationship now there are no obstacles to them actually being together. I honestly think my dislike of this comes from the show’s depiction of OCD, which I discussed a little before; it’s not that people don’t experience OCD the way Emma does, it’s the way the show seems to frame it as something Will can love out of her if he tries hard enough, and I loathe it. There’s also a cover of Gives You Hell in this episode that I truly despise with every bit of my heart: it’s the worst kind of Glee cover, a blatant attempt to cash in on a popular song even when it barely fits the episode or the singer performing it. Lea Michele is insanely talented and can bring so much emotion to her voice, but this makes her sound like a fucking vocoder to me.

Hell-O is an interesting episode – too much going on, for sure, but enough of it crosses the threshold into good that I don’t really mind it. As the show bodies up for the rest of it’s first season, it’s still brimming with ideas and insane Jane Lynch one-liners – and, with the introduction of Jesse, finds a perfect foil for it’s leading woman.

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(header image vi IMDB)