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Glee, “I Am Unicorn” (2.02)

 

The drawing of a pig-clown.

A review of the show, both spoiler-free and spoilerful, written by Ryan Murphy and directed by Brad Falchuk, after the jump…

First, a few spoiler-free tidbits for those who haven’t seen it and just want a taste:

  • The lead players here are Kurt and Quinn, but pretty much every other member of the cast gets a moment of their own.
  • The musical numbers all come from a story reason, rather than inner monologues, and they are all solo/duet numbers. All are good to great.
  • The episode deftly balances a number of plotlines, each enjoyable but never really hitting the emotional heights or powerful laugh lines that the show does at its best. That said, there are a number of stirring moments, and the show has brought everything down to a real-life scale that I find really appealing.
  • The show only betrays its characters for humour’s sake once, and its a quick throwaway line.

And now, for the spoilers!

So, the episode was split into a number of plotlines, all relatively grounded in reality:

Kurt launches a campaign to be elected class president, with the help of Brittany “You Are a Unicorn” Pierce and Santana Lopez.  His chances are considered negligible. We’ve seen how the school responds to Kurt, so clear in his ‘winning’ Prom Queen last year, so it’s almost a given he has little shot. The race kicks off with Brittany entering the race against him after a brief stint as his campaign manager, spurred on by Santana. In addition, he enters a doomed bid for the lead in the school musical. Although he shines in his audition, he auditions for a tough punk-with-a-heart-of-gold role by singing a woman’s song and playing up his more feminine mannerisms. Though the joint directors (Emma Pillsbury, Coach Beiste and Artie Abrams) can’t deny his talent, they are understandably concerned that Kurt doesn’t have the chops to play it straight. Unfortunately for Kurt, Blaine’s “Something Coming” is both impressive enough and straight-seeming enough that, despite his auditioning for another role, he’s asked to read for the lead.

Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) returns, hired by the rich father of Sugar Motta (Vanessa Lengies) to run a second Glee club at McKinley – which leads both to conflicts with Rachel and Quinn. Rachel is still angry that Shelby ditched her and went off to New York with infant Beth at the end of the first season, while Quinn and Puck are struck with a chance to reconnect with the baby they gave up for adoption. This plot largely works as a showcase for Quinn, showing the level to which she’s fallen and the anger she carries around at everyone in her life. It climaxes with a frustrated Schuester, stung by her charge that he and the glee club are responsible for her train wreck life, calling her out on her self-destructive behaviour and telling her to grow up. It remains to be seen whether that was something that helped, or just worked to remind Quinn that everyone is now an enemy to be used to get what she wants. Which is, at this point, Beth.

(This plot also included a nice continuity nod to the vanishing of the Mercedes/Quinn friendship between the first and the second seasons. While I’m not at all convinced that was a purposeful move back then, here it works great as one of the many ways Quinn has pulled away from everyone in her life.)

Sue continues to run for Congress and, obviously, she pulls ahead in the polls off the back of her promises to destroy school arts education. I don’t particularly enjoy this plotline, as it involves a lot of clunky discussion of Tea Party politics, and involves Sue going back to the cartoon that has developed into a waste of space within the show.

Finally, the episode included Booty Camp, where Will and Mike Chang are trying to give the group’s weaker dancers a crash course in fleet feet.This plot featured a nice little showcase for Finn, who was shown last episode to have no real idea of what he wanted. Here, he sees two options for his life: work for Burt Hummel and save up for college, potentially staying in Lima, or following Rachel to New York and hoping to get into NYADA with she and Kurt.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the episode. It was pretty slow and few bits of humour worked, and Mark Salling did not feel like a teenager (or even Puck) for the entirety of his scene with Idina Menzel and little Beth. That said, there were a handful of small moments that I enjoyed very much, the music was pretty great, and Dianna Agron is having plenty of fun as ‘dark Quinn’ – first obviously, as ‘skank’ Quinn, then as under-the-radar fake-Glee Quinn. I feel like some big stuff is coming, and the arc-based nature of these opening episodes makes me think the show will be slowly building to some great things over this first bunch of episodes.

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