by Chris Saccaro
No matter what the show is, there is always an inherent problem with “competition” storylines. Whether it’s a state championship in football a la “Friday Night Lights,” or a singing competition as is the case with “Glee,” there will always be two possible outcomes–the team wins or the team loses. Therefore, in order to make the episode truly interesting, the show must supplement the competition storyline with high stakes for the characters, and, if possible, alternative storylines to keep the viewer interested. This week, “Glee” took that idea and pumped it full of Sue Sylvester’s muscle building protein powder.
A few months back, news reports broke that “Glee” would be tackling an episode dealing with the recent number of gay teen suicides, and in a strange misdirection, many thought that episode had come and gone. However, “Glee’s” winter finale, “On My Way,” was likely the episode that the actors were hinting at. The drama of regionals took a back seat to Dave Karofsky’s suicide attempt, forcing many of the characters to deal with the fact that they felt responsible in one way or another.
“Glee” handled this storyline brilliantly. After Kurt’s torment took over Season 2, it would have been gimmicky and slightly less poignant for him to once again deal with the difficulties of bullying. Likewise, Santana would never succumb to suicidal tendencies. Yet, there’s something poetic about Dave Karofsky–Kurt’s former bully, trying to off himself after struggling with his own homosexuality.
Thankfully, his survival allowed the characters to react in honest ways. It was nice to see some varying opinions on suicide, specifically Quinn’s “holier-than-thou” attitude, comparing a “teen pregnancy and a bad dye job” to the years of torment that a gay person deals with. This provoked Kurt to bluntly tell her to get over herself. And I have to say, when the writers aren’t turning him into a punch line, Kurt really shows some of the greatest character development the show has ever seen. He handles Karofsky’s suicide and its aftermath with grace and maturity. It’s clear that Ryan Murphy feels closest to Kurt’s character, as evidenced by the amount of attention and nurturing this character receives. There are other characters that are almost as developed, like Santana, but then there are still characters that are just blank shells that behave according to the writer’s whims (ahem, Tina).
The suicide attempt hangs over regionals like a storm cloud, but that just makes the songs seem so much more powerful. Everyone has this newfound sense of belonging, which translates really well into the choice of songs representing the theme of “inspiration”. And it’s nice to see the writers remember that the New Directions promised the Trouble Tones that they’d be able to sing a song at every competition.
Now, with the suicide attempt and regionals, there are enough dramatic elements to make for a strong episode. But this isn’t enough for “Glee.” Inspired by how short life is, Rachel moves up her wedding so that it immediately follows Regionals. And the writers could have stopped with the wedding, and this would have been a strong, albeit a dramatically tiring episode. However, in a beautiful juxtaposition of story lines, with Chapel of Love playing hauntingly in the background, Quinn gets into a car crash while replying to Rachel’s bridezilla-esque texts.
And this was a very bold choice for the writers to make. However, the timing may have been a little off. This episode was dramatic enough without adding another potential death in the mix. This idea of killing off Quinn in the prime of her life is beautifully tragic. But it would have been more fitting for a season finale. At this point, I hope this accident is fatal, or at least life changing. It’s a horrible fate to wish on a character, but it will prove that the writers of Glee can stick with their decisions. Otherwise, Quinn’s accident will seem like a gimmick to both stop Rachel and Finn’s wedding and bring viewers back after the two month hiatus. This would be both unfair to the audience and a terrible way to end an otherwise strong episode.
Chris Saccaro is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.