After a brief 2 week hiatus, “Glee” is back with the much buzzed about Michael Jackson tribute episode,” simply titled “Michael.” Paying homage to the late, great pop singer, “Michael” is the latest installment in the show’s “theme” collection, previously featuring tributes to such icons as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Madonna. Of course, some would argue that adolescent, auto-tuned covers of these icons’ music are a poor way to honor the artists, but “Glee” has never worried about that before.
The episode jumps directly into the Michael Jackson theme straight from the very beginning. Following their big win at sectionals, New Directions thinks they discovered the reason they won. It’s not their talent, or their showmanship. It’s the fact that they covered Michael Jackson. This prompts a series of awkward renditions of MJ songs in true “Glee” fashion, though surprisingly for this show, there were no Michael Jackson mash-ups.
Finn’s sudden proposal leftover from “Yes/No” sets the stakes for Rachel’s plot in “Michael,” one of the only storyline-driven focuses of the episode. Will Finn hold Rachel back from becoming a Broadway star if she marries him, or should she put love above all and accept his proposal? Rachel’s conflict proved to be surprisingly well-balanced, as her decision between romance and career is a tough, realistic dilemma that could very well be faced by any high schooler in a relationship. This is one of the stronger arcs that the show has developed in quite some time, and one that will be interesting to see played out.
Blaine’s slushee induced eye injury, however, seemed like a blatantly obvious attempt to create conflict in an episode severely lacking from any sort of meaning. This poorly developed plotline is proof of how superfluous “Glee’s” themed episodes can be. It’s especially irrelevant as the kids are obsessing over a pop star who was well past his prime by the time they were born.
Ultimately, the episode leads to a duel between New Directions and arch-nemeses the Warblers, and results in a morbidly disappointing ending— New Directions takes the high road, even after the Warblers injured and harassed their members. New Directions does not accomplish anything. Such an un-exhilarating finale only solidifies how ineffective of an episode “Michael” truly was.
However, many of the songs were enjoyable, as is usually the case with even the weakest episode of “Glee.” Santana again proves her prowess with her cover of “Smooth Criminal” alongside sneaky rival Sebastian. While the world is littered with covers of “Smooth Criminal,” Santana and Sebastian’s performance was a welcome effort. Plus, it had the benefit of being related to the storyline— Sebastian can be considered a “smooth” criminal.
It’s a bit disheartening when a song on “Glee” needs to be praised for being relevant to the storyline. “Glee” is at it’s best when it takes meaningful songs and intertwines them within the character’s storylines. This is happening less and less, especially with the insufferable “themed” episodes, of which “Michael” may in fact be the worst. Overall, it is a poorly-structured, poorly written showcase of MJ’s music, but at least the younger viewers will be exposed to such a musical legend.
Chris Saccaro is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.