(Spoilers lurk below.)
I’ve mentioned before that the writers of Glee cannot do drama. That was obvious throughout season one. Here, at the beginning of season two, we see a new facet of their ineptitude. Here’s the problem: in a good drama, there has to be character development. The characters we saw in “Audition” had not only not developed based on their experiences last season, but they had regressed even further back into the realm of caricature. It was almost as if, looking back, the characters decided that they should learn the exact opposite of every lesson they learned last season. How bad was it? Shall we go in alphabetical order?
Artie: Not only has he had at least a few years prior to the start of Glee to learn to deal with his handicap (I’m not sure that when he suffered his “accident” was ever made clear), but he had essentially the entirety of last season’s “Dream On,” in which he was forced to face the impossibility of becoming a dancer. Now he wants to play on the football team? Also, Artie previously had to change his misogynistic ways to stay with Tina in “The Power of Madonna,” and now we hear him saying, “I was playing a marathon round of Halo, woman!” as an excuse for ignoring her? Incidentally, the events of “Dream On” would have been thematically a good thing to mention in the context of Tina breaking up with him, considering she left him for Mike, a dancer. But it wasn’t even mentioned.
Finn: I don’t believe that he has previously been characterized as a total idiot. He’s never been the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s at least had common sense. And he buys into Artie’s plan to join the football team? As a battering ram? Even if we accept that Artie was lovesick enough to come up with this idea, Finn should have been the one to talk him down. He has a friend who is paralyzed from the upper chest down due to a football injury (“Laryngitis”). Finn of all people knows that football is a rough sport, and the idea of wheeling a kid down the field is frankly idiotic, to say nothing of the rules violations.
Quinn: She barely even had any lines, but they still managed to assassinate her character. This is the same woman that belted out “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” in “Funk”? She learned humility last season, and for obvious reasons despised Sue. Would she really go back to the Cheerios, who rejected her so strongly before? Did she really see her pregnancy as a temporary handicap that she just had to wait out? Not only that, but to make concessions to Sue in order to be let back on the team? The instant that Sue saw her and told her to get out, the Quinn I remember from the end of last season would have told her off and then obeyed. This Quinn knuckled under and gave us that mean-girl smirk from early last season while doing it.
Rachel: Come on. In how many episodes last season did Rachel have to learn to share the spotlight? Yes, she was always portrayed as the strongest member of the club, but she was always all about winning. Let’s go all the way back to “Pilot.” Rachel almost quit the first incarnation of the club because she felt there wasn’t any other talent there to compliment her. She wouldn’t have had to share the spotlight at all, but she didn’t want to be on a losing team. And this season she, like every other member of the club, is coming off a devastating loss in regionals. How could she turn Sunshine away like that? I don’t mean morally, I mean how could her character do it? Even at the beginning of last season, when Rachel yearned to be a winner, it wouldn’t have made sense. After last season, when she was forced to learn the be a team player so many times, it’s completely ludicrous. And sending her to a crack house? The same thing applies here as applies to Finn above. Rachel is not a complete idiot. She would not have done that.
Sue: We all expected this, but it’s still annoying. Sue had to go back to being Will’s nemesis, because the people behind Glee apparently think they need that useless conflict. But in the season one finale, Sue appeared to have learned a love for her school that went beyond her personal feud with Will. I argued at the time that that was completely out of left field and was an undeserved character change, but once you do something like that you can’t just undo it. But now she’s back to not only trying to tear down the glee club, but also trying to tear down the football team, all in the name of reclaiming some of the Cheerios’ insane budget.
Will: How many times last season did Will have to deal with being at the bottom of the totem pole? Now he apparently has to learn what that feels like all over again. It is not in Will’s character to do the things that he and Sue did to “Coach Beiste.” He’s learned before that those methods either don’t work, or lead to consequences that he can’t handle (see “Funk”).
So to sum it all up, here’s the problem with character development in Glee: there is none. Characters display, again and again, the inability to learn from past experience. I wouldn’t really have a problem with this except for the fact that Glee is attempting to carry off some drama in their show and they have multi-episode story arcs. If characters are not going to learn, it should just stick to self-contained episodes in the musical comedy genre. In fact, I would prefer it. The Glee writers cannot do drama. They should stay very far away from drama.
Anyway, that’s just about all I have to say about the plot and characters, except that they both sickened me.
So let’s move on to the songs. While they weren’t bad, nothing really stood out. Sunshine’s audition was probably the highlight, but by a fairly slim margin. I also note that Glee is, more and more, having characters burst into song for no reason, music come out of nowhere, and other characters around not notice (ex. Rachel’s last song in this episode). That’s a technique of traditional musicals. Glee was originally going for a “postmodern” musical concept, in which the songs were inserted naturally into the storyline. The best songs of the first season were all like that: “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Dream On,” “It’s My Life/Confessions Part II,” “Somebody to Love,” “Don’t Rain on my Parade.” Songs that don’t fit into the storyline always seem forced in (because they are) and seem like a betrayal of the original concept.
There were a few good things about this episode. I liked the documentary-style intro (“What DID you do with all that breast milk?”) and I got a laugh out of Sue’s “Shut up!” to Sunshine and Rachel while they were singing in the bathroom. But for the most part, this was not an encouraging start to season two at all.