The question with “Glee” is often this: Can the strength of the musical performances and the occasional deep insight into what it feels like to be an outcast can overcome the maddeningly inconsisent characterization, frequent meanness and haphazard plotting?
The answer with “The Role You Were Born to Play” on Thursday (Nov. 8): No.
The way the show has handled Unique’s story has largely been very strong — when was the last time you saw a transgender character play a sizable role on a broadcast network series? — and the scenes with her and Finn in this episode followed suit. But then there were the scenes with Sue.
Look, we’ve made peace with the fact that Sue’s ire is going to land wherever that week’s script needs it to land. But her lashing out at Unique here felt especially arbitrary, not to mention more than a little cruel. Even accepting that Sue’s tolerance ends at the point where it poses a threat to her success as a cheerleading coach, the imaginary situation in which Unique tries to her squad because she’s allowed to play Rizzo in “Grease” comes off like tinfoil-hat paranoia.
And what is there to be said abou the Finn story? So, OK, he’s only taking charge of New Directions while Mr. Schue is in Washington, and not Will’s actual teaching duties. But it’s still awfully hard to swallow that the school would allow it (and maybe — let’s hope, anyway — that’s a plot point for a future episode).
That’s not even the biggest issue with the story, though. It’s a tossup between A) being asked to swallow the notion that Finn is the great leader everyone tells him he is during the episode, three-plus seasons of evidence to the contrary; and B) the utterly transparent contrivance to get Cory Monteith back in the thick of the show.
To that last point, see also the returns of Mercedes and Mike, who apparently could just take a few days off from working on launching a recording career (her) and the rigorous training of a prestigious ballet company (him) to hang out at their old high school.
On the upside, “Glee Project” winner Blake Jenner fit in pretty well as football player/”Grease” lead Ryder Lynn, Marley continues to be charmingly sweet and Blaine, though he was mostly on the sidelines this week, got a knockout number with “Hopelessly Devoted.” But that wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the clunkiness of the rest of the episode.
What did you think of “Glee” this week?