First of all, let me catch you up. Rachel and Finn were boring and almost got married last season but then Finn broke up with her because she needed to follow her dreams and he needed to join the military. Blaine and Kurt were boring and Kurt didn’t get into NYADA aka fake made up imaginary fancy New York school and Blaine’s still got a year at McKinley, and Kurt has no idea what on earth he’s gonna do with his life. President Brittany S. Pierce failed senior year so she has to redo it, while girlfriend Santana is cheerleading at a state school somewhere. Artie’s still in a wheelchair. Sam was a stripper for a while. There was an Irish kid once. Dreadlock Jesus has a real name but I don’t know what it is. Quinn, Mercedes, and apparently Mike Chang are gone. Puck has a half-brother he didn’t know about until last episode, and he came all the way from LA for five minutes to tell his brother to stop being a douche and join the glee club. Sue has a baby daughter in a non-storyline I still don’t quite comprehend, and New York is a place where dreams go to die, apparently. And that’s what you missed on Glee.
…Nobody’s reading anymore, are they?
Anyway, in a complete departure from this show’s usual messy, convoluted and completely nonsensical offerings, “Makeover” featured a really unorthodox number of reasonable storylines that stayed genuine to almost every character, save for supposedly vegan Rachel cooking/setting fire to a duck and then eating pizza in a scene I’m calling “Slightly estranged military sort-of boyfriends should always call ahead.” But more on that later.
It’s pretty obvious that this week’s episode is a build-up to next week’s episode, ominously titled “The Break-Up.” Here, we see the foundations of all of the show’s core couples shaken in ways that are actually oddly realistic for relationships bridging various stages of success and adulthood. Brittany and Blaine are both stuck at McKinley while their significant others, Santana and Kurt, are in college and dancing through the streets of New York, respectively. Rachel’s in college while Finn has joined the military. Emma’s happy and content in her job as adviser at McKinley, but Schue is feeling dissatisfied and uninspired. All of these are fairly realistic situations, and in a twist I couldn’t have seen coming, Glee manages to deal with them in ways that are both funny and believable.
Kurt’s been in New York, rooming with Rachel in one of those ridiculous giant New York apartments that fictional characters always seem to have. He interviews and is hired for an internship at Vogue.com, supervised by none other than Sarah Jessica Parker. Or whatever her name is on the show. She’s sweet, respectful, and even complains to Kurt that she doesn’t know how to say no to anyone, and fears that she’s not good at her job. Kurt, who has a newfound confidence that truly suits him, comforts her, and she seems to really value his input. Eventually they give Rachel a makeover, film a music video, and compose/sing a mash up of “The Way You Look Tonight” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” all at the same time. Kurt seems to really be fitting in.
Blaine and Brittany (and the rest of New Directions)
Back at McKinley, Blaine tries out various school clubs in a montage played over his fairly beautiful version of “Everybody Wants to Rule The World,” by Tears for Fears. Honestly, some of Glee’s best moments over the past couple seasons have involved scenes of Blaine standing alone on a stage, performing his heart out, sprinkled with bits of some sort of montage. I don’t know why it works so well, but it does. This was no exception. Blaine looks happy, but there are undertones of bow-tied melancholy. Blaine came to McKinley for Kurt. Now Kurt is gone, and Blaine is sad.
Part of his attempts at finding a place at McKinley post-Kurt involve running against Brittany for student council president. Brittany had a tough week last week, both in terms of the episode and her life. She’s on her second go of senior year, her girlfriend’s having a great time in college without her, and she’s doing terribly in all of her classes. Student council president, as unqualified as she is and always was, is practically the only thing she has left. When Blaine decides to run against her, she asks Artie to be her vice president and convinces Blaine to take Sam as his, since Brittany is somehow aware of Sam’s stupidity, but not of her own.
Artie and Blaine insist on makeovers for their running mates in order to transform them into serious candidates. This prompts Brittany and Sam to slide around in suits to Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” as they prepare for a debate, moderated by Sue. Blaine tries to ask Kurt, via webcam, which bow tie he should wear to the debate. Kurt doesn’t seem to care, and rambles on about his own fabulous life. Sam advises Blaine to go without the bow-tie, and it’s like he’s a new man. A new man in a sweater vest, but still, a new man.
Artie gives a speech that seems to last hours. Sam resorts to stripping on stage. Blaine gives a genuinely fine presidential speech and Brittany promises that she loves McKinley sooooo much that she wants to abolish weekends and summer vacations. Blaine wins, unsurprisingly. But we see, as he tries to call Kurt and Kurt declines his call, that all is not well. He even says out loud, for the first time, to Sam, that he feels completely alone. Sam also provides comfort to Brittany, and there’s obviously something brewing there that could be a threat to the illustrious Brittana.
In one of the smaller plotlines of the night, Mr. Schue is also unhappy. He can’t come up with any fresh ideas for the glee club, and he feels like he has nothing else to work for, since he’s achieved his dream of leading the club to a win at Nationals. He ends up getting advice from Sue, who seems back to her old ways of spouting truths in ways that are only just verging on being completely offensive. She tells him to explore other job options in order to avoid hating himself and being miserable forever. He decides to apply for some sort of blue-ribbon panel about inspiring arts education, and Emma encourages him. By the end of the episode, he has sent his application in.
Rachel’s story took up a lot less of the episode than it usually does. Some mean girls make fun of her, prompting the makeover from Kurt and SJP. She’s practicing a dance when Hot Not Gay (Brady? Brody? That guy she met on her first day who’s a musical theater major. Whatever his name is.) comes in and tells her how beautiful she is. They sing Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Would Do You Good” and throw ice cream at each other. They almost kiss. Rachel invites him over so she can cook him dinner. She tries to cook duck, but she sets the stove on fire, because cooking mistakes are hilarious. Hot Not Gay shows up, they eat pizza on the floor, and, unsurprisingly, fall into a makeout session. I’ve never understood or really liked Finn and Rachel together. This musical theater boy makes way more sense for her. But I could see the end of this scene (the scene also known as “Slightly estranged military sort-of boyfriends should always call ahead”) coming from hundreds of thousands of miles away. There’s a knock at the door. Rachel opens it, and hey look, there’s Finn. Hot Not Gay pops up off the floor behind a stunned Rachel. The End.
This was, quite honestly, the best episode Glee has done perhaps since season 1. Maybe ever. It didn’t feel in any way like an after school special, or like any Special Messages were being pushed down our throats. It felt like genuine television, with a focus on character relationships and realistic internal struggles. The dramatic moments felt real, yet there was still the slightest bit of nonsense thrown in every once in a while to remind us that this is still a slightly magical world in which sometimes people know that they’re singing, and sometimes they don’t. Tonight was purely about character development, and the songs felt like casual afterthoughts, which is the way it should be.
Blaine in particular evolved in a very necessary way in “Makeover.” He used to exist for Kurt, both as a character and in the world of the show. He transferred schools for the guy. His every waking moment was focused on Kurt, and Kurt’s every waking moment seemed to also be focused on Kurt. It’s never been an equal relationship, and Blaine is finally realizing it. After Kurt ignored his question about bow-ties in favor of bragging about his own successes, the moment that Blaine decides to go without one for the first time holds particular significance. He has essentially let Kurt go in the same way that Kurt has already let him go. Now, they just have to admit it to each other.
Yes, I’m getting a little sappy about Glee, but it’s because I’m overjoyed to find that there really is something to this show that might actually be valuable, even if just for one episode, beyond overly pointed and often patronizing lessons about standing up to bullying and accepting yourself for who you are. This is what Glee needed to be. Instead of portraying gay characters only dealing with being gay, Kurt & Blaine and Brittany & Santana are dealing with universal relationship problems. Obnoxious perfectionist Rachel is transforming into someone human, someone relatable. She was the (musical theatre) queen at McKinley. In New York, she’s one of thousands, and she’s not having the easiest time. Mr. Schuester has reached a completely understandable midlife crisis of sorts, and no one’s faking pregnancies or ignoring suicide attempts (seriously what happened to Karofsky?). They even made a joke of the fact that Artie and Brittany dated once. This show is getting its shit together!
I didn’t have high hopes for this season, in which half the characters are either gone or are simply removed from McKinley and the glee club, but I have to say that so far, it’s proving me wrong. The show is no longer primarily about McKinley’s glee club. I’m not even sure there’s a simple way to sum up what it’s about anymore, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It might actually be the best thing. But we shall see.