At this point, I have resigned myself to the fact that Glee is only going to produce episodes like “Duets” on rare occasions and the rest of the time, the series is going to be horribly messy, swinging from one extreme to another. As a viewer and “critic,” watching Glee has become something of an inequality. If the good stuff outweighs the terrible, overwrought stuff, I’m ultimately fairly happy with the time I’ve spent with the series that week. This is not a strategy that should be used to evaluate really any other series on the air and even using it for Glee basically suggests that it is totally screwed up at the center, but this is really all I can do now. I love Glee and I’m not going to stop watching it no matter how terrible it becomes, so it must be evaluated on a different scale than anything else on television.
If you’ve been reading my reviews, you probably already know this is how I watch and evaluate Glee, but I’m spelling it out here because “Sexy” is an episode that can only be graded on that sort of curve. There are moments in this episode that are wildly insane, stupid and borderline inappropriate (especially for all those 7-year olds that Ryan Murphy says watch the series) that made me laugh out loud at their inclusion here. But there are also moments in this episode that remind of the great things Glee can do, moments that hold up against the best the series has to offer. So ultimately, I kind of love “Sexy,” despite the horrible moments I hate so much.
We like to talk a lot about Glee‘s inconsistency, but the last three episodes have been fairly consistent in their weird mix of insanity and quality character work. “Comeback” and “Blame It On The Alcohol” had their bright moments amid the terrible, over-the-top stuff and “Sexy” continues that trend and perhaps accentuates that dichotomy even more. More often than not this season, episodes use the crazy set pieces or gags to kick off what ends up being some nice character stuff. And while it is still really annoying that we have to sit through things like the Warblers performing during a foam party in what looks to be abandoned factory that vagrants might frequent or Holly Holiday being overtly sexual with the students in an almost creepy way, it almost becomes worth it when the episode uses those moments as catalysts to tell interesting and well-executed stories about the kids. It would be nice if there was a version of “Sexy” that pulled away all the bells and whistles and simply focused on the confusing feelings of Kurt, Brittany and Santana, but at this point, the bells and whistles are so ingrained into the Glee formula it’s just nice to be still seeing the other, better beats making their way in a script as well.
Like “Blame It On The Alcohol,” this episode has issues at the macro level in its desire to tell a story “about” something. That episode’s misguided desire to both embrace and parody the after school special vibe of an episode about teen drinking was ultimately its downfall (among other things, obviously) and there’s a similar glibness to teen sex and teen sexuality in the introductory moments of this episode as well. The Holly character is fun cartoon, but still a cartoon, and her forwardness is therefore both charming and problematic. I appreciated that this episode used her to present a different message than just ABSTINENCE, but the way in which it was handled still felt a bit too simplistic. Glee likes to come down on the side of its kids, giving them the opportunity and power to make choices and in theory, that’s wonderful. But I’m not sure how effective this episode’s “Educate ’em!” values were transmitted, which mirrors my concerns with “Blame It On The Alcohol.” Thankfully, by keeping the sex talk to the New Directions and not expanding it to a school-wide issue made the conclusion of the “message” land a bit easier.
This story was always going to be problematic though, because it happened to be wrapped up in a yet another exploration of Will’s terrible love life. Again, I like that the series continually reminds us that Will’s life, especially his love life, sucks, but only hitting that beat without really expanding or growing from it is only making an unlikable character more unlikable and simplistic. In a perfect world, Holly Holiday might be a good match for Will Schuester. She’s open, she’s fun and generally drama free. But this isn’t a perfect world and Will generally sucks. “Sexy” also brings back John Stamos’ Carl for the first time since Rocky Horror, which was TEN FREAKING EPISODES AGO as to throw a bit more of a monkey wrench in Will’s ongoing love troubles. I thought Emma’s crusade against sex education was too simplistic and childish for a character that used to be intelligent and level-headed despite her personal hang-ups. Now, her OCD has been transferred into this terrorizing fear of sexual contact and intimacy, and it’s being mostly played for gags here so that Holly can look cool. I have no problem with love triangles, even with poorly written adult characters on a series that should only be about the kids, but this love square is particularly awful because there’s no commitment to it. There is continuity, but when Emma only shows up every three episodes and Carl every 10, that’s a problem.
Thankfully, the kids stories about sex were much better than whatever the hell it was Will, Holly and Emma were trapped in. As hard as they try, teenagers are actually fairly unsexy. Instead, they’re messy, confused individuals trying to figure out their weird feelings and bodies and it’s just all MADNESS. The sex part kids can figure out. It’s the feelings that come along with it that make things so complicated and confusing. And so it’s pretty great that in an episode called “Sexy,” the best moments see the younger characters take down their guards and deal with the feelings that come along with the physical actions.
It’s kind of insane and fantastic that the series’ most complicated and interesting relationship started off as an obvious gag. But slowly, the relationship between Santana and Brittany became more intriguing as this season progressed and here it explodes into something pretty fantastic. Although I cannot completely buy into this episode’s insistence that Santana has been a bitch since the beginning of the series because she was afraid of being called a lesbian due to her love of Brittany, but the scenes in which the episode tries to convince me of this work so well. I wasn’t really sure where the plot was going to go at the beginning since it was kicked off by Brittany assuming she was pregnant because a stork had built a nest in the tree outside her window, but it ended in one of the most compelling and honest conversations the series has ever staged. Santana and Brittany would probably both still consider themselves straight, but their love for each other is something entirely different and that’s wonderful. Naya Rivera and Heather Morris did really solid work in their scenes together here and I’ll be interested to see how the series’ handles their relationship moving forward now that Brittany has declined Santana’s formal advances because she’s actually in love with Artie just the same.
The other good story in “Sexy” also kicked off in a terrible way, with the aforementioned Warblers performance. That was seriously one of the dumbest things the series has done this season. But thankfully, it served as a backdoor catalyst for a solid Kurt/Burt/Blaine story. I know people are going to have a hard time buying into Blaine’s speech to Burt about the need to educate Kurt about sex and everything that goes along with it and I don’t totally blame them. After a few episodes where he seemed just as lost and confused with being a gay teen, Blaine was back to his all-knowing self in this episode, serving as Ryan Murphy’s soapbox mouthpiece this week. I recognize that this is problematic, but the execution and aftermath of Blaine’s scene with Burt was so well done that it’s fairly easy to forgive it in this instance. Blaine isn’t so preachy that it’s obnoxious and as a general rule, any scene with Mike O’Malley works wonders of an episode of Glee, so I was fine with it.
And this especially true for the follow-up scene with Kurt and Burt, where the latter takes Blaine’s advice and tries to force education onto his young son. Despite my issues with how Kurt has been portrayed this year, the season has done a nice job of breaking down the walls around his identity. Kurt has fully embraced being gay, but it’s a lot harder to deal with the other things that come along with that choice. Whether it’s bullying, telling someone how you feel or having sex, things are infinitely more complicated when you’re gay. It’s an unfortunate truth of our society. Thus, the conversation between Kurt and Burt continued the series’ solid execution of “showing Kurt the ropes” or whatever you want to call this narrative. Both of them were the right levels of uncomfortable and open to discussion and again, Mike O’Malley. He’s awesome.
“Sexy” is, more so than most Glee episodes, a wild mess. But thankfully, the good overcomes the bad in the best of ways. Next week, Regionals!
- I have very little to say about Puck and Lauren’s sex tape plans, but it followed the trend of starting off shockingly stupid and becoming something a bit more subdued and emotional by the end. And I appreciate that the series isn’t dropping this relationship.
- Finn and Quinn are apparently hooking up in secret. Okay.
- Poor big-mouthed Sam Evans. His new, presumably “easy” girlfriend is actually in love with her female best friend. Dude can’t catch a break.
- Sue was only around for one scene and it was funny enough. Blaine’s reactions to seeing her for the first time made it worth my 75 seconds.
- Remember when Mercedes was on this series? Good times.