This post contains spoilers
[Writer's note: We're all crunched this holiday season, so I'm breaking my new format just this once! But, when everything comes back from winter hiatus, expect the return of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly! - Cam]
For the second straight year in a row, Glee followed up their should-be mid-season finales of Sectionals with yet another Christmas episode. Last year’s special was actually one of the few things that actually went right in a season that was an absolute lowering of the bar. So, could they possibly repeat the success and get us wrapped up in the holiday spirit? In one word: no.
“Extraordinary Merry Christmas” isn’t what you’d expect, given their holiday outing last year. For the most part it is the funniest, most emotional, and heartwarming episode of Glee of the entire season. It works in some great notable aspects, including the start of a new bromance, Sue Sylvester’s kindest hour ever, and some great shots from Morrison as he’s behind the camera. However, it falls short with it’s Christmas special within a Christmas special, which does spoof rather nicely, but finds plenty of ways to dull you. And you would think that would be okay. But, given the amount of time the special consumes the hour, it leaves barely anything in its wake, and only has notable bookends by the end of it.
I think I should just get it out of my way first: for a good portion of the black & white PBS special, which takes up approximately half the episode, I was bored out of my mind. What it was attempting to do was spoof, or “pay homage”, to old Christmas specials of yester year, just crashed and burned. In a lot of ways, it was almost as if it was “let’s see how many songs we can cram down your throats!” Seriously…the episode has a total of nine songs, with only one or two having some kind of resonance with a character’s plot or emotions. It was just mind numbing to a point.
It got incredibly funny when Finn and Puck walked in as Luke and Han, though going right for the song made me roll my eyes yet again. That was the biggest problem with the Christmas special: it was a joke that went on way too long. Five minutes would have been nice, or even if it was diced up and spread throughout the episode. But the overdose of Christmas songs and lack of any kind of plot made me want to change the channel a repeated number of times. Before I knew it, it was 8:50, and half the episode had just disappeared.
As I said, the bookends were great. Holidays are always tough for those who have lost someone, and it was nice to bring Sue’s loss of her sister (yes, I got incredibly misty eyed when she talked about Jean). In fact, Sue gets major points in favor of the hour.The silver-tongued Cheerio coach not only had some great one-liners to begin the hour, but also ditched the evil persona, and was perhaps the most likable person of the entire hour (which is hard to do). She was kind-hearted, and trying to do the right thing, and I would have rather seen the kids ditch the special and join her, rather than drag on through the black & white bulls–t.
I think the biggest thing that also comes out of this is the bromance from Rory and Sam. The two have much more in common that we could have previously thought, and they bond over that in a great way. It’s touching, enough to find a heart, and a pretty damn good friendship that is hopefully revisited in episodes to come.
In fact, Damian McGinty has plenty of fantastic moments this hour, which may be his finest yet. His rendition of Blue Christmas is the only one that truly personifies anyone’s true emotions within. His love song to his mother is quite touching, and it’s that moment of realizing he doesn’t have any family for the Holidays that is truly heartbreaking. Furthermore, Rory shines by crashing the Christmas Special with a surprise reading of the Bible, in a great homage to the Charlie Brown moment when Linus recites the same passage. And really, it’s the only thing truly worth nothing from that black & white trainwreck.
Rachel disgusts in funny, eye-rolling fashion, but it’s all made up for when she learns what Christmas is truly about. Finn’s overloading of touching presents makes it better, but not exactly golden. However, the final scene in which the pair cash back in their gifts to give it to the Salvation Army is a touching sentiment that gives the episode at least some sort of message.
Althought I thought this was an episode that was the funniest since Season 1, and had plenty of reasons to smile about given the heart and emotion, I still have to knock off major rating points due to the Christmas Special. I get that it was trying to be funny by saying, “Ha-ha, those other specials are bad aren’t they? So, we’re gonna do it!” But, somewhere along the way, it nearly turned into self-parody. It was hard to take seriously, and even hard to laugh it. It was unfunny, overdosed on songs that should have been cut at best, and just not enjoyable at all. The fact is takes up half of the hour long time slot doesn’t help either, and let’s face it: by the time the series returns, you won’t be saying “Remember the Christmas special?!”, you’ll be saying “Remember how great Sectionals was?!”
Overall, “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” is almost a disaster. I meant what I said at the beginning of this review: the episode is the funniest, most heartwarming episode of Glee I’ve seen all season. But, that doesn’t mean its the best. The parts that truly point towards the true meaning of the holidays only get the episode so far: which is half way. The rest is just simply filled with so many songs, they all blend together and you begin to actually not care for a majority of them. Combine that with a half hour of just sheer boredom that tries so hard to be funny and tongue in cheek that it just bores in a dreadful manner, and you get an episode that really won’t be too memorable once we get in to the new year.
2.5 out of 5 Stars