This post may contain spoilers
In my time here at Durance Magazine since the website launched, I’ve expressed a great amount of negativity towards Glee, and haven’t quite been in love with the episodes that have aired post-World Series. With Sectionals the latest of Glee’s hour, I’ll admit: I had a great deal of skepticism. Seeing how the season’s track record was, I wasn’t really looking forward to the episode. In fact, I had debated with myself a good deal whether this would be one of the final Glee episodes I review, out of frustration. However, I’m happy to report that “Hold on to Sixteen” captured the series at its best. Now, let’s take a look at the hour as I breaking what was great, what was bad, and what was just plain unexceptable!
THE GOOD: * Sam’s return - Maybe it was the return of Chord Overstreet, but with Sam’s return, it felt like everything was right again for some reason. The scene in which Rachel and Finn discover he’s a stripper is hilarious, and his return brings back one of the most solid numbers of the cast together in weeks. It’s said we didn’t see too much more of his parents, but we can get a feel for their personalities, especially with previous offscreen information given last year. It makes the goodbye touching, but still heartfelt. But still, Overstreet lights it up as Sam this week, and it’s hard to believe he was ever missing. Everytime he’s on screen, the actor/singer electrifies everything around him.
* Blaine gets his own individual storyline - One of the best parts brought up by writer Maxwell is the separation of Blaine and Kurt, and giving Blaine his own solo story for a change. Mostly, we only see “Klaine”, but tonight we get an interesting look into what makes Blaine tick, his emotions, and even thrust him forward into the limelight for a change. Essentially, he takes the gap from the missing Rachel, and he does a damn good job of that, forging a friendship between he and Finn, and making it a running story that succeeds throughout the hour.
* Mike Chang and His Father – Perhaps the best storyline of the year is Mike Chang and his battle with his father for creative independence. At the start of the hour, Mike begins to succumb to his father’s wishes, being a doctor instead of a dancer because it’s tearing his family apart. Luckily, Tina comes to the rescue, despite the couple feuding like crazy due to the issue. What Tina says sparks a little something, as it brings Mike’s father to Sectionals, and he claps with the rest of the crowd by performance’s end. Then, he calls Mike and Tina out into the hallway, and surprises his son by not only telling him he’ll support his choice, but with Tina revealing she signed him up to dance schools, effectively being her safety net. Between the father/son hug that has both men sniffing and sheding a few tears, and the very heartfelt I Love You to Tina, it’s enough to make any crumedgeon Glee fans shed at least a few tears with a smile on their face.
* Rachel isn’t annoying – I’ve said that Rachel has had a disgustingly personal moments in the past couple of weeks, I still stick to it. But, although she’s suspended this week, the writer still finds ways to bring her in, and in the best way possible. She’s not only hoping the best for the club, but also talking Quinn off a much-needed crazy ledge. The best part about this, as well, is that she is subconsciously defending her mother from getting in trouble, and it’s actually quit endearing when it’s viewed from that perspective. She isn’t in the spotlight tonight, but on the bench cheering on her man, which is best seen as she stands right by Emma. Furthermore, we get to see she and Quinn finally bond and begin to grow a friendship, which was actually just as moving given the character’s history together.
* Everything is right again! – New Directions wins, the Glee Club is one again, Quinn isn’t crazy, Mike can persue his dream, Rachel isn’t on suspension anymore, Sam is back, and the writing quality is just outstanding! What’s more to say?
THE BAD: * Santana still shows her ugly side - Santana had shown plenty of improvement these past couple of episodes, last week in general, from becoming that hateful cold hearted diva to an actually nice person. That is, until this week, in which she gave plenty of insults to tie her over for the absence of them in the past few episodes. Honestly, it’s just who she is at this point, best indicated when she makes a full list of them at Sam’s expense when he returns. God forbid we actually get some true progressive character development for her personality. Everytime she slurred the insults, though, it was almost as if the mood dampened, and it was far from Naya Rivera’s fantastic performance last week.
* Troubletones lack being a threat – The Troubletones never feel menacing at all. They have plenty of bark, but when its time for them to show that they have, it’s a decent performance at best, complete with choreography that was comprised of A LOT of arm flailing. Obviously it may be to make New Directions look good, but the all-girl group really deserved third place overall.
THE UGLY: * What has happened to Mr. Shue? - Why is the series so sad to show Matthew Morrison/Mr. Shue anymore? In season one, he was the main character, with everything revolving around him, while the kids also were featured incredibly prominently. Now, he’s nothing more than a smiling face with quite a few lines, and just there to stand in scenes from time to time. If most of the cast is indeed departing due to the senior year so longs, Glee needs to thrust back the director as one of the main focuses of the series. Without him, and playing second fiddle to these new kids that no one knows or likes (yet), the next season of the series could definitively be a major misstep.
Favorite Performances (Acting): * Chord Overstreet – It’s rare when a return on Glee works in all the right places. When Overstreet burst forth this week, he not only provided a few laughs, but seemed more prominent than his character ever was. He was a core part of why the episode worked, and with it, he brought forth a good, honest, kind-hearted performance to make you fall in love back with Sam Evans, and for he to set a lot of things right in the Glee universe that went so wrong.
* Dianna Agron – Maybe it’s because her character wasn’t crazy, or that she seemed more passionate and heartbroken this time around, but Agron did a great job as Quinn. She started off the usual psycho at the top of the hour, and slowly began to come around in a great way. Her defining moment may have been her confrontation (finally) with Shelby, and from there two major personalities and characters clashed in a way we’ve been aching to seen since the baby snatching planning began. She made us sympathize for her character yet again, and wasn’t afraid to show every emotion on the spectrum, while also headlining one of the club’s killer Sectionals performances.
Favorite Performances (Musically): “Man in the Mirror” – Beautifully shot, as soon as five of the males from New Direction were centered in individual spotlights, you knew this was going to be something to see. Each of them holds a fantastic note, and Puck does a little MJ dancing as well. It may not have been the perfect version that fans of The King of Pop hold so highly, but a good deal of them may have been proud at this rendition.
“Red Solo Cup” – It’s not often we get country in the Choir Room, so when Sam began to belt out Toby Keith, though it wasn’t his vocally best hour, it united the Club in a way that’s been missing for weeks now, showing them they can have fun together, singing, being who they are, and even showing whisking away the audience in the same manner. Plus, it was even enough to get the song back in the top ten on iTunes, sitting at #8 at the time of this posting. There was just something about the number that stole a scene, and it was quite impressive.
“We Are Young” - Now, sitting proudly at the top of iTunes over 36 hours since the episode’s release, we have the cast’s rendition of Fun. and Janelle Monae’s “We are Young”. Not only did it perfectly capture a revelation each character seemed to have, especially Quinn and Sam for that matter, but it was an uplifting number that the hour ended with, and capped off a perfect ending to an otherwise outstanding episode. One problem is that the season really hasn’t left us with too many fantastic numbers to go out on. There’s usually cliffhangers in the story, shocking endings, and most of them haven’t quite ended in songs that fully perfect the hour. “We are Young” is that big exception, ending perhaps the best episode of the season, in a warm hearted manner that is sure to have fans happy.
Favorite Quotes: “You smell like Craigslist.” – Kurt to Sebastian after the two have a vicious exchange of words without breaking smiles.
“I don’t care how big your boyfriend is, I’m going to fight to get you back.” – Sam to Mercedes.
“It was that damn Trouty Mouth! Even I felt a little something in my lady loins when he did that magic sex dance.” – Santana to the girls after they’re loss.
Overall Verdict: ”Hold on to Sixteen” is the best episode of Glee since “I Am Unicorn”. It’s well-written, comical, heartfelt, emotional, and even casts some other characters into the spotlight. It isn’t without its share of problems, but the lasting effects are tangible, and incredibly well done. While the Christmas special still remains next week, it’ll be hard to top this week’s incredible outing. It’s not perfect, but the good outweighs the bad fantasticly.
4.5 out of 5 Stars