Glee s1e15 review: 'The Power of Madonna'
|REVIEWS - TV|
An avalanche of the Material Girl's output brings the grade curve up this week...
So here we are, another Tuesday night, another hour of Glee. After the disappointment of last week’s non-event, here we have tonight’s obscenely-hyped episode. Last week’s show gathered a series-high of 13.66 million US viewers for what amounted to a forty-four minute fellation of four characters. Having provided her entire catalogue free of licensing charges to series creator Ryan Murphy (apparently they go way back), this episode solely features songs by Madonna. Will this week’s obvious ratings-grab be a better experience? Let’s find out!
Yeah, that was more like it.
Opening with a heretofore-unexpressed obsessive exultation of Madonna, Sue (as part of her blackmail of Principal Figgins) institutes a new policy of loudly playing her songs over the school’s P.A. From the start, the episode roots itself firmly in the more tongue-in-cheek end of Glee’s thematic and emotional spectrum, a tone bolstered by such dialogue choices as, “But blasting her delicious hooks would make it impossible for the students to concentrate!”
Dialogue like that also sets the episode up to exist as what I feared it would mostly be - one more sloppy rimjob of an already undeserving asshole. Sure, Madonna’s legacy as a performer, icon, businesswoman and provocateur are solidly set in the hardest of granite, but in the words of another pop icon of the late twentieth century, “What have you done for me lately?”
I haven’t liked a single thing that woman’s put out in over ten years. I think she’s long ago bought into her own legend and has completely forgotten why people gave a shit about her in the first place: guts, an “I’ll do what I want, even make Shanghai Surprise” attitude and those aforementioned delicious hooks; which have instead been replaced by hubristic nonsense like Swept Away.
That said, most of the rapacious butt-sharking comes at the beginning of the episode and the rest is more naturally infused into the dialogue, mostly through Kurt and Mercedes, who, like Sue, worship at the altar of the Material Girl (something I’m sure she hates to be continuously referred to as, especially having passed the half-century mark).
So Jesse, Rachel’s supposed ex that everyone knows she’s still seeing, left in a huff when she didn’t want to put out. This gives her the bright idea of asking for advice from the other girls in glee, most of whom either dislike or openly hate her. After her tale and Tina’s story about Artie forgiving her for faking her stutter in exchange for changing everything about herself that makes her Tina, Will talks with Emma to try and figure out a way to help the team’s girls get more of an edge on the boys, who seem to take them for granted (one of this week’s themes).
Wandering into a Cheerios rehearsal of “Ray of Light” on stilts, Will gets the bright idea to have the glee kids come up with a Madonna number. Following some reticence from the male members of the club (actually just Puck and Finn, as Mike and Matt are still silent, Artie doesn’t offer an opinion and Kurt wet himself when the assignment was given), Will calls them out as “disrespectful, bullying, sexist and... misogynistic.” When Puck makes a standard, asinine Puck-response, it’s the set-up for Rachel (of course) to begin tonight’s first number, a girls-only performance of “Express Yourself.”
This number was pretty damn good, with the girls in color-coded corsetry inspired by the song’s music video. Rachel even cedes some of the lead to Quinn and Mercedes (for a line apiece) and all the girls appear to be having a lot of fun mimicking the video’s dance, crotch-grabbing included. Of course, because the plot requires it, none of the guys (except Kurt) are impressed. You’d think Mike and Matt, the club’s best male dancers, who seem to exist only for that purpose, would get a kick out of it, but no, the plot is strong with this one.
In a fractured mirror image of Will’s assignment to emulate the singer’s inspirational power, Sue orders the Cheerios to start dating younger, inferior men. Santana and Brittany (the latter dolled up like early-eighties Madonna) concoct a scheme to fulfill Sue’s Madonna-inspired mission - Santana will take Finn’s virginity since he’s three days younger than her and, according to stone-throwing, glass house-living Brittany, “he’s super dumb.”
When Sue calls into question her suitability to listen to Madonna over her lack of sexuality, Emma decides to have sex with Will that night. After a visual gag-filled duet mash-up of “Borderline” and “Open Your Heart” leaves Finn and Rachel feeling a little closer to each other than they’d like, they both opt to lose their virginities to those looking to take them.
"Like a Virgin is another great number, featuring Santana’s first appearance in a costume other than her uniform"
Mercedes and Kurt decide to remake a Madonna music video (I knew that “Vogue” video was part of the episode), enlisting Sue to star in it after Will’s finally returned hair-related insults truly get to her. Actually it comes off more like an excuse simply to have the sequence exist rather than as an organic extension of the narrative, but it was well done, so I’m only partially complaining.
Now, the three-way (or six-way) moment of truth, set to “Like a Virgin” - which of the couples will actually do the deed? It’s another great number, featuring Santana’s first appearance in a costume other than her uniform. I’m not sure if it beats Zidler and the Duke in Moulin Rouge, but it was damn good. But just when it looks like they’ll all get lucky, it turns out the number was entirely in Emma, Finn and Rachel’s heads. Only Finn went through with it, though he’s completely unaffected by the experience since he really doesn’t even like Santana as a person.
After Will and Emma decide to suspend their relationship until Will’s divorce goes through, Jesse, of all people, shows up. Turns out he’s transferred to McKinley to be closer to Rachel. No one but Will, whose gullibility could be measured in cubic acres, trusts that he’s not a mole for Vocal Adrenaline. Kurt rightfully bitches that he’ll never get a solo now and Mercedes calls Will out on how they only “trot me out at the end of every number so I can wail on the last note.” Santana even calls him a spy outright, “I would know.” Will, once again struck stupid by the needs of the plot, tells them to just deal with it, like he always does when he makes a decision they don’t like that later comes back to bite him in the ass.
In the very next scene, Kurt and Mercedes show up at a pep rally in Cheerios uniforms to perform “4 Minutes” with the cheerleaders and the marching band. Will is aghast they’ve joined the enemy (completely disregarding the fact that Brittany and Santana are spies and very open about it), but they inform him they’re tired of not having solos and will now be in both clubs, since Sue has decided to add vocals to her, in her own words, “wildly over-produced” numbers.
At this point, the guys boy-band their way through “What It Feels Like for a Girl,” shoehorned in to touch back on the narrative point of the episode: that everyone is taking each other for granted and the club’s problems are only getting worse. Artie takes the lesson directly to heart and apologizes to Tina, acknowledging how rude he was to her. They make up and the Artie/Tina shippers squee in delight.
Last, and actually kinda least, Finn apologizes to Rachel for being dickish over Jesse, who challenges him to a sing-off in the parking lot after school, which would’ve been a much more satisfying end to the episode than the overblown performance of “Like a Prayer,” complete with black gospel choir. But at least Kurt and Mercedes got a couple lines to solo.
"Being full to the brim with great one-liners helped bring this episode out of “B-” range, where it could very well have sat"
So where does that leave us in the grand scheme? Well, the second string got a decent amount of face-time this week and Quinn got left out in the cold again. I guess her story just kinda ended when Finn broke up with her. Too bad, I was enjoying her subplot a lot more than the will they/won’t they of Finn and Rachel. They’ll get back around to her, I’m sure, but that’s now two episodes in a row she’s been MikeandMatted. Shit, Brittany gets more lines than her now and she thinks the square root of four is rainbows.
Still and all, moving some of the B-plot along, having solid numbers as good as “Express Yourself” and “Like a Virgin” and being full to the brim with great one-liners helped bring this episode out of “B-” range, where it could very well have sat. As far as I know, this is the last gimmick episode until the Joss Whedon-directed “Dream On” drops a month from now. Maybe in that time, they’ll give Quinn and Puck something to do. Mike and Matt, though... good luck, guys.
- Emma’s pamphlets. One is titled “Help, I’m in Love with My Stepdad” and another says, “I Still Breastfeed - but How Old is Too Old?”
- The guy version of Madonna. It isn’t Pantera. It’s David Bowie.
- Kurt and Mercedes are Cheerios now. Like that’ll last beyond this episode. How long was Kurt on the football team? Oh that’s right, as long as the plot needed him to be - about twenty minutes of one episode.
- How has Sue not lost her job by now? Last episode she cut off a boy’s ponytail on a whim and this week she pushed two students around in the hallway. I accept as part of the willing suspension of disbelief the show requires the ridiculous budget the show choir’s numbers would actually need to be pulled off between the costumes and sets alone, the backing band knowing every song off the top of their heads and Brittany not being in special ed., but they’re really straining what little realism the show has.
- Will’s desk. It has a Spanish flag and a pair of maracas on it to remind us that he’s a Spanish teacher. Why bother?
“Borderline/Open Your Heart”
“Like A Virgin”
“What It Feels Like for a Girl”
“Like a Prayer”
Sue - “It’s been the biggest dream of my career to pay homage to Madonna - the woman most responsible for my take-no-prisoners demeanor and my subconscious tendency to always be desperately be looking for someone named ‘Susan’.”
Quinn - (to Rachel, when talking about Jesse) Would you please stop talking? You’re grossing out my baby. (this was one of only three lines she had this episode)
Emma - Lindsey Lohan looks like something out of Lord of the Rings.
Brittany - When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist.
Kurt - Mercedes is black, I’m gay, we make culture.
Jesse - (to Rachel, who is stalling in the bathroom to avoid having sex) Just come out so we can talk... or sing about it.
p.s. - I miss you Zayde.