I loved Glee. Its first season kicked ass, the novelty was bright and shiny, the characters were awesome and the plot was actually engaging. Then the second and third season happened, and it slowly went on a downward spiral for me. The gloss came off, the characters were wooden and the plots…weren’t worth mentioning.
Then comes Season 4, with half the cast MIA and the other half split between staying at William McKinley High School or jetting off to New York to some post-school-Glee thingy. I dunno, the premise alone made me switch off. It didn’t sound like a show that could survive for very long with such a ridiculous change in status quo.
While I’ve not been watching religiously since the middle of Season 3, I have kept relatively up to date on Wikipedia out of curiosity to see if it actually goes back to the glory days again (so far, no luck). I was intrigued by the description of a recent episode named Shooting Star that purported to be “harrowing” and one of the most dramatic hours in the history of American television. Spoilers were released prior to the episode’s transmission, informing just what kind of harrowing issue the Glee club would be facing next. I won’t go much further than that, but the spoilers were enough to make me want to watch this episode – not out of joy at the series finally returning to its sane roots without appealing to the lowest of the cultural demographics through cheesy songs and OC-levels of relationship drama, but because the premise for the episode alone was enough to make me filled with rage.
So for those who haven’t seen it, don’t worry because:
1. You’re not missing anything.
2. You don’t need your blood pressure raised, too.
3. I’ll paint a portrait of the episode as vividly as I can for you, so you can draw your own conclusions. If you’re still keen to see it after this, may God be with you.
For those of you not keen on Glee and its stupid plots, trust me when I say you’ll want to keep reading.
So the episode starts with some chaff about who New Directions will be facing at Regionals. After some un-punny names of rival glee clubs, resident airhead Britney suddenly informs everyone that a meteor (named after her obese cat) is coming to kill them all in a few days. Glee club mentor Mr Schuester then sets the class the task of telling those they love how much they mean to them in these last days before Lima, Ohio becomes the set of Deep Impact 2: The Deepening.
To be honest, I know who most of the new characters are through Wikipedia trawls, but seeing them on screen for the first time I’ve gotta say they’re really interchangeable (except for the hot brunette – not that she can act, though). So to start the week’s assessment we have Ryder, a young Bieber-wannabe who’s apparently been texting with a mystery girl named “Katie” for the past few episodes. He thinks he’s found who she really is after being sent a picture of her (a blonde with no personality but who somehow watches the news occasionally) and after an embarrassing rendition of Elton John’s “Your Song” he finds out it’s not actually her. She says he’s been Manti Te’o’d by somebody who’s stolen her picture and is screwing with him. Heartbroken, Ryder accuses his friends of being the culprits behind the Te’o’ing, but they swear they’re innocent.
While it may resemble the figurative tip of the iceberg for the grievances I have with this episode, I’ve gotta say that using Manti Te’o as a plot twist for the show seems incredibly poor (and also a couple months too late). If they’re seriously saying there’s a dude messing with Ryder while appropriating pictures from other women, is there seriously not another plot device they can use instead? I mean, hasn’t the fake-man-as-a-woman-on-the-internet thing been done to death? Isn’t that what all those creepy Swedes use for their eHarmony profiles?
Anyway, the next relationship that bears scrutiny here is between Sam and Britney, two blondes with roughly the same IQ and grooming regimens. Apparently Sam’s with Britney but hasn’t really told her how he feels, while she’s more interested in connecting with her cat (insert lesbian pussy joke here). Believe me when I say this plotline doesn’t actually go anywhere, so let’s pay it no more mind.
What is important about Britney in particular is a discussion she has with Becky, the young cheerleader suffering from Down’s Syndrome. Becky’s worried that, with Britney’s impending graduation, she’ll have to go out into the big bad world with nobody to stick with her. She begs Britney to intentionally not graduate so they can stay at school together forever. Britney gently tells her they both need to graduate, and that she’ll always be there for Becky. Remember this conversation, I’ll come back to it later.
The last story before we get to the rancid, rotting meat of the episode is a little relationship drama between Mr Schuester and football coach Beiste, the latter of whom has decided she wants to upgrade their friendship status with a Lady and the Tramp-inspired spaghetti dinner (in the locker room, of all places. Who knew high school was such a romantic location?). Now while the rest of this episode is either boring or infuriating, the scenes between actors Matthew Morrison (Schue) and Dot-Marie Jones (Beiste) are actually decent. I’ve always liked their friend chemistry, and it’s clear the actors are good friends outside of the show. So I won’t lambast their performance or plotline here, though I will return to it with a vengeance at the end of this piece.
Then comes the “emotional heart” of the episode – after telling Beiste he doesn’t feel the same way about her, Schuester brings her to a reconciliatory glee club rehearsal once it’s discovered Britney’s meteor is a dud. Just after Beiste gets into the room, gunshots ring out in the hallway.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen – this week’s Glee is proudly brought to you by the most flagrantly disgusting of plot twists. A goddamn school shooting.
Schuester and Beiste lock the room down fast and get all the kids into hiding places that would seriously not work if a shooter came into the room, like leaning against a wall or hiding in a corner near some chairs without concealment. They barricade one of the two doors into the choir room with a piano (alright, I’ll roll with that) and leave the other door merely locked (because clearly school shooters will be impeded by a few inches of flimsily-secured wood when gunning for teenagers). The kids all start getting the shit scared out of them, and we see that a couple of them weren’t in the room when it got locked down – among them, Sam’s paramour Britney, who’s holed up in the bathroom.
One more point I’m reluctantly willing to give the writers on this one is that they avoided a potentially stupid plot development in amongst the dross they’ve already got; Sam decides to make a break for it to go save Britney (repeatedly), but is thankfully stopped by Schuester and Beiste and told to sit the hell down. For a moment I was worried we’d have a “Sam, don’t be a hero” moment with a bloodied corpse at the end, but thankfully we got something far more vehemently infuriating. But we’ll get there.
What follows is a roughly ten-minute chunk where the kids start phone-videoing goodbye messages to parents and loved ones, while SWAT bust in to give the all-clear. During this, Schuester gets into the bathroom to save Britney and two other random kids hidden in there, and not one minute after they get back inside the choir room we hear SWAT say the building’s clear. So, crisis averted, right?
Sorry, allow me a moment to prepare for the final twist by imbibing this rather large scotch – and keep in mind, at time of writing, it’s 11am. Yep, it’s that bad.
It transpires that Sue Sylvester, cheerleading coach who has until now been absent in the episode, claims responsibility for the gunshots – she brought out her gun (distastefully nicknamed Uma Thurman, just to pour some salt in the wound) for a safety check, then accidentally fired it. Under school regulations the Principal has no choice but to fire her, so Sue packs her bags and ships out after a rather ham-handed rant regarding personal safety, slippage in mental health standards and Obama trying to get back people’s guns. Bad enough, but we’re not done yet.
Remember that conversation Britney and Becky had earlier? Well, it turns out that afterwards Becky – the poor, lonely, unlucky Down’s Syndrome sufferer – decided she didn’t feel safe having to go out into the world on her own, so she stole her father’s gun and brought it to school. When she shows Sue the next day it accidentally goes off, setting off the chain of events making everyone believe there’s a shooter in the school. So Sue’s taken the fall for Becky, and gotten fired as a result.
And if that weren’t enough to make you rend your clothes in fury, you know what happens afterwards? The students, more or less, go back to their normal routine. There’s still a bit of discussion and tears about the incident, but the last ten minutes deal with Sam buying Britney a new cat and declaring he loves her, Ryder trying once more to find out who “Katie” is, and Schuester setting Beiste up with an online dating profile. Yup, Schuester is apparently so unfazed by the event that he sets up Beiste on a date like nothing at all happened. It seems they’re all too willing to sweep this little hiccup under the rug, and get back to kicking ass at AutoTuning.
So, let me boil it down for you, ladies and gentlemen – the episode makes an absolute mockery of the horror of the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, people with Down’s Syndrome are mentally unbalanced and apparently likely to bring guns to school, and at the end of the day the power of song and friendship is enough to make you forget you were in the middle of one of the most potentially-terrifying events a person can ever experience.
This…is disgusting. Truly and utterly disgusting. Let’s put aside for a moment the “too soon” angles of argument in relation to the Sandy Hook parallels, and instead have a look at the concept behind this episode. A school shooting. A school shooting. In an otherwise comedic and angsty series, this is as awkward a tonal shift as you can achieve without sticking a torture scene from 24 into the middle of Sesame Street. While I’ve not experienced a school shooting myself, and my heart goes out to all the parents and relatives of those who’ve lost loved ones in those tragic events, I’m fairly certain that, even if you yourself don’t get shot at, you don’t go back to normal straight away. It leaves a mark, a scar, a permanent impact. Your school life, meant to be safe and no more dangerous than the odd toilet facial or stolen lunch money, has forever been marred by the knowledge that a gun, one of the most swift and deadly killing implements known to man, has gone off in proximity to you. Your life has been directly threatened.
You don’t come back from that five minutes later.
I feel like the show is subconsciously saying that it’s relatively easy getting over a school shooting, and granted, nobody was actually physically injured, but given how distraught and terrified every character was during the scenes that took place just from the mere thought of being harmed, I would be very surprised if most, if not all, didn’t seek counselling afterwards.
Furthermore, let’s look at the Down’s aspect – given how many school shooters have been given exposure as having mental deficiencies or imbalances, at least by media standards, the fact they used the one prominent character in this series with Down’s Syndrome (who has been lovely, heartwarming and one of my favourite characters thus far) as the shooter makes me sick. People with Down’s have enough of a hard time in society as it is without Glee coming in and basically saying “If you make them fearful enough, they’ll protect themselves with guns!” I mean, come on. Seriously. In an age where gun laws and the rights to self-defence are being constantly called into question and gone over from both sides of the argument, Glee comes out with this stupid, fetid, ridiculous and offensive twist?
I feel such heartache for the parents and victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, and I feel doubly sorry for any of them who had the misfortune to watch this trashy, poorly written and utterly hateful piece of televisual garbage that makes a mockery this event. Glee has managed to take a horrific, gut-wrenching tragedy and turn it into this episode of absolutely feckless shit.
I’ll see next week’s episode in case there’s any form of fallout from this one, but I doubt it. If the ending was any indication they’re quite keen to just put this event aside and move on. I know nobody was injured in this story, but tell me, Glee – do you think the Sandy Hook parents just moved on? Do you think they moved on at Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or Chardon? Do you think they were able to just put it past them and go on with life?
A school shooting is not something to be taken lightly, not something to be mocked, not something to be abused for the sake of an ephemeral and pointless storyline, and not something you should be proud of for having in your series. The writers, the showrunners, and every online review who wants to go ahead and call this gripping, powerful or an emotional rollercoaster of an episode should be ashamed. This is not what television, artistic endeavour or humanity in general should aspire to create.
If this is what television thinks it needs to do to have an impact anymore, then God help us going forward.