The Good: Moments of humor, Moments of performance, Moments of character.
The Bad: More produced sounds, Moment of character, acting and plot that fall dramatically short.
The Basics: The second half and the second season of Glee take the show into much more predictable places that take the viewer on a weird emotional roller coaster.
Just as I did with my review of the first season of Glee (reviewed here!), I open with an objection to the merchandising around Glee. Fox annoyingly breaks the season into two parts. The first half of the second season is reviewed here! I'm not going to repeat that analysis, but the bottom line for Glee Season Two ought to be this: if you're going to buy it, buy it as the Complete Second Season, not in the two separate volumes. As separate volumes, the show is disproportionately expensive and that does a real disservice to the fans.
Glee is a gimmick show and in its second season, it begins to show some serious flaws in that gimmick. That said, I cannot recall a recent show that left me tearing up as much as the latter half of the second season of Glee. It is a series of serious contradictions and that erratic quality makes me suspect that its time is now and that this will be one of those television shows that people largely forget about once it is no longer on the air, like Wings. Glee in its second season is a formulaic melodrama focusing on McKinley High School's glee club, New Directions. It oscillates between musical numbers and character-driven scenes that have angsty emotions and witty lines.
Glee is a dramedy that has a split personality disorder in many moments and episodes. The roller coaster of emotions in the average Glee episode comes from characters who are interesting, but are almost universally tormented by their circumstances or each other. Angsty characters are mixed with song and dance numbers that are frequently incongruent with the emotions of the characters in the scenes preceding the number or are used as a weapon to express emotions that the characters are too timid to say. And I'm a fan of angst, but Glee is hampered by attempting to service about eighteen characters. In the second season of Glee, some of the most popular characters are neglected or given the more plot-convenient arcs in order to let some of the previously-neglected characters more of a voice. In the second half of the second season, one of the problems with the show is that it bothers at all with some of the main characters, giving them forced melodramatic arcs that are less compelling than those of some of the characters who are actually getting their chance to shine.
From the first half of the season, it is Coach Beiste and Lauren Zizes who lose the most airtime. They are relegated very much to the back burner, as are Tina and Mike. The songs continue to range from the popular ("Born This Way," "Rolling In The Deep") to the obscure and, for the first time, the original. No longer just covering familiar songs makes moments in the latter half of the second season of Glee both enjoyable and utterly ridiculous - Rachel makes a song for her headband and Brittany makes a song about cups.
So, why is it at all worth watching the second season of Glee? Well, I'm always one for a show with a pro-gay agenda. So, when Kurt comes back into the picture in a meaningful way - having fled to Dalton Academy earlier in the season - the show is wonderfully accepting. But more than that, Santana, the angry background performer leaps to the front of the characters when she comes to accept that her love for Brittany is actual love and she struggles with getting Brittany to accept her. Santana has an amazing character arc in this season whereby she actually becomes more than the monolithic angry character who has been bitchy, making constant quips at the expense of all of her peers. She is vital and her arc is one that anyone who has struggled with the true wrenching angst of young love is liable to absolutely fall in love with.
And, of course, there is Sue Sylvester. Sue is one of the reasons to watch Glee and though she sits out a couple of the late second season episodes, she absolutely steals the show for what she is in. Having lost her Cheerios, she becomes more bitter and is revitalized by Will Schuester's attempts to show her kindness. Being exposed to the positive message of New Directions actually has an effect on Sue. Equally important is the loss Sue experiences late in the season. That loss gives Jane Lynch a real chance to shine and explode with a performance that is deep and heartwrenching to watch. The moment I realized I would recommend the second season of Glee came in "Funeral" when I found myself crying as I watched Jane Lynch's facial expressions.
What is not worth watching in the second season of Glee is the main character struggle between Quinn, Finn and Rachel. Finn and Quinn have found themselves back together, with Rachel focusing on herself when she is not pining for Finn. As Quinn becomes obsessed with getting voted prom queen, Finn has doubts about the relationship and the viewer works up the interest in any of their struggles. Also problematic is the return of Jesse St. James who makes for a particularly disappointing recurring character and forced character conflict with Rachel.
In the second season of Glee, the main characters are:
Coach Shannon Beiste - Takes Will out for a night of drinking,
Sam Evans - Has a rough time after his break-up with Quinn, made worse by his father losing his job and forcing his family to live in a seedy motel,
Terri - Joins Sue's League Of Doom briefly before finally leaving Will once and for all,
Mike - Continues dating Tina and embraces his dancing over the singing,
Lauren - Becomes Mercedes's manager when Mercedes becomes a diva. She also keeps leading Puck on and does everything she can to ruin Quinn's prom queen campaign,
Blaine - Finally admits his love for Kurt and accepts Kurt's departure from Dalton and return to McKinley,
Brittany - Is dating Artie when Santana comes out to her and she remains surprisingly faithful to Artie until he insults her. She starts her own vlog,
Santana - Goes beyond getting angry all the time and accepts that she is absolutely in love with Brittany. Quickly deducing the way to run a serious campaign for prom queen, she blackmails Karofsky into being her beard and she takes a militant stance against bullying in the school,
Tina - Shows up and continues to date Mike. Her high point is when she is heckled during a benefit for New Directions,
Puck - Continues to pursue Lauren and joins the Celibacy Club,
Mercedes - Tired of being constantly put behind Rachel, she practices being a diva by making outrageous demands,
Artie - Keeps Brittany until he calls her stupid and spends the rest of the season regretting that slip,
Kurt - Returns to McKinley and becomes distressed over how no one appears to care anymore about his homosexuality. He is growing into love with Blaine and advises the girls on prom outfits,
Quinn - Works to keep Finn and is actually decent to Sam after their breakup,
Emma - Has serious issues in her marriage and then begins to be truly crippled by her obsessive compulsive disorder,
Sue Sylvester - Survives the loss of her cheerleaders and then tries to destroy New Directions yet again. But, between Will and her personal loss, she is set off on a new direction herself,
Will Schuester - Holds New Directions together, tries to get over Emma by dating Holly. He is given the chance to work on Broadway when April Rhodes returns,
and Finn - He looks out for Kurt, romances Quinn and tries to stop loving Rachel.
On the acting front, Jane Lynch is, of course, amazing. But the real winner for the second season is Naya Rivera. Rivera plays Santana and she takes the background character and makes her into an essential, vibrant and tortured character. What Rivera manages to do is make the radical transition seem not only plausible, but entertaining.
Glee Season 2 might not directly lead into the Glee 3D (reviewed here!), but it is the high-water mark for the series so far.
Season 2, Volume 2 DVD set - 5/10
Season 2 DVD set - 7/10
For other television reviews, please click here to visit my index page on the subject!
© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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