Friday, December 11, 2009

Glee: Season 1, Episode 13 – Sectionals (2009)

Sectionals is the strongest episode of Glee to date; and contrary to the outward appearance of the show, it succeeds to a high degree due to its dramatic impact rather than its musical performances. The episode also features a number of solid directorial decisions. Structurally, the episode followed a tried and true narrative of the team (or an individual) being down, but putting aside issues and coming together, which is really a summary of the main thematic element of the show. This episode also featured potent emotional storylines coming to a head resulting in fine scenes (Finn having a few of his better scenes of the half season, and great work between Schuester and Emma). The musical performances, mostly played as straight performance were entertaining, but the final number playing as both performance with the indented subtext of what Schuester means to the kids and also as a storytelling devise conveying the subtext of what Emma really means to Schuester (which was delivered in a visually satisfying way) producted to most emotional impact. However, what makes this episode great is the directorial work of Brad Falchuk (also the writer of the episode). His work on Glee has improved over the course of the season. There is an early sequence involving the kids talking to one and other on the phone while walking through the halls, which Falchuk shows in a multiple split-screen shot, effectively taking something potentially arduous in nature and making it fresh. It is not often that a director can shoot exposition (be it dramatic exposition) and make it interesting. Falchuk is also able to garner compelling performances from the cast, elevating the drama and thus further drawing the viewer in and raising the personal stake each viewer has in the show. There is a thin line between giving the audience what they want and doing what is best for the narrative as a whole. Falchuk walks that line here with the relationship between Schuester and Emma. Likely, viewers want to see them together, as the narrative has set them up that way, but should it be so easy, now that a major obstacle has been removed (or so it seems)? The episode teases the result that viewers want but leaves the payoff for the finale shot, which again plays on Falchuk’s ability to capably tell an effective narrative. It will be interesting to see how the show returns next year in April. While Glee started off as a sort of cheesy one-note show (some people just watching for the music and fast-forwarding through the rest), it has established itself as both a fun show with comedy and great music and as a dramatically moving show with relevant thematic elements of (and for) today’s society (high school and adult), Sectionals being the mid-season culmination. 10/10

Glee can be seen on Wednesday nights on Fox or on

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