Besides working nonstop reviewing television shows at CinemaBlend, I also hold down a corner office, executive position at a major financial firm. While wandering down the halls the other day a fellow corporate greed-monger stopped me and said, “I heard you were a Gleek.” I resisted the urge to fire her on the spot and asked, “What?” She said, “You’re a Gleek. You love Glee. You’re a geek for it. You’re a Gleek.” I slowly nodded my head and realized Glee was much, much bigger than I had ever anticipated. Everyone is watching this show and the ratings back it up. Fox has found a winner.
We had a couple of Glee-free weeks thanks to the World Series (where the cast sang the national anthem), but we are back with the good folks at William McKinley High School. Tonight’s episode dealt with some heavier issues in a variety of ways (not all consistently which I will explain, in detail, at the end). Let’s roll through “Wheels.”
“Kids are busier now-a-days. We’ve got homework, football, teen pregnancy” – Finn
Newsflash: having a kid is expensive. Finn and Quinn are finding this out with mounting doctor bills for their little Gleek-in-the-oven. Finn’s inability to secure any kind of funds to help has Quinn at her wit’s end. This leaves a nice opening for Noah who, week to week, has shown an ability to get things done by any means necessary. This week he pumps the Glee Club’s bake sale cupcakes full of a little medicinal Mary Jane in order to keep the buyers coming back. He is tenacious in his pursuit of Quinn and tonight I thought he made a fairly strong case for himself (even if he is overall pretty delusional).
“I still have the use of my penis.” - Artie
Glee can’t afford to get a handicap bus for sectionals leaving Artie out in the cold. When the rest of the club can’t seem to find any empathy, Will puts them all in wheelchairs for the week. He wants them to see things from Artie’s point of view. Artie is a character we knew very little about but when he sings “Dancing with Myself,” one thing is for sure: he looks exactly like Harry Connick Jr. I mean they could be related and I wouldn’t be shocked at all. Spitting images. I loved seeing Artie move around the school in his wheel chair to emphasize the hardship he faces as a paraplegic. He reveals to Tina that he lost the use of his legs in an accident. But his character gets a little more damaged when he learns, after they kiss, that Tina doesn’t actually have a stutter. She’s been faking to push people away, which is incomprehensible to the paralyzed Artie. How could someone choose to push people away?
“You sing like a girl, you know, in a good way.” – Kurt’s dad
Meanwhile, Kurt wants to audition for the Wicked solo. Little problem, he wants the female lead. When Schuester won’t let him sing for his supper Kurt’s dad stands up for his son. I love the use of Kurt’s father as a character very much confused by his son’s lifestyle and yet very much dedicated to his success. I think it comes across very, very well and Glee handles this topic with a certain amount of charm. Even when they get a prank phone call, Kurt’s dad explains that the Sutter Boys don’t back down from threats. Kurt eventually loses out on the lead (claiming he threw the competition) to save his father the scorn of having a gay son.
“I’m about to projectile express myself all over your hush puppies” – Sue Sylvester
In the theme of inclusion, Sue allows a girl (Becky) with Down syndrome to compete with the Cheerios. This act of humanity has Will confused to the point of near insanity. He can’t comprehend, and frankly neither could I, what angle Sue was taking in allowing Becky on the team. We learn, in the end, Sue’s empathy stems from her own sister having Down syndrome.
I mentioned, at the beginning, the idea of consistency (or lack thereof) in this episode. I think I know what Glee was getting at in “Wheels:” we should treat everyone equally and learn to think about situations from other’s points of view. We see this in the Glee members riding around in wheelchairs and Sue allowing Becky on the team, but this point fell extremely flat in a couple of places. First of all, Sue all of a sudden having a heart and opening the Cheerio team to Becky is so insanely contradictory to her treatment of Quinn that I don’t even know what to think of her character. One could make the point that Quinn “chose” her fate whereas Becky was born with her disorder, but that rings slightly hollow to me. It’s difficult to exist at such polar opposite ends of the empathetic scale.
And then there is Artie and the wheelchair. I loved this concept right up until Finn and Rachel schemed to use the wheelchair as a job employment device. I like, in many ways, how Glee’s characters are flawed. They don’t always have the right answers and make many bad choices. But thematically Glee usually remains fairly consistent with a message. The actions of some characters totally compromised this message tonight and left me more than a little confused.
I thought “Wheels” was a good episode with a generally positive message, but it missed the mark in little and important ways.
Highlights and other thoughts:
- “Defying Gravity,” to me, was the best musical number performed on Glee this season. Besides the fact that I actually saw Wicked on Broadway, Kurt and Rachel’s tandem performance was a perfect combination of emotion and simplicity. Sometimes, and with good results, the musical numbers go over the top. Other times they fall flat. This was the song that was “just right.”
- Thank god for an episode without any love or sexual overtones with Will. I loved keeping Emma and Terri out of this episode completely. It allowed an uncomplicated feel and let other characters carry the episode, namely: Noah, Kurt and Kurt’s father.
- I was going to include Artie in the last bullet point until I realized something: Artie wasn’t so much a character in “Wheels” as was his wheelchair.
- My favorite quote of the night: “1200 bucks. That’s enough for the short bus and 2 cases of Natty light for the drive home.” – Noah