GLEE SEASON 2: Last year’s “Sectionals” was one of the best of Glee‘s first season; there were great Will and Emma moments, one of Lea Michele’s single most exhilarating performances, and a fantastic, closing Kelly Clarkson cover. Did “Special Education,” which also focused on the glee club’s Sectionals competition live up to its predecessor?

The Players:

  • Directed by: Paris Barclay
  • Written by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan
  • CastJane Lynch, Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Jayma Mays, Chris Colfer, Dianna Agron, Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Amber Riley, Naya Rivera, Mark Salling, Jenna Ushkowitz

The Plot:

There is major drama happening at McKinley in the wake of Kurt’s exit and with Sectionals on the minds of every glee club member. Mr. Schue decides to make major last-minute changes to the New Directions’ set list, Puck finds a replacement for Kurt, and Rachel finds out about Finn and Santana. Over at Dalton Academy, Kurt tries to land a solo in his new glee club’s Sectionals performance.

The Good:

  • Shaking things up: Finally, Glee moves away from the standard repertoire of Lea Michele solos and Mercedes high notes. Mr. Schue takes Emma’s advice and makes the command decision to let the back row (Mike, Brittany, Sam, Quinn, and Santana) take center stage. It also gives Rachel, who is fast becoming the most grating character on network television, a much-needed wake-up call; she has a major meltdown over being passed over for Sectionals solos.
  • New Talent: One of the best things about the Sectionals and Regionals episodes of the past is that we get to see and hear other, fresh talent. Two of the better songs of the episode were performed by New Directions’ competition- The Hipsters, the geriatric glee club from Warren Township Continuing Education Program, and The Warblers from Dalton Academy. It also provides an opportunity to showcase other styles of entertaining, as New Directions rarely strays from theatrical, free-for-all performances.

The Bad:

  • Rushed storylines: There was a ton of conflict this week, but the bulk of it came out of left field or felt forced. First- Emma got married?! Not only does this seem way out of character for the über-careful guidance counselor, but Emma has not even been in the last few episodes. Then the entire Finn-Santana fling which was briefly mentioned last week; by the end of the episode suddenly became old news. The speed at which these relationships are turning are completely unbelievable, especially when they take so long to set up.
  • Too Much/Too Fast: Not only the relationships suffered from the speed issue, but so did the overall feel of the show. It felt like the quality and time that they usually put into writing and make the show just wasn’t there this week. Instead of being a grand finale, it felt more like something thrown together.

The Music:

  • “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” from Evita- Kurt comes to Rachel for advice about which song to sing for his Warblers try-out, and she suggests this show-tune. The song cuts between the two: Rachel sings out her hurt and anger over Finn’s betrayal and the glee club’s (according to her) resentment of her talent, while Kurt sings to get a solo in Dalton’s glee club. He ultimately does not get the solo because, as Blaine tells him, he is not a team player. Usually the one-two punch of Lea Michele and Chris Colfer really delivers, but this was a weird and altogether unimpressive attempt that barely registered next to the other songs in the episode.
  • “The Living Years,” Mike & the Mechanics – Despite what some may assume given their age, The Hipsters nailed their cover of the 80′s hit. The aging crooners gave an unexpectedly vibrant and engaging performance.
  • “Hey Soul Sister,” Train - The Warblers, led by Blaine, covered Train’s latest Top 40 single for their Sectionals song. Darren Criss’ voice is great, and overall the performance was great, if only because it was so wildly different from New Directions’ overly theatrical performances. It was understated, refreshingly so; with their matching blazers, simple dance steps, and snapping fingers, the boys from Dalton were reminiscent of 50′s boy bands like The Four Seasons.
  • “Time of My Life,” from Dirty Dancing – Sam and Quinn, winner of the Duets challenge, land the big solos in New Directions’ first performance at Sectionals. Though the two of them have great chemistry, Chord Overstreet and Dianna Agron’s voices are not quite as suited to this song, which took the performance down a notch.
  • “Valerie,” The Zutons – Luckily, New Direction’s second Sectionals song made up for the mediocrity of the first.  The performance overall was excellent; Santana’s raspy voice is perfectly suited to this song, and the stellar choreography, as performed by Brittany and Mike, was fantastic. Taking a chance on second-string glee members paid off- New Directions tied for first place with The Warblers.
  • “Dog Days Are Over,” Florence and the Machine – Mercedes and Tina led the show’s closing performance. It was nice to really hear Jenna Ushkovitz’s voice, which is lovely and sounds great next to Mercedes’ .

Overall:

It was great to see the second-tier cast members get a serious chance to shine, and there certainly was not a dull moment in “Special Education.” However, in its rush to cram in as many plot lines as possible into one episode, this week’s episode felt overstuffed and random.

Rating: 6.5/10

The next episode of “Glee” airs on December 7th at 8 p.m on Fox.

Season 2 Trailer: