Friday, May 20, 2011

Glee 2.20: "Prom Queen"

“Oh, you can get married as many times as you want. You only have one shot at your junior prom.”

Overall I found “Prom Queen” to be a rather fun episode of “Glee,” although it certainly had its share of problems, like every episode has this season. I appreciated the joyfulness of prom, however, and the way the episode kind of wrapped up Kurt’s emotional journey this season. I haven’t loved the Kurt being bullied plot, not because it didn’t send an important and needed message, but because it was told in a heavy handed way and zooming over to Dalton Academy for an obligatory scene every episode fractured the storytelling. In this episode, though, I think the resolution was handled well. Karofsky came to grips with the true horror of what he had done to Kurt, and Kurt truly, fully embraced who he is with Blaine’s support propelling him forward. Although Karofsky still hasn’t fully accepted himself in the way Kurt has, this episode brought Kurt’s part of the storyline to a satisfying conclusion. What I didn’t like was some of the music choices and the rather ridiculous continuation of the Finn/Rachel/Quinn/and now Jesse soap opera.

As is pretty obvious from the title, this episode centers around the McKinley High Junior Prom. We open with Jacob Ben Israel interviewing Puck for a video and accusing Puck of being whipped by Lauren. That’s not the only trouble brewing as prom approaches, though. Principal Figgins wants New Directions to provide the entertainment for prom- he’s even willing to pay them. Sue is pretty irate over this and has a whole list of the most horrible songs they’ve ever performed that should not be performed again. I didn’t think that joke was especially funny. It was a bit too meta for my taste. Besides conflict with Sue, there are more typical teen issues related to prom that must be dealt with as well. Lauren, because she’s not a bean pole, is having trouble finding a nice prom dress that fits her. Mercedes has an even worse problem. She can’t find a date, and even though she doesn’t feel like she needs a man to define her, she just thought it would be nice to have a guy tell her she was beautiful and dance with her. I get where she’s coming from.

Rachel actually comes up with a rather ingenious plan to solve Mercedes’ problem, and it’s one I kind of wish I had thought of when faced with my own high school prom drama almost ten years ago (my how time flies). Rachel and Sam decide to jointly ask Sam to go to prom with them. He hesitates because of his family’s financial situation, but Rachel’s got that covered. They’re going to do prom on a budget. Off the clearance rack dresses, the dinner special at Breadstix, the works. I thought the whole thing was really sweet. The sweetness can’t last all that long without some drama, though. Rachel is in the auditorium rehearsing “Rolling in the Deep,” when all of a sudden Jesse St. James appears and starts singing it with her. Because Lea Michele and Jonathon Groff are both accomplished Broadway veterans, I really don’t have anything negative to say about the performance, but I wasn’t especially to see Jesse back. It feels like he’s got some sort of agenda, but I don’t know what it is. Finn sees Rachel and Jesse back together and throws a typical angsty fit. Rachel angsts back as good as she gets about Quinn. I think Rachel’s got the high ground with this one. Finn did break up with Rachel and get back together with his cheating, lying, manipulative ex, after all.

The rest of the boys all seem to have their own brand of prom drama. Kurt wants to go to prom with Blaine. Blaine is hesitant, just because of how he was treated in public school, but he eventually agrees. Later, Burt, Blaine, and Finn are all discussing prom fashion when Kurt decides to show off what he plans to wear. It’s a sort of tuxedo kilt outfit he made himself to honor Alexander McQueen and the Royal Wedding. Burt worries that it might be a little over the top and serve to only bait the more intolerant students at McKinley, and Blaine somewhat agrees. Blaine’s still a little jumpy about even going to prom in the first place. Blaine gets in a little trouble with Kurt for not loving the outfit, but Kurt claims to understand where Blaine is coming from. Kurt’s convinced that the McKinley kids aren’t that intolerant, though. Santana, Karofsky and the Bully Whips have been going kind of overboard protecting him, but there haven’t even been any incidents for them to protect him from. Kurt has even managed to find common ground with Karofsky, with Karofsky tearfully apologizing to him one day. Kurt accepts the apology, saying he hopes Karofsky will have the courage to come out sooner rather than later, because Kurt can see how being in the closet is causing Karofsky a lot of pain. I thought that particular scene was pretty great work by the actors involved.

Meanwhile, Puck wants Artie’s help spiking the special punch Sue provides for the prom every year. He’s worried that being named Prom King will ruin his street cred, so he wants to be Prom Anti-King instead. Artie declines, because he’s hoping Brittany will accept his “prom proposal,” take him back, and they’ll have a good time. Puck and Sam end up helping Artie with the proposal, which is a cute performance of “Isn’t She Lovely” in home ec class. Brittany seems flattered by the gesture, but she turns Artie down. She thinks she needs to work on herself, and she wants to spend prom dancing with other people’s dates. I think this is the first time I’ve ever found Brittany to not be likeable. Her reaction to Artie wasn’t her usual brand of clueless. It was just mean. Upset by the rejection, Artie agrees to help Puck spike the punch.

On the evening of the prom, preparations are under way with a vengeance. We get a rather sickening scene where Finn arrives at Quinn’s house to take her to the dance. He tells her how beautiful she looks, which honestly just makes me want to slap him for the wishy-washyness. And it gets even worse. We move to Breadstix, where the prom on a budget crew, now expanded to four with Jesse, are enjoying dinner. Jesse reveals his plan for what he wants to do since he dropped out of college. He wants to be a show choir consultant, because he thinks that’s all he’s really good at. He had been majoring in show choir at school, and he thought they’d have really smart kids to take the non-choir related classes for him like they did in high school. Finn and Quinn arrive at Breadstix for their own pre-prom dinner, and Finn and Jesse get in yet another argument. Finn used to be so much more likeable before he started this wishy washy business.

Finally it’s time for prom, and Puck, Artie, and Sam give an energetic performance of…infamous YouTube sensation Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” I was kind of appalled at the waste of talent with that choice. Those three guys together on a song can be epic, but instead it was wasted on that drivel. There was a complete 180 for the next song choice, with Rachel singing “Jar of Hearts.” Now I adore “Jar of Hearts,” and Lea Michele performed it admirably, and it’s even appropriate for Rachel’s mindset at the time, since she’s feeling burned by Finn and he seems to be sort of trying to say he wants her back. But I question whether it’s really a good slow dance song for a prom. It’s about a woman telling a guy to stay away from her because he’s hurt her for the last time. Not exactly romantic. Puck and Artie decide to put their punch spiking plan into action in between songs. Which doesn’t make much sense considering Puck’s plan was to distract Sue with dancing while Artie poured in the liquor. Sure enough, Artie gets caught, and Sue’s got him in interrogation in her office. Artie gets saved from torture by Finn and Jesse getting into a full blown fight and distracting Sue. She throws both Finn and Jesse out of prom, and Quinn seems to only be upset because it hurt her chances for Prom Queen. To ratchet up the drama even further, the Prom King/Queen announcements are made. Karofsky is named Prom King. Then Kurt, with a record number of write-in votes, is named Prom Queen. Everyone goes silent, and after looking horrified, Kurt runs out of the gym. Blaine runs after him.

Everything has devolved into chaos. Quinn slaps Rachel, claiming that she lost Prom Queen because everyone knows her boyfriend would rather be with Rachel. In her favor, Quinn is pretty horrified at her actions and apologizes immediately. Santana is also devastated that she wasn’t named Prom Queen, and she and Brittany have a little moment as Brittany tries to comfort her. Brittany would end up back with Artie by the end of the episode, though. That’s able to happen because Artie reveals to Sue that he was pouring lemonade, not alcohol into the punch. A little disappointed, Sue lets him go. After talking it over with Blaine, Kurt decides to go back into the dance and claim his crown. He does just that, and his classmates seem to respect him for it, even giving him a round of applause. It is then time for the Prom King/Queen dance, but even though Kurt encourages him that it would be the perfect time to come out, Karofsky refuses to dance. All is soon well for Kurt, though, because Blaine asks to cut in, and they kick off a big final dance number to Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” Overall, most of the kids (except for Karofsky) seem to leave prom in a better place than when they arrived.

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