Admittedly, that could have gone a lot worse. When the possibility that the "unthinkable" event on Glee might be a school shooting was first mentioned, I was concerned. I've always gotten the sense that the reason Glee likes to tackle huge, noteworthy subjects is that Glee seems to think it's the most important, insightful, and inspirational show on television—and while sometimes, Glee CAN be important and insightful and inspirational, most of the time, it's really not. For reference, please see Marley's eating disorder and Coach Beiste's domestic violence storyline, to name a couple that come to mind.
Basically, I was really worried that the big, scary, school shooting portion of the episode would involve the New Directions kids hanging out in the choir room and singing their way through a lockdown. I was concerned that Glee's inherent melodrama would come off as crass and immature. I'll laugh at anything if it's handled properly. I just didn't think Glee would handle it properly.
"Shooting Star" wasn't perfect. It wasn't even in the same ballpark as perfect. But I think it was at least been standing in the parking lot of the ballpark, because what Glee did well in "Shooting Star," it did very well.
I don't like to end reviews on a negative note unless there is truly nothing positive to say about an episode, so let's do an about face and talk about what wasn't so great before I ramble about how the lockdown scenes were actually quite frightening and upsetting and I had to pause the screener because it reminded me a lot of this one time when my own high school spent a few hours sitting in the dark due to a similar incident that occurred too close for comfort to the school grounds.
Glee's inherent melodramatic tendencies were relatively muted, but the show's habitual ham-fisted commentary was loud and proud in an obnoxious way. Seriously, it was all over the place, in everything from Brittany's meteor of mass destruction prompting everyone to "live each day like it's the last" to Mr. Schue's lament over his students' lost innocence to Sue's defense of "her" actions and how tragic it is that despite her long and illustrious career at McKinley, the thing she will be remembered for is this one unfortunate incident. I'm not saying that their sentiments are wrong, because they absolutely are not, but in an episode that featured far more subtlety than we usually get on Glee, taking my weekly 2x4 to the face stung more than it usually does.
In the wake of December's tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Mike Hayes over at Buzzfeed wrote an elegant tribute to his hometown that says what Sue was certainly aiming for, but the problem is that a town and a person aren't the same thing. A town can't act the way a person can. Before we learned the truth about the true culprit being Becky, when the story we heard was that Sue had accidentally discharged the weapon she kept in her office while going through her daily safety check, the fact remained that Sue had made a conscious decision to bring that gun to the school where she worked knowing full well that it wasn't permitted there. It was hard to feel much sympathy for her, because she had essentially determined her own fate.
Sue's comments did feature a modicum of subtlety, however, when you consider the community of McKinley High as an extension of Sue, who as a former high-profile employee was certainly in a position to represent the rest of the population on some level. Knowing Glee's penchant for dropping storylines entirely throughout any given season, the real fallout of the incident at McKinley is entirely up in the air, but the thing is, by taking the fall for Becky, Sue is, if we're being brutally honest here, contributing to the problem that led to Becky feeling like she needed to bring a gun to school in the first place.
No one could have foreseen that, out of every character we've ever met on this show, it was Becky who would bring a gun to school, and by taking the blame for that gun going off, Sue ensured that for the time being, at least, no one might ever know. Becky's life gets to go on, but it's important to remember that Becky was terribly unhappy with where her life was going, and frightened by the idea of watching her friends graduate and go away... and now her favorite teacher/coach will be gone as well... and it's kind of Becky's fault. Sue highlighted America's crappy mental health care and inattentive parents and adults letting unstable kids get worse and worse, but covering up Becky's most telling action and cryptically asking Beiste and Schue to "look after Becky" isn't much better than the passive-aggressive care Sue railed against... which was probably the whole point.
So, despite Glee's insistence on punching us in the face with its message, "Shooting Star" is an episode the series can be proud of. The directing and acting were all around excellent, both during the lockdown scenes and in the aftermath. The images of Brittany hiding in the ladies' room and Marley's mom watching her cell phone continue to ring just out of reach honestly made my heart hurt the way Glee's manufactured emotion generally doesn't. I can't emphasize enough how much the decision to downplay the musical aspect of the series was a good call. Absolutely, musicals can and have tackled some seriously dark stuff (ahem, Miss Saigon) but it takes an incredible amount of care to do it right, and I'm fairly certain that harmonizing our way through a set list full of pop standards wouldn't have worked in this case.
Omg and don't even get me started on the goodbye videos. Go find my broken heart, Glee. Find it and fix it and put it back where you found it!
What did you think of "Shooting Star?"
– Glee playlist of awesome: It was a light night as far as the singing and dancing goes, but all three performances were strong and "More Than Words" for Lord Tubbington was just too precious for this world.
– So Ryder was definitely catfished and the culprit appears to be someone in New Directions. Who do you think it is?
– Lol at New Directions' upcoming competitive rivals: Hoosier Daddies from Indianapolis and Our Ladies of Perpetual Loneliness from Battle Creek, Michigan.
– How do you feel about Kitty finally telling Marley about taking her costumes in? (Good effort, Glee, but I still hate her guts.)
– Sue's coming back, right? I mean, I know Jane Lynch is doing Broadway stuff, but that's a limited engagement.
– After spending most of the episode playing second fiddle to Lord Tubbington, Sam embraced his girlfriend's kooky ways (more than he already does, anyway) and embraced the opportunity for the fake newlyweds to start a fake family with the addition of Lady Tubbington.