Was Last Night's Glee the Best Episode Yet?

While other episodes have had more thrilling musical numbers, or more fun stomach-fluttery Rachel/Finn romancey stuff, or cracklingly-gooder Jane Lynch zingers, last night's Glee was, I think, the best the series has done so far. Why, exactly? Because it finally gave us the other side of the show we've long wanted, but that's only been hinted at previously. I'm talking about the true dark undercurrent of the show—its wired and frightening mania, the grim way it talks about obession and ambition. Last night's episode, "Mattress", was both scary and heartbreaking, without an ounce of sunshine to brighten even its edges.

Obviously I'm talking about the huge blowout between Terri and Will, who finally (finally!) found out about the fake baby horror. Did anyone think Matthew Morrison capable of that kind of scene before last night? I mean, he still isn't Brando, but there was a genuine tearing and aching and anger in his performance during the menacing kitchen fight—he finally uncorked that bottled-up chaos that is usually kept so in-check by his neat, almost fussy acting. And what a boon that scene was. It was scary and utterly believable, despite the bizarre circumstances of the argument. What a dark panel in this comic book of a show it was, almost reminiscent of the famous "Whitecaps" episode of The Sopranos, only passed through that same strange, sharp helium that gives this series its peculiar perk. I just liked how long the scene seemed to last, how it all felt like a single, agonizing take. Props should also go to the marvelously detestable Jessalyn Gilsig, who made me pity her for, if nothing else, her utter patheticness, for her mind-bogglingly dumb and cruel gamble, and its inevitable and epic failure. Well done.

Also well-done, and almost equally as scary, were the bits that colored-in some of Rachel's obession with fame. I'm thinking in particular of her crazed desire to be in every Yearbook photo so she can practice her relationship with photographers, and the wrenching/creepy scene at the glee club photoshoot in which she suffered a massive disappointment but then collected herself with an eerie, mirror-staring pep talk. I just love this idea, love how it shades the character, of Rachel being, well, a little bit crazy. Not like wacky "crazy." Like, actually crazy "crazy." Or, at least, wildly delusional. It makes her kind of a Faulknerian unreliable narrator—are we seeing things as they actually are, or through the creepily bright-hued way that Rachel wants us to see them? This show is best when none of its characters are made to be saints, and Rachel, while we felt bad for her, certainly wandered farther off the reservation last night.

And, yes, Jane Lynch provided more barking anger this week than her usual biting sass, so that was just nice and mean to watch. I really do like this show when it's darkest. Utlimately it's a feel-good program, but it's always more interesting to watch when those flowers spring out of a heap of manure. To end with that melancholy "Smile" song—whose lyrics are just the eensiest bit unsettling, no?—playing over the inevitable defacement of that wistfully banal yearbook photo was the perfect sweet and sour note to end a bleak and satisfying episode. It was an episode that really felt like it was about something, an episode that showed that there is a fraught and concerned heart beating at the center of this often sing-songy show.

And to have that joyous "Jump!" number lead to such ruin! Oh how cruel, Ryan Murphy. Oh how delightfully cruel.

What'd you think? Do you appreciate Glee's dark streak as much as I do? Or do you prefer things a bit sunnier?

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Dec 07, 2009
My first impression of "Glee" was: funny, good entertainment but a bit shallow and silly. I think it's great how more and more depth is added by the episode and this one was pretty good and hearbreaking. :)
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Dec 07, 2009
FANTASTIC episode as always (though I don't think it will ever beat my personal favorite "Wheels"). Had a wonderful mix of drama and humor that makes this show just perfect. ^__^
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Dec 05, 2009
I agree, best episode so far! I love both the dark streak and the sunnier bits, need both.
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Dec 04, 2009
I thought Morrison's/Will's acting was incredible in his scene with Terri ... been waiting for that for so long! I did not like the song between Finn and Rachel, which bums me out because their songs together are usually my favorites. I thought the exact same thing as someone else about the quarterback treatment by his teammates - that would never fly. Even though that one guy (Kowalski?) isn't actually football, he's wrestling or something, it would not be allowed by other teammates or the coaches - it makes Finn look so stupid - and we need our hero to be strong, not wimpy... he seemed wimpy and whiny... "Does my head look like a potato?" to Quinn... she reacted just as I felt... (roll the eyes), and his whine to Rachel about why he didn't show up. Come on - grow some edge! All that is said with love - he is one of my favorites, but has lost some of his swagger.
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Dec 04, 2009
I'm completely in agreement with your review. I love the musical numbers and the manic story lines, but this undercurrent of real drama was just amazing. Matt Morrison played the scene perfectly with all the heartbreak, betrayal and rage that you would expect and yes it was dark and a little dangerous, but very, very, real and in my opinion raised the show to a whole new level. The feel good story lines would very quickly become boring if not for the so cleverly hinted at drama below the surface and when that drama pops... wow!
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Dec 04, 2009
And like someone else already said - Glee is best at being cheerful, colorful and fun - not sad. The heavy subjects on the show just seem so stupid, so unrealistic. It doesn't fit in. It makes their acting seem bad in a way. It's a bit unrealistic how they handle things me thinks.
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Dec 04, 2009
I thought that episode was the most boring yet and it made me dislike a few of the characters even more.
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Dec 04, 2009
I totally love this show, I love the numbers, the oneliners and erm "mature" humor that shows up from time to time (gag reflex?), but I think this show is best when it makes you feel better, when it makes you smile. I have no problem with serious themes, but lately I found that they were taking up a lot of space here and seem to suffocate the lighthearted "step". Maybe they can start "from the top" and leave you joyous and gleeful after watching, not slightly more depressed than before watching. As a summary, if the first episode would have been as sad as this one, I would have dropped it from the start.
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Dec 04, 2009
Everything about this show is AMAZING! The sunny and the dark sides. Finally there is something that is worth while to watch on TV!
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Dec 04, 2009
A good episode, but not my favourite. One of the things I love about Glee is how it usually cheers me up - this one mostly made me sad. Great acting though.
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Dec 04, 2009
About frickin time that whole fake pregnancy got thrown overboard. As for the rest, I watch Glee for the glee and not the drama.
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Dec 04, 2009
it wasnt the best but it ceartainly entertaining especially when will finally found out about terri
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Dec 04, 2009
Midnightxs don't be soo negative!! the episode was amazing and you mentioned all the good points, so I am curious to what you really disliked about it. And Rachel is a main character so if you don't like her I suggest watching something else!
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Dec 04, 2009
I thought it was annoying, I think it had to much Rachel. Im so bored with this show. only good moments in the episode.
Quinn and Sue show down
Will and Terri show down
Smile with Lea and Cory
Jump
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Dec 04, 2009
i loooved when the glee club did the mattress commercial... it was amazing. I was genuinely freaked out when Will was all angry at Terri. that whole scene was so dramatic.
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Dec 04, 2009
Fantastic episode...I am so very happy that Will finally, finally knows the truth. I can not wait for Finn (who does seem to be getting less intelligent w/ every episode) to do the same.
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Dec 04, 2009
I totally agree. Amazing episode. The scene with Will and Terri in the kitchen felt so real it surprised me.
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Dec 03, 2009
this was an awesome episode. the scene between Will and Terri was so amazing. It made you feel angry and scared at the same time. I especially thoght this was one of the better episodes. I like that their making the characters more relateable instead of just the stereotypes they originally were. You can almost see part of your high school self in them.

And Quinn is just so amazing.
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Dec 03, 2009
awesome episode im so happy Will finally found out and got angry
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Dec 03, 2009
I loved the dark side. I love Quinn's development. Can't stand Finn. Love Puck (mmm mmmm). Pret near the best, Richard. The fight was amazing - Will's acting was superb - cross between anger and heartache was pitch-perfect and made me like him for a moment, cuz most of the time, he bugs the heck outta me. Sue Sylvester makes my toes WIGGLE with GLEE. I hope she never finds love because her causticity elates me.
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Dec 03, 2009
I loved the fight scene and the scene where he admitted to the principal and Sue that he might be leaving his wife and even with the prior knowledge of the fight and his leaving. I loved that even Sue stepped back in shock at the statement.
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Dec 03, 2009
I really enjoyed the episode, but that I do every week. I was reallly looking forward to Will finding out the truth about his baby, and when the scene started I got really excited, it was acted very well and was going great, but then it just became too unbelievable when Terri actually brought up the Glee kids I mean come on would you seriously expect her to say oh i faked my pregnancy to compete with that club youre running :S It just felt really stupid that they mentioned glee in the argument. Other than that loved the fight and the episode, but definitely not my favorite thus far.
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Dec 03, 2009
I don't know if it was the best but it had a powerful moment or two in there. Unlike most GLEE fans, I don't particularly care for the music. But I am entertained by the cheesy drama in some weird way.

However, the most unbelievable element of the show is how combative a starting quarterback's teammates are to him. Sure, he would get some ribbing in the locker room but the coach would make them do 100 laps around the field for their behavior. The one guy who is treated like a prize on a football team is the quarterback. Even if he is an idiot, he is protected by the coaches and his teammates. It is silly to keep playing them against him like that. It would NEVER happen. They would sooner kick a star player off the team than allow the quarterback to be mistreated by his teammates.
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Dec 03, 2009
Best since the pilot, definitely, though it took awhile to get moving. Hated the first 'Smile' (Lily Allen) - it's connection to the plot was SO weak and there was nothing to keep me interested visually. But the second 'Smile' was, IMO, the best song yet. Also thought the Will/Terri scene was shockingly good. Starting to think this show might not be as overrated as I once thought.
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Dec 03, 2009
i think next weeks fall finale is gonna top this episode, i think finn finds out that hes not the father of quinns baby and punches puck
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Dec 03, 2009
I absolutely love this show! and last episode, I agree, was the best so far!
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Dec 03, 2009
my tv viewing last night took from the dark undercurrents of Rudolph (that Santa is so awful) to the dark undercurrents of Glee to the dark undercurrents of Napa Valley that whisked Jen off the vineyard on Top Chef. Scary and heartbreaking all. It was such a satisfying evening.
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Dec 03, 2009
It was the Best Episode of Glee, i agree, most of the people are complaning because lack of the musical numbers but it was just perfect for me.
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Dec 03, 2009
the high light was how much anger Will showed, i thought for sure he was gonna punch a hole in the wall or his wife, very scary look in those eyes, but that just makes it all the more awesome.
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Dec 03, 2009
it was a really nice episode and what's really sad is that they got defaced in the picture after all .. now that is cruel .

Is the next episode going to be this season's finale ??
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Dec 03, 2009
Only saw a few minutes of it but from what I saw no
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Dec 03, 2009
Easily the best episode so far. Rivals thus far standouts Episodes 2 (Showmance), 6 (Vitamin D), and 9 (Wheels). Glee's future is looking very bright. Too bad there's only one more episode before the 5-month hiatus. It'll feel like Writer's-strike-syndrome all over again.
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