“Never Been Kissed”: Glee episode review

As a guy with his finger on the gay pulse*, (*spends too much time reading US blogs & forums), I was aware of this Kurt storyline when it first aired in the States back in November last year, as well as having seen some of the key scenes & plot twists, like Blaine’s “Teenage Dream” and the bully kissing Kurt. However, having finally seen this episode in its entirety I was pleasantly surprised by how seriously Kurt’s story arc played out, rather than with the fluff Glee could have easily passed it off as.

Among the frivolous sub-lots of Puck using Archie as his Community Service project and the guys (and Tina!) using Coach Beiste as a mental cold shower when trying to avoid getting too “excited” *nudge-nudge, wink-wink* when making out with their significant others, it was nice to see and hear some serious points being made.

“You, like everyone else at this school, are too quick to let homophobia slide” – Kurt to Mr Schuester

Mildly homophobic remarks like, “oh, that’s so gay” are a pet hate of mine, and if I ever hear a friend say it I would say something there and then, or if inappropriate at the time, remember to say it later. Even if this comment isn’t said from a place of bigotry, it is still a put down to a gay person since it’s equating gay with being lame, rubbish or undesirable. We wouldn’t expect to hear people say “that’s so Jewish” or “that’s so Black”, so why should “that’s so gay” be any less offensive?

In this episode, there was a subtle highlighting of this very point when Santana (a.k.a. the school bike) made some off the cuff remark about how “a million awesome gay jokes just popped in to [her] head” when Mr Schuester, while reading out a list of the glee club’s opposition at the upcoming sectionals, mentioned one of them was an all-boys school;  Kurt naturally threw her a look of disgust, not confronting her but you could tell what he was meant to be thinking.

I particularly liked how the homophobic bully in this episode, Dave Karofsky, turned out to be gay himself (or at the very least bisexual ), when he plants a smacker on Kurt. As is the case with many homophobes, the hate comes from, and is fuelled by, a place of self-loathing. What particularly made this scene have more punch was Kurt’s reaction to this unexpected kiss.

I think what particularly made this a strong episode was Chris Colfer’s nuanced acting. It would have been easy for the character of Kurt to have devolved in to a shrill bitch of a gay man, wearing ever more ridiculous fashion-forward outfits. To actually explore a gay storyline in a popular prime-time show that doesn’t revolve around the typical yawn-fest of a coming-out plot (e.g. every soap opera known to man) followed by the  hasty exit of the freshly hatched gayling, is a definite bonus.

The introduction of the quietly confident, out and proud character, Blaine (played by Darren Criss), acted as a nice foil to the stress-prone, drama queen of Kurt. After awkwardly skipping down the hall, hand-in-incorrect-hand, Blaine launched in to the performance highlight of the show: a vocal-heavy, instrument-light version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream“, even if it did have a couple of over-enthusiastic backing dancers, air-punching their way through the song.

And here’s the segment from the show; don’t forget to look out for the guy in the above pic… lolz

If I was to make a criticism of Glee, it would probably be that I think sometimes the song productions are fairly lazy or standard; I personally think the songs really shine on the show when they have the proper glee choir treatment, where the underlying instrumental is predominantly replaced by vocals. Another good example of this would be in Glee’s first season where they had their own version of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse.

The dynamic between Kurt and Blaine was an enjoyable one to witness, with Blaine becoming the mentor/guide to Kurt’s lost soul. It was nice to see Kurt looking happy and optimistic, as opposed to the bitchy and angry person he has been for the past few episodes; the amusing hyper-clap he did at the end of Blaine’s “Teenage Dream” was a signifier perhaps of the impact Blaine is having, not to mention the admiring glance Kurt gave him later, after they’d confronted Dave about him kissing Kurt.

The Beiste-as-a-boner-killer storyline was cruel, though a good way, I guess, of allowing her character to open up a little more to Mr Schuester, even if this spotlight ended in a highly unbelievable kiss-on-the-lips between the pair. The other scene that irked was the double date of Archie, Brittany, Puck and Santana. While good for the extra Santana/Brittany screen time, it did make me wonder what had happened to the lesbian relationship that was hinted at a couple of episodes back. Perhaps this relationship will be focused upon later in the series, but at the moment it is being relegated to the level of a typical lesbian relationship on a TV show, that of mere titillation.

The episode overall I felt was very enjoyable, particularly bolstered by the Kurt/Blaine blossoming relationship and the associated bullying plot-line. It’s a shame it ended with a slightly cheesy finish: the guys group-hugging Beiste, following on from arguably the weakest song of the episode, a mash-up of two excellent individual tracks (En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” and The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love“) but which failed to successfully merge together as one awesome mash-up. However, with the initiation of what should be a very interesting and pertinent story arc, I would say this has been one of, if not the strongest episode of the season so far. Roll on next week with Gwyneth Paltrow!


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