Glee – “Silly Love Songs”

“Silly Love Songs”

February 8th, 2011

“I need more than just a song to get my juices flowing.”

There are various reasons why “Silly Love Songs” has been pretty universally praised, and pretty universally considered to be a much better showcase for the show compared to the fairly middling, incredibly uneven Super Bowl episode. There are also various reasons why some of this praise comes in the form of a comparison to “Duets,” which I named one of my Top 10 episodes of television to air last year (and is certainly the best episode of the show’s second season thus far).

Those comparisons are earned, and in some ways “Silly Love Songs” is an even greater accomplishment if not necessarily a superior episode. Like with “Duets,” a simple construct is used to justify various musical numbers and unite the characters under a common theme; however, unlike that episode, the “consequences” of these songs are more broadly drawn, with an excess befitting the Valentine’s Day theme but also stretching the laws of science and delivering some real anvils in the process.

However, Ryan Murphy’s script never feels as though it allows those moments to get out of control, and the episode’s charm wins out even given its occasional lapses. The episode seems inconsistent if you think about it, and the rush to get characters into certain positions is problematically apparent, but I never felt that even if I thought it. “Silly Love Songs” successfully severed the connection between the heart and the head, never losing its steadiness and quite consistently entertaining in a way that the Super Bowl episode only managed at Halftime.

Puck and Lauren doesn’t make any sense, except when it does. Quinn and Finn’s attraction was rushed in “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle,” and was embellished with a backdrop of fireworks stock footage, but it still sort of felt real. It seems ridiculous that Blaine wouldn’t realize Kurt was in love with him, but the overly convenient explanation also makes him a far more engaging character. The context for Tina’s complete emotional breakdown is non-existent, but Jenna Ushkowitz actually got to sing live at the start of it. The ability for Mono to pass that quickly, and for both Finn and Quinn to catch it at the same rate, and that Sam’s reaction is entirely nonexistent, is pretty ridiculous, but…actually, that one I don’t really think came back around.

However, you see my point. This was not, like “Duets,” an episode which stuck with simple and executed it extremely well. This was an episode that did some somewhat ridiculous things but ensured that the consequences were recognizable human behaviors. Blaine’s musical valentine at the GAP was incredibly over-the-top, totally justifying Jeremiah’s horrified reaction, but the resulting conversation between Blaine and Kurt was the first conversation they’ve had where there wasn’t an air of superiority/authority/angelic around the former. The show’s musical numbers are all about action-reaction, but so often that reaction is simple stimulation (or, if you want to avoid it sounding too sexual, wonderment). Like Lauren says in the above quote, it can’t just be about “impressing” the audience: it needs to be about what the song creates, something more complex than simple pleasure. We need to feel something for these characters, to feel as though the musical numbers that have become the show’s hallmark are not actually about the show itself.

That was where “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle” failed: the opening number was clearly designed to appeal to holdover viewers, the halftime show was clearly designed to be a showcase, and even “Bills, Bills, Bills” was without any sort of function. It was Glee by Numbers, an episode which was driven by the musical numbers in and of themselves rather than their impact within the narrative. By comparison, “Silly Love Songs” still had a large number of musical numbers but they felt as though they were expressing something that we could at least tenuously locate in the narrative. This doesn’t have to be rocket science, as it’s not as if “Let’s sing Duets!” or “Let’s sing about Love!” are Emmy-winning writing constructs. But sometimes, when you let Artie play Michael Jackson’s voice and have Mike play Michael Jackson’s legs as they serenade their girlfriends with “P.Y.T.”, it is enjoyable enough that its artificiality begins to fade away.

“Silly Love Songs” has two closing numbers, in a way: both “Firework” and the eponymous Wings song play the role of encapsulating many of the characters’ emotions in the episode. It’s a smart move, one that I think is key to the hour’s success at overcoming some of its more excessive moments. It rightly implies that not everything can be tied up in the same song: Rachel can be the central figure of independence at the heart of “Firework,” belting out her personal worth despite Finn’s rejection, but then she can be the excited concertgoer supporting her friend during “Silly Love Songs.” After the Super Bowl episode laid out broad, sweeping morals, this episode let characters reach different fates, and brought them together in spirit while still maintaining certain divisions (Santana’s ostracism, for example).

And frankly, the final number was just sort of fun. “Firework” was resonant, and Lea Michele can sing, but “Silly Love Songs” better captured the sense of enjoyment that the episode was going for. I honestly don’t care if Glee always makes sense: I complain about some of the episode’s logic above, and I do think that parts of the Finn/Quinn storyline were hokey to the point of being ridiculous, but Santana the Candy Striper was probably worth it. For each ridiculous moment within a storyline, or for each over-the-top musical number, there was something which emerged from it which justified its existence. This doesn’t make the episode perfect, and it doesn’t quite match the subtle beauty of “Duets,” but it does make for Glee at its level best: charming, a little bit exhilarating, and capable of leaving us wanting more instead of feeling as though we’ve overdosed on enthusiasm.

Cultural Observations

  • I really like Jane Lynch, but now that she’s won the Golden Globe and the Emmy, can she just retire? Because there’s one comparison between “Duets” and “Silly Love Songs” that can’t be ignored.
  • My one outright complaint about the episode: that moment between Sam and Santana. Ridiculous.
  • As noted on Twitter, I have long believed that any obnoxiously complicated relationship web should be known as a Love Rhombus.
  • Interesting use of multiple voiceovers, which is somewhat risky: it becomes a sort of exposition, in that it rushes Finn’s sudden cockiness, Puck’s crush on Lauren, and Santana’s sense of revenge. However, Tate Donovan (yes, Jimmy Cooper) did a fine job getting the visuals paired with those voiceovers to really pop, and I thought that it was an effective shortcut rather than a blatant ploy.
  • I don’t think this totally destroys the 3 Glees theory, but this was definitely working against Murphy’s typical pattern: heck, he even referenced Mercedes and Kurt’s brief relationship, which is the kind of narrative memory that he usually ignores for the sake of cheap thrills. I still think that this could be considered Murphy’s take on the “Duets” structure, though: curious if Falchuk gets a credit on a similarly pared down hour, and whether we see further differences.
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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Glee – “Silly Love Songs”

  1. Gabrielle

    Well, the writers completely regressed Finn Hudson’s development as a character to achieve this. They’ve negated any growth that Finn has had for a year and a half. The former sweet naive boy came off as an huge hypocritical douche and I don’t know how they are going to recover from this.

    Do they really want to write their male lead as a hypocritical douche who cannot forgive his girlfriend for cheating on him, but does exactly the same thing with his ex-girlfriend, who cheated on him and got pregnant by another boy?

    • Derek

      Is it really a regression? Doesn’t it fit perfectly with Finn’s sense of self-worth constantly wrapped up in his popularity and his identification as a leader and quarterback?

      The sweet naive boy was always kind of boring. His “development” was virtually nonexistent, outside of his eventual acceptance of Kurt’s homosexuality. But that too was always viewed in terms of Finn’s sense of himself: the show allowed Finn to accept Kurt while simultaneously shuttling Kurt off to Dalton. Other than Kurt’s warm milk-lady chat mention in Sunday’s episode, there’s no sense of their relationship having seriously developed into anything other than Kurt’s hope to connect and Finn’s typical awkward reluctance.

      Finn is showing his true colors, now that his insecurity is temporarily relieved after the stereotypical “winning the big game.” It’s a welcome change from the sweet naive boy who couldn’t even have sex with his girlfriend after finding out that she was already pregnant.

    • Thais Afonso

      Where have you been? Finn has been a hypocritical douche for a while now. Let’s not forget that while he was with Quinn and he still though the baby was his he made out with Rachel. He took her out on dates. His whole drama queen act in Special Education was Finn being the only thing he has ever been in this show, hypocritical and self-righteous. When they make his stories connect with Will’s it almost makes my head explode with the amount of chauvinism.

  2. Scott

    I also thought this was right up there with one of the better Glee episodes except for that extremely unnecessary moment between Sam and Santana. Aren’t there better ways to accomplish that than with a mediocre rack focus. Other than that, I was happy that Glee got back to being a plot driven show, with the songs sticking to the theme of the show. Any chance we get another episode like this next week??

  3. Katie

    This is bugging me, hope you can help. Maybe it’s just a really common phrase used everywhere, but I swear I remember the term “love rhombus” actually used in a tv show, but can’t seem to remember who said it on what show.

    • Margo

      Seth Cohen used the term “love rhombus” in a season 1 episode of The OC, of which the director of this episode of Glee (Tate Donovan) was a main character as Jimmy Cooper.

  4. Jackie

    But when is he going to move past his need for popularity and be allowed to really grow? This season, next season? In instances like this, I really dislike that Finn’s growth was tied to Kurt and his storyline so strongly (making them step-siblings). I don’t like their relationship, the metaphors that are represented by their “relationship” nor how Finn has been written while linked to Kurt.

    Finn was not boring and if these are his TRUE colors, then the writers have played into the hands of every Finn hater in giving him more shades/levels of hypocrisy.

    • Mel

      on Twitter, Myles linked to another review that talks a lot about this that I think is 100% correct. When you are in high school, whoever you are with feels like THE ONE until they aren’t, and then the next person you like is THE ONE and you do stupid, idiotic, and yes, hypocritical shit in order to grab your chance at happiness with THE ONE. The wackiness of Glee, vacillating between somewhat over the top to OMG over the TOP is actually a sort of amazing metaphor for the intensity of how you feel stuff as an adolescent. It’s sort of a cliche that parents say “everything is life or death when you’re a teenager” but it really sort of IS all life or death as a teenager.

  5. Derek

    Let’s assume that Finn is not a likable character. Just allow that assumption for a hot second.

    Glee assumes that its lead character is a guy who is different from “all other guys,” while, for example, Puck, is “most other guys.” The only problem is that the show views Finn exclusively through the lens of those who need him to be better than other guys. Why does he have to be? He’s a character who prays that he can feel his girlfriend’s boobs while his soon-to-be step-dad is in the hospital. Take a step back from fandom and assume he’s the most deeply flawed character on the show.

    In Season One, Finn was what Shue and Rachel needed him to be, a leader for the former, a love interest for the latter. He was never anything interesting in and of himself, just a vessel for what the show assumed would be its top duo. In Season Two, given Chris Colfer’s bonafides, Glee has morphed into Kurt as the most interesting male character, and Finn’s character has become a vessel for him.

    Name a single character who’s less comfortable in his/her own skin than Finn Hudson. There’s no one, and that’s what it is to be in high school. For the first time in the series, Finn is not the “Rah-rah, everyone is their own person!” character, and that’s surely a good thing, for both Finn and other characters.

    What has largely gone missing from the critical response to Glee is the fact that Finn is inherently a two-faced character. He always has been. He cheated on his pregnant girlfriend by the second episode, kissing Rachel in the auditorium. This season, he prayed that the new, better-looking star would get hurt so he could be on top again. Finn’s only strength as a character is his hypocrisy. It’s the only thing that keeps him from quitting football altogether and joining Glee full time.

    • Jackie

      I guess people have seen Finn as a hypocrite all along but I’ve seen him as confused, naive and too easy to give into peer pressure which has backfired on him multiple times. I just don’t believe the Finn I saw last night is the true Finn–maybe I’m looking through “Finn-colored glasses.” But I don’t think if Finn was really in character last night that he would have dated Rachel for months (at the beginning of the season) or even given their relationship a real chance. One basic truth that I thought was evident this season was that Finn loves Rachel and if they take that away, it would be very distressing to me as a viewer.

      I always thought Finn enjoyed playing football and being on the football team and wanted to do both. Not that he continued playing football because he wouldn’t commit fully to the Glee club. If that’s what the writers were shooting for, I missed that train of thought.

      I know this show is about high school and about teenagers and that teenagers are emotional and erratic and everything is life and death to them and so on but that doesn’t mean EVERY character has to go through this show acting that way. Some people actually do make it through high school somewhat unscathed without swapping dating partners every few weeks or months. I’m only one person, not the majority, but I watch Glee because I like feeling happy (even joyful) for about an hour on Tuesday evenings and I haven’t felt that way in a long time. It’s frustrating.

  6. Kelly

    First of all I really liked this episode, I liked that it went back to being about the students. There were a total of about 5 lines from the teachers and I think that was needed. Sue, Mr. Shu, Emma, Coach Bieste, are all great characters and add a lot to the show, but I think this season they have been dominating is which has detracted a lot for me. As for Finn’s character, I feel like there are two Finns. Finn 1 is a leader and often a moral compass for Rachel and there are moment where I really feel he has the potential to grow. Finn 2 is the self absorbed and hypocritical character that we saw in most of this show. Sometimes I find it very difficult to reconcile the two, and more importantly how quickly he flip flop happens. Maybe this is the result of your “3 Glees” theory, I haven’t broken in down by writer to analyze .

    • Ann

      I think it’s more the case of the writers writing Finn not as a character with intrinsic values but as a plot device that propels the dramatic plot forward. And because he’s the plot device, his characterization changes to fit the plot at hand. It happened with the Finn-Kurt dynamic, Finn was essentially written as a vessel to promote the PSA commentary and with the “Finchel” break-up drama. Now he’s written this way to start up another love plot for the back half of the second season.

  7. Brad

    No Sue Minimal Mr. Shue = Excellent episode of Glee

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