Maybe it would be in Glee‘s best interest to rename its show from Glee to Bleak. If any casual viewer had tuned in expecting the same, usual happy-go-lucky teenagers and peppy Sue Sylvester wise cracks, they may have gotten more than they bargained for.
Peeling back to be serious, Glee‘s winter finale, ambiguously titled “On My Way,” took the hard road in portraying gay teen bullying and teen suicide. This story belonged to David Karofsky (Max Adler), whose heartless outing at his new school by his fellow jocks, juxtaposed by Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup,” covered by Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss), was nothing short of heartbreaking.
Before I get into my full review, however, I just want to set it straight: I don’t want this review to go macabre or overly personal. Having said that, my judgement is biased. I watched this episode under the influence of knowing far too many people who suffer from this sort of angst, for whatever reason, on a regular basis. Teen suicide, gay or straight, happens every single day. And sure, this episode may have also dealt with New Directions winning Regionals, Sebastian Smythe (Grant Gustin) finding his conscience, and Rachel and Finn (Lea Michele and Cory Monteith) racing down the aisle, but at the heart of it was a boy and his self-worth. And what impact one attempted suicide has on a large group of people.
Some parts of “On My Way” sour higher than others. Regionals, for example, is a bit of an after thought, and the campy judges jokes, which usually fly so well in Glee‘s format, fall completely flat and seem out of place. Honestly, it was just really hard to focus on frivolous things like show choir and weddings when a teenager was lying in a hospital bed,on suicide watch. I also have to admit that Sue’s (Jane Lynch) newly maternal side is actually kind of… off-putting, especially swimming around a very un-Glee episode. The Regionals performances, themselves, are just so-so, especially the Warblers, who have somehow gone from sexy private school boys to cybernetic robots.
Putting all that aside, however, are genuine attempts to bring a very sensitive issue to the limelight, and whether or not Glee completely hits a home run is subjective to one’s personal experiences. The pacing, at times, is a bit off, and the episode’s general tone could have been fine tuned a little bit, but the performances are a knock out. Chris Colfer and Adler really get their chance to shine once again, as Kurt leans over Karofsky’s hospital bed, clutching his hand and telling him to look to his future with an amazing job, a partner, and a son. David Karofsky, once a bully who tossed Kurt in trash cans, hate-kissed him, and ultimately drove him out of McKinley, somehow redeems himself of all of his past discretions, open and raw and damaged and just wanting a friend.
And at seventeen years old, what more do we really want?
Consensus: Love it or hate it, Glee taking on a huge issue on the national spotlight had to be done eventually, particularly given the show’s substantial young adult demographic and focus on GLBT youth. Glee‘s execution of the all the drama may have been a bit muddy at times, but moments like “Cough Syrup” gave this episode real emotional depth and a chilling look into a tortured teen’s mind. As for the weird cliffhanger involving Quinn, a text message, and a vehicle, we’ll just have to wait it out.