It was somewhat surprising that the identity of Tuesdays’ “Glee” death didn’t leak out to the blogosphere in advance, but then again, the title of the episode (”Funeral”) referred to a pretty minor character in “Glee” world.
The death in question is that of Jean Sylvester, sister of Sue, evil cheerleading coach to the masses. We don’t know much about Jean, other than that she’s the only person in Sue’s life that brings out her soft and kind side. But in this episode, we learn Jean has died, which causes the one thing we were hoping would happen, but thought never could: A Sue Sylvester transformation.
Not at first, mind you — Sue nonchalantly informs glee club director Will Schuester of her sister’s death by way of explaining why she kicked her student and sidekick, Becky, off the cheerleading squad. Like Jean, Becky has Down syndrome, and Sue can’t look at Becky anymore because she reminds her too much of her sister. It’s all terribly sad, especially when Will informs Becky that she also can’t be in the glee club because they’re too close to Nationals competition.
But things get even more horribly depressing, which we actually applaud the “Glee” writers for, because that kind takes talent. Sue is too emotionally distraught to take care of her sister’s funeral arrangements, so New Directions members Finn and Kurt volunteer to help — apparently, they are willing to look past the many times Sue has tried to ruin their lives. Even as Sue hurls insults their way, they are determined to assist with the funeral.
Sue gives up trying to get the helpful-to-a-fault glee kids to stop, well, helping, and Kurt and Finn put together something we never thought possible: A funeral service full of whimsy. It’s decorated with a “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” theme, because that was Jean’s favorite movie.
Sue is touched, and ends up breaking down while trying to read a tribute to her sister. Will Schuester, someone whom Sue’s also terrorized in the past and actively tried to have fired/destroyed, gets up and finishes the speech for her. Then the glee kids perform “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka,” which is the first time we’ve ever been depressed when thinking about that delightful movie.
Anyway, Sue’s life is changed after realizing that people she tried to destroy actually came to her aid. She thanks Will, which is a first, and announces that she’s going to stop trying to end the glee club. This is terrific news, because after the 87th time, it was getting old. She also announces she’s going to try to get a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. No word on if that is an actual plan.
Weaving in between the funeral plot, Jesse St. James — crush of Rachel, annoyance to everyone else — is hired as a consultant to give the glee club a shot at the Nationals competition in New York next week. He does this by assuming the role of or a nasty reality show judge who makes everyone feel terrible about themselves. He tells Will that everyone needs to audition to be the lead soloist at Nationals, which is really just an excuse to have several “Glee” solos kill time between scenes of the Sue’s Sister Funeral plot.
Mercedes sings Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness;” Kurt belts out “Some People” from “Gypsy;” Santana does a powerful version of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” Jesse trashes all of them. But when Rachel lights up the stage with Barbra Streisand’s “My Man,” Jesse tells her it’s brilliant, and has no harsh words, voting for her as the lead solo for Nationals.
At first, we’re intrigued -- is Jesse just trying to get back on Rachel’s good side after breaking her heart? Is this another evil plan? However, the whole story goes nowhere, as Will ruins everyone’s fun by announcing the glee club will do an original song at Nationals — as a group. No one cares if they win or lose or have the best solos, they’re going to have fun and be themselves. Seriously, is that what we’re supposed to learn from all of this?
But get ready: Next week is the season finale. That means the Nationals competition in New York City, and possible cliffhangers involving Will, who has taken a job on Broadway, though he swears it’s only for the summer, and Quinn, who tells Finn after he breaks up with her right after the funeral (because that’s a good idea) that she has “big plans” for NYC. Either way, we’ll take it, as long as it’s nowhere near as tragic as this week’s episode.
“Try a Little Tenderness” — Otis Redding
“My Man” — Barbra Streisand
“Pure Imagination” — “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”
“Some People” — “Gypsy”
“Back to Black” — Amy Winehouse