I was a little skeptical about a Glee episode focusing on religion, especially after the promos that played up the "grilled Cheesus" aspect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the tact with which the creators handled the issue.
There was a delicate balance between all the sides, with Finn's born-again fanaticism, Rachel's devout Judaism, Puck's strange religious self-interest and even Kurt's atheism. The episode wasn't about which religion was right, or whether religion is right at all. Instead, it represented the delicate balance between confusion and clarity that religion can bring to our lives and how high school can be a difficult time to explore all those issues.
I thought one of the better scenes in the episode was the scene between Emma and Sue, after Sue encouraged Kurt to complain about Will's spirituality assignment. Sue's reasons for not believing in God were both poignant and in line with what we knew about the character, and she expressed them without a hint of that Sue Sylvester snark.
Still, that didn't compare at all to the scene between Kurt and Burt when Kurt was pouring his heart out, and Burt finally moved his hand and grasped Kurt's. I thought their father-son relationship was one of the best parts of Season 1, and to see it immediately thrown this curveball in Season 2 was powerfully emotional.
A week after what amounted to such a silly episode in "Brittany/Britney", it was comforting to see that "Glee", a show commonly billed as a comedy, could handle what could easily have been a downer of an episode with such aplomb.
OK, on to the song review (after the jump):
Only the Good Die Young - B
I've always liked Mark Salling's singing voice, so I enjoy when he gets solos, and this was a good song for him. Plus, the line about only doing songs by Jewish artists made me chuckle.
I Look To You - A
Talk about a perfect pairing of voice and song. Amber Riley finally got a chance to solo this season, and absolutely belted out this Whitney Houston song. The music was perfectly supplemented by the direction inside the choir room, cutting between Mercedes's outpouring of emotion and Kurt's quiet pain.
Papa, Can You Hear Me? - B
I thought Lea Michele did a phenomenal job with this song, and really channelled Barbra Streisand. So why not an A? Well, I guess I've just got a little Rachel Broadway fatigue (and yes, I know Yentl was a film, not a Broadway play, but its in that style). It was still an impressive showcase of her vocal talents.
I Wanna Hold Your Hand - C
Look, Chris Colfer has a great voice, I think we can all agree on that. And we can probably all agree that this is a cool song. But I just didn't dig the mix at all. The scene had some serious emotion behind it, with the Burt and Kurt flashback and the reactions from the other glee club members, but judging solely the song, it was average.
Losing My Religion - C-
I just don't like this song. Cory Monteith didn't do a bad job with it, it's just not a personal choice of mine, nor did I think it was a standout vocal performance. Then again, I don't think you can really do a standout vocal performance with this song.
Bridge over Troubled Water - A
Amber Riley is no Aretha Franklin, but if there's anyone in the Glee cast who can channel Aretha's gospel version of this Simon and Garfunkel classic (not to mention Elvis's take), it's her. I would have been disappointed if this whole episode had gone by without Riley getting a shot at something gospel styled, and this was a good way of getting the genre in there without doing a straight up religious song.
One of Us - B+
I want to give this song an A, because the performance itself was outstanding, but the interspersing of the shots of Finn finally eating grilled Cheesus really brought it down (if only slightly). I probably would have marked it down a full letter grade, if not for the interaction between Will and Sue at the end of the song, showing that there is a way to crack the barrier of ice around Sue Sylvester's heart.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.