Glee’s much hyped second Britney Spears tribute episode aired Thursday. This episode was always going to be a challenge in regards to musical numbers – all the most loved Britney songs were quite rightfully covered in the first Britney tribute. So instead of focusing on the singer’s career highlights, this episode attempted to replicate some of Britney’s more troubled moments, with nods to the head shaving incident, Britney attacking the paparazzi with an umbrella and her much criticised 2007 VMAs performance. It even included a shout out to Chris Crocker’s viral “Leave Britney alone!” video. Moreover, the first Britney tribute is probably one of the episodes that come to mind when any fan is asked to recall a really awful episode of Glee and in my opinion the start of the show’s decline. Was the second tribute better than the first? Marginally – it could hardly be worse. The episode and respective storylines all suffered from pacing issues, an overuse of Britney’s less remembered hits and the strain of a split-narrative.
The plot is split three ways. Firstly, Brittany is kicked off the Cheerios and suffers an ultimately staged breakdown so the Glee Club set out to inspire her with the music of her hero, Britney Spears. Secondly Rachel continues to be bullied by new dance teacher Cassandra “Cassie” July but discovers the reason for her teacher’s bitterness to be her own failed dreams. Thirdly, Jake is finally talked into Glee Club by a bizarre reappearance of his brother Puck and the efforts of potential love interest Marley. The theme here is the impact of a psychological breakdown – we see Cassie July recovering from the damage to her career by a mental breakdown mid Broadway performance; Brittany mid-breakdown as a result of her failing to graduate, missing girlfriend Santana and losing her role as Head Cheerleader and place on the Cheer Squad; and we see both Rachel and Jake as potential candidates for future break downs if they continue leading their lives as they do. The concept is good, though both Jake and Cassie’s background seemed rushed in order to fit alongside Brittany’s.
The issues with this episode however are numerous. As admitted aloud by Artie towards the end of the episode, Glee really are scraping the barrel in regards to Britney covers. The multitude of mostly unimpressive covers resulted in an overly fast paced first half of an episode, though this problem was less noticeable in the second half. The New York arc seems to be bearing most of the damage in regards to the split narrative and lack of time for developing storylines. Brody again is the main casualty – I’m growing less and less patient waiting for the emergence of a personality beyond adoring Rachel Berry. I would also have liked to see Cassie’s issues come out in a less abrupt manner and the resentment between Rachel and Cassie to build for a few more episodes. Jake’s story too could have been drawn out more, though if it is intended for him to retell the story of his brother then perhaps not. Speaking of said brother, Puck apparently returned to Ohio from LA merely to talk to a brother he didn’t know existed about how being a badass doesn’t make you a man in a badly scripted scene. The moment the brothers first met had so much potential, and is instead thrown away in this short scene.
The only thing that did make the first episode worth watching were the dance performances by Heather Morris as Brittany, which were sadly not replicated in the second tribute apart from in the first performance of the evening, “Hold it Against Me.” Heather is nobody’s favourite vocalist, but she’s probably the most entertaining cast member of the show to watch perform and it was a real shame we didn’t get to see more of her dancing. “Boys/Boyfriend” and “Womaniser” featured next in a crammed first fifteen minutes and both were bland and unnecessary. “3” was the best cover of the episode with a surprisingly pleasant vocal combination of Joe, Tina and Sam, proving again that Tina should have been the new Rachel. “Crazy/You Drive Me Crazy” was okay, although I’m not crazy over the arrangement nor Jake and Marley’s chemistry. “Oops I Did it Again” was probably the only song worth covering, but I was unimpressed by Rachel’s slowed down rendition. The song is used to demonstrate Rachel’s sexy “dancing,” which would probably be more fitting in a rap video than a classroom, but worked for its purpose. “Gimme More” was used as a public demonstration of Brittany’s break down rather than a serious musical number and featured Brittany dancing badly, scoffing cheese puffs and lip synching in front of the school. The episode closed on a passable cover of “Everytime” by Marley that featured too many cut scenes – Marley being upset about the Jake/Kitty relationship, Brittany waiting sadly for Santana to video call her and Rachel finally progressing in dance class and then painting over the love heart with Finn’s name in she had drawn on her wall (hooray!).
Overall this episode could have worked a lot better than it did, with interesting plots and parallels abundant. It does suffer from the usual Glee tribute episode overuse of music and this time also from the weaknesses of the source material used, though some plot does survive. We’re also definitely seeing some evidence of the strain of a split narrative between New York and Lima, with characters losing out on development because there simply isn’t enough time. However, I enjoyed the acting performances in this episode. The New York scenes were again impressive, Melissa Benoist and Jacob Artist are proving their worth as cast members and it’s clear Heather Morris has gone a long way. In conclusion? It’s better than the first Britney tribute – it had to be, but it doesn’t live up to the promising start of the first episode of the season.
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