Sue suffers a tragic loss and comes to a realization.


S2 E21
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May 18, 2011 at 11:16 AM EDT

You didn’t think that’d be easy, right? I mean, the episode is titled “Funeral,” after all.

This was such an odd episode, Gleeks. And I don’t mean that in a bad way — or a good one necessarily. But when I sat down to watch last night’s episode of Glee, I went into it remembering all of television’s major “death” episodes that have left impressions on me. Particularly I recalled Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “The Body.” I’ve only watched the episode once (who watches it more than once?), but from what I remember about the experience, it gave me chills. And it was painfully uncomfortable to watch.

I won’t go so far as to say last night’s Glee was in that realm of greatness. But it was uncomfortable to watch. Unlike normal episodes of Glee that attempt to give us tiny steps of progress in the seemingly 200 plotlines that are going on at any given time, this episode basically took us on two separate journeys. One was the journey to find a soloist for nationals, and the other was a journey through the grieving process of Sue Sylvester. It was shockingly streamlined and lacked the usual peppy nature of story editing, which tends to jump around and keep you on your toes. Instead, it was understated and  contained major changes of heart from Sue that I definitely didn’t see coming. Let’s recap, shall we?

Jesse St. Jerk returned, and this time he was offering his consultation skills to the glee club, particularly aiding them in the aforementioned search for the star of nationals. And he was there to bash Finn.

Meanwhile, we knew something was up with Sue when we learned that Becky had been kicked off the Cheerios. As irrelevant as Sue has become this season, I knew in my core that this is one thing she wouldn’t normally do — unless the writers had become that completely determined to remove all redeeming factors from this character. Turned out that wasn’t the case. Becky simply reminded her of her sister, Jean, who had died the day before. Unofficial poll: Was there a dry eye in the house when Sue broke the news to Will and told him how she had left the nursing home because Jean had insisted? Didn’t think so.

A depressed Sue was positively uneasy to watch. She surprisingly had many great lines in this episode, but Jane Lynch did an outstanding job of delivering even the funniest quips with an underlying sense of sadness. I was glad that the writers chose Herman and Eddie Munster, erm, Finn and Kurt to be the ones to connect with Sue because I think they’re two of the most genuine characters on the show. Their offer to help Sue clean out Jean’s room and organize the funeral arrangements could have easily come across as insincere considering Sue’s history with the glee kids. I think they pulled it off well.

In fact, the show, as pleasantly unrealistic as it is, generally avoided sullying such a tragic moment with its typical cheesy touches. Even that moment when Schu went up to the podium to read the eulogy for an overemotional Sue at the Willy Wonka-themed funeral didn’t seem over-the-top. You’re invited to disagree.

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Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.
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