It's a matter of life and death (twice) on Glee's winter finale

By Joseph Brannigan Lynch
February 22, 2012 at 07:43 AM EST
Adam Rose/Fox
S3 E14
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The winter finale of Glee just wrapped up and I’m really bummed. I know it’s just a TV show, but doggone it, when you put enough time (nearly 60 hours by now), love and frustration into a show, you can’t help but feel sucker-punched when something like this happens.

You’re probably either really bummed, too, or fist-pumping because you were always in the anti-Quinn contingent. I always oscillated on Quinn — though I would never say I loved her character, I think she’s been one of the most consistently fascinating personalities on the show.

So when future-Yale freshman Miss Quinn Fabray got into a car accident while checking text messages (related to Finchel’s spur-of-the-moment wedding at that), I couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated. True, at this point we don’t know if she’s actually dead or comatose or paralyzed or miraculously safe or returning as a ghost for season 4, but I’m guessing she just bit the dusty dirt road.

I had invested in and enjoyed Dianna Agron’s characterization of Quinn, and to have her suddenly killed (or whatever this turns out to be) just to create a slam-bang cliffhanger ending seems cheap. If this “to be continued” episode were wrapped up next week, I’d probably feel differently, but killing a character on a musical comedy series just to keep up interest during Glee‘s hiatus (it doesn’t return until April) seems contrived and even sort of callous to the fans. Then again, perhaps Glee is primarily a drama at this point.

Perhaps when the show returns her death (or near-death) will be treated satisfactorily. And hey, if this stops more people from texting while driving, it’s probably worth it. Because that’s seriously dangerous.

The episode began as it ended: in a very depressing fashion for a show called Glee. Dave Karofsky walked in to his school’s locker room to find the F word spray-painted across his locker by his homophobic teammates, (not that F word — the actually bad F word).

Now suffering under the hateful persecution he used to heap onto Kurt, Karofsky rashly decided he couldn’t deal with the strain and tried to hang himself (we later learned he was unsuccessful and was recovering in the hospital). Contrary to some, I didn’t find his sudden suicide unrealistic. Given that he’s not a major character, we can assume he’s been going through some tough stuff we don’t see.

Also, anyone with enough self-loathing to do what he did to Kurt is clearly unstable and uncomfortable with himself to begin with. On a related note, if anyone out there is feeling uncomfortable or unstable, don’t do something you won’t be able to live to regret. Seriously, just talk to someone. Please.

The news of Karofsky’s unsuccessful suicide had huge repercussions at McKinley. Kurt beat himself up over shunning Karofsky earlier, but given their history, I think Kurt’s polite dismissal at Breadstix was justified. What I did think was out of line was when Kurt walked in on the God Squad’s meeting and declared Quinn didn’t know what it was like to truly suffer.

NEXT: Regionals, Schu’s pow-wow and Kurt’s touching visit to Karofsky

Kurt said “everyone still loved” Quinn during her ordeal, but that’s not really the truth. She was kicked out of her house and disowned by her father while pregnant. That’s pretty bad. She’s suffered plenty for a teenager. At the very least, it’s not worth getting into a “who’s had it worse” contest. I’m guessing Kurt will regret saying that if Quinn turns out to be dead.

Karofsky’s brush with death also induced Mr. Schuester to sit down with his kids and talk about suicide and peanut butter. He shared that he considered suicide as a teen after being caught cheating on a math test. While the idea of the scene was nice, the whole thing came across rather like Anthony Michael Hall’s suicide confession in The Breakfast Club: more awkward than meaningful.

Before, during and after all of that drama, there was a tangential side plot about Sebastian trying to blackmail New Directions using a Photoshopped naked picture of Finn. It was weird and unnecessary, but thankfully Sebastian gave up his pettiness after Karofsky’s attempted suicide slapped him back to reality.

In the wake of Karofsky’s near-death, Rachel decided life was too short and that she and Finn should be married immediately. Like, right after Regionals immediately. That sent her parents, Finn’s parents, and just about everyone into a tailspin that was only put on hold for the one thing Rachel values more than her man: a singing competition.

On to Regionals! The Warblers delivered some perfectly-tuned vanilla vocal pop (Sebastian has a great voice but none of Blaine’s charisma), and a group from the hilariously named Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows performed a modern choral rearrangement of Lord Byron’s poem “She Walks in Beauty.” Oh, and co-creator Ian Brennan made an amazing appearance as a vampire judge (he’s previously appeared as the voice behind, “And that’s what you missed…. on Glee!”)

After New Directions — including the Troubletones and solo Rachel — did their thing (more on that later), the winner was announced. McKinley FTW!! Everyone was incredibly happy, and Rachel’s dads probably congratulated themselves on showing up for a singing competition their daughter actually won.

After Regionals, Quinn and Sue Sylvester made their peace, with Sue allowing Q back on the Cheerios (after a great line about how exhausted Quinn must have been after singing all those “oohs and background ahhhs”). Sue told Schu she was pregnant, which is weird, but an issue to be addressed in another episode (including the identity of the father). And the Berry-Hummel-Hudsons fretted about the impending wedding as Rachel and Finn rushed to spend the rest of their lives together.

In one of the most touching scenes of this season, Kurt visited Karofsky in the hospital and helped him see the better future beyond his adolescent travails. Taking Schu’s advice one step further, he had his former tormentor picture himself later in life — successful, with a family, and happy. Kurt reminded him that all his seemingly insurmountable problems have real solutions, even if it is a long road. The entire scene was guileless, well-acted and eye-watering.

NEXT: Quinn’s fate and grading the performances

Then it was time for the big cliffhanger. The second they showed Quinn in a car, I knew it was going to happen. They never show people driving. Add to that she was texting, she had just made peace with Sue, and something had to happen to delay the Finchel wedding. All the earmarks of a disaster.

Song Grades:

“Cough Syrup,” Young the Giant: A chilling rendition by Blaine sung during Karofsky’s attempt at taking his life. Hard to shake. A-

“Stand,” Lenny Kravitz: Bouncy fun, but in a bland, forgettable sense. B-

“Glad You Came,” The Wanted: Apparently The Wanted is a popular British-Irish boy band. Which makes me wonder what sort of stranglehold Rory holds over the Warblers. Well-suited to the Dalton Academy boys, but once again, rather unmemorable. B-

“She Walks In Beauty,” Eric Barnum. Why the Glee producers decided they wanted to use a modern choral arrangement of a Lord Byron poem is beyond me, but you have to love their willingness to try something completely different. I think I’ll leave the grade up to the academic community on this one.

“Fly,” Nicki Minaj ft. Rihanna/”I Believe I Can Fly,” R. Kelly: Naya Rivera rapping? She’s no Minaj, but she has attitude to spare. The rest of New Directions shared vocals and harmonized wonderfully on this very re-listenable mash-up. B+

“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” Kelly Clarkson: Nice to get a little Troubletones action separate from (but still part of ) the New Directions, but I wish we were treated to a ‘stronger’ vocal showcase from Mercedes. Her voice here seemed strangely buried. B

“Here’s To Us,” Halestorm: If you’re gonna give Rachel yet another solo, at least make it a song she can sing the hell out of. This offering from the Pennsylvania rockers Halestorm just seemed like the wrong fit for her. Not horrible, but a misfire. B-

What did you think about the episode? Is Quinn actually dead? Are you worried about her fate? Do you feel a little played that her life is hanging in the balance during a mid-season break? Share your take in the comments!

Episode Recaps

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