Glee: Shooting Star... or Staring Down the Barrel of a Cheap Ratings Ploy
As I write this, there are have been two school shootings reported in the mainstream media, three if you want to count Texas Southern University’s gun-related deaths on their campus. School shootings and gun violence are (re)entering the mainstream conversation although the topic isn’t new for television. My So-Called Life had an episode where students brought guns to school for protection, One Tree Hill had one where a bullied student took the main characters hostage, and DeGrassi had the infamous episode where, again, a bullied student took things too far and ended up paralyzing Drake.
I’m sorry for the cheap Drake reference, but I thought we needed to lighten up for a second.
Anyway, these shows tackled gun violence and related them to the issues that teens were going through: bullying, fear, hurtful gossip, etc.
And what does Glee do? Trot out the subject for cheap entertainment. I’ll explain as we watch.
Brittany, the Hot But Painfully Dumb Cheerleader, interrupts glee coach Will’s announcements for the upcoming regional competition to announce that a meteor is headed straight for Lima and will kill them all. Brittany adds that she cannot be bothered to think about glee when she needs to make amends with someone she hurt. No, not Sam the Painfully Hot Football Player — her cat, Lord Tubbington.
Instead of dismissing Brittany’s ramblings, Will decides to plan his whole Lesson of the Week around the theme of “last chances” and tells the members to plan for a song that encompasses that theme. Some golden boy named Ryder catches up with his ambiguously brown best friend Jake to excitedly tell him that the girl he’s been chatting with online, Katie, goes to their high school! Ryder saw her in the hallway, and now he wants to track her down to declare his undying love. Jake suggests that Ryder make a special plan to woo her.
Sam also has a similar idea to help Brittany show her cat that she still loves him. He suggests that Brittany bring her cat to school so the glee club members can all sing to him.
“I can’t believe I said those words with a straight face.”
Ryder takes Katie aside at school and sings Elton John’s “Your Song” to her. “I wanted the first time we met in person to be something we remembered for the rest of our lives,” says Ryder. As they talk, Katie explains to a confused Ryder that she isn’t the one he’s been chatting with — someone has been catfishing him.
Well, at least it’s still a memorable first meeting.
Ryder angrily accuses Jake and Marley of being the catfishes, but they swear they had nothing to do with it. “Then it has to be someone close to me,” insists Ryder. “Someone who knew exactly what to say to get me to trust them.” He confronts the fake Katie over text and tells her that he wants to meet in person.
Who could it be? Seriously, who? I haven’t watched this show after season 2; I have no idea who half these characters are.
Coach Beiste invites Will to a romantic Italian dinner in the locker room — I was going to make a joke but then I remembered that this is Ohio. Beiste heard about Will’s “last chance” lessons and has been inspired to ask him out. Unfortunately, Will is taken so Coach Beiste put herself out there for nothing. Aw, she didn’t even get to sing!
Meanwhile, Brittany admits to the astronomy club that her meteor prediction was false, which actually comes as a surprise to people. Becky, a fellow cheerleader, takes Brittany aside after the meeting and confesses that the meteor talk made her realize that she isn’t ready to graduate. “If you prepare yourself, the world won’t seem like a scary place,” says Brittany.
As the glee club gathers to share their “Last Chance” songs, they hear gunshots in the distance. They immediately go into lockdown mode/dramatic shaky cam style. Will, in a particularly stupid move, encourages his students to text and tweet about the gunshots. Sam tries to leave the room to find Brittany, who went to the bathroom when the shots started. The kids realize that Tina, their other member, isn’t there either.
“I wonder which one of them will end up like Drake on Degrassi.”
Thankfully, Brittany is safely holed up in the bathroom, although she is terrified being alone. Tina is also safe; she was late to school and is outside helplessly watching the police investigate the school. Back in the choir room, the kids are still panicking and crying, despite Coach Beiste’s attempts to keep them safe and calm. I don’t include Will on this because Coach Beiste is the only one actively trying to shush the kids, hold Sam down when he tries to make a break for it to find Brittany, and gently scold the kids when they crawl around the room and film their goodbye video messages.
I know these kids are hysterical and scared and probably not thinking straight, but seriously: texting and constantly crawling from corner to corner isn’t the brightest idea when there is a suspected gunman in your school.
Sometime during all this, Will leaves the room and escorts Brittany and several other stragglers into the choir room. The SWAT team declares the school to be cleared, and the club gathers in a group hug, relieved.
“Now let’s pray that this was enough for an Emmy.”
“I haven’t seen this much overreaction since Janet Jackson showed her saggy fun bag at the Super Bowl,” says show villain Sue Sylvester derisively, as she and the other teachers watch new cameras and metal detectors being installed in the school. Why does Sue have such a cavalier attitude toward the gunshots? Because she was the one who caused them!
Sue admits to the Principal Figgins that she keeps a gun in her office, and when she was cleaning it, it accidentally went off and set off the whole panic. Figgins tells Sue that she will have to be reported and fired.
Tina sobs to Blaine that she was so worried when the SWAT team was investigating the gun shots. “I didn’t want my last words to you to be some snarky comment about how I never get solos!” she sobs. Uh, wouldn’t these tears be more effective if we actually saw this happen in the episode.
Apparently, we’re done with the “aftermath of the not-shooting” because Ryder continues to investigate who his catfisher is, Will helps Coach Beiste set up an online dating profile, and Sam buys Lord Tubbington a Lady Tubbington companion so Brittany can focus on their relationship.
“What even are these plotlines?”
Will gets the “school shooting” plot back on track when he confronts Sue about his suspicions that she lied about having a gun. It is revealed that Sue is covering for someone — Becky brought her father’s gun to school because in a misguided way, she thought it would help her be prepared for after graduation. When Sue tried to take the gun away from her, it went off. “Keep an eye on Becky,” Sue tells Will as she packs up her office. “She gets scared sometimes.”
The episode ends with Ryder waiting to confront his catfisher as the glee club sings “Say.”
Like I mentioned earlier, most TV shows that dealt with school shootings actually confronted the underlying problems that caused the shooting to happen. Becky, who instigated the whole action, was never really a main focus. In fact, it’s doubtful she will even be a main focus in later episodes, considering that Sue just gives Will a cryptic instruction to look out for her instead of, I don’t know, referring Becky to a counselor or a therapist or giving anyone a heads up about Becky’s mental state. The “there might be a shooter in the school!” conflict is only an excuse for our main characters to shed tears on camera; there is no real emotional connection. Look how quickly the episode switched back to its lighthearted subplots after spending twenty minutes watching the main characters sob as if they feared for their lives. Plus, not be sound bloodthirsty, but the reveal that the gunshots were purely accidental was a cheap copout. No one got hurt or even emotionally scarred, so all those sob-filled monologues look silly and melodramatic in retrospect. In real life, school shootings rarely leave anyone unscatched. Why did Glee wrap everything up in a neat little bow and miss the chance for actual development?
Be honest, Glee: this plotline was only for the ratings.
When you support Happy Nice Time People on Patreon, 100% of your pledge goes straight to our writers.