Glee – Episode 1-19 Review

Neil Patrick Harris on Glee was amazing. Obviously, we’ve been hearing for months that he was going to be on but the episode really surpassed all my expectations. I’m a big NPH fan – I’ve loved him in everything from How I Met Your Mother to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog to his multitude of awards show gigs. The guy is hilarious, and a really good singer. Not only did he shine on Glee, but I think he brought out the best of Will Schuester was well.

In this episode, directed by Joss Whedon, Neil Patrick Harris played a bitter former Glee club star who was how a school board member threatening to cut the program. We also learned a little more about what life is like for Artie and Rachel thought about trying to track down her mom.

NPH showed up as Bryan Ryan, Will’s high school glee club rival. Cue awesome 80s flashback! The mullet! The clothes! The magic! Did Bryan Ryan learn his magic tricks from Barney Stinson? The fact that NPH frequently performs magic tricks in his roles really makes me want to be his friend. Bryan Ryan had tried to achieve his dreams of stardom after high school but quickly fell into the cruise ship circuit and then, of course, into crack. He was now running a show choir transition group. What is up with Molly Shannon’s character, anyway? She teaches at the school, she’s a recovering show choir addict in Bryan Ryan’s therapy group. Is she going to have a real storyline or will she just keep popping up? I think I’m good either way.

Since Bryan Ryan was threatening to cut the glee club, Will had to try and relight the glee club fire in Bryan’s heart. They sang a great duet of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” at a bar, but I think the song got overshadowed by the duet that came later.

Both guys decided to try out for the same part in the local production of “Les Miserables” and they both wanted to sing “Dream On” by Aerosmith. Since the director of the musical couldn’t keep his dry cleaning shop closed for longer than 30 minutes at a time, the rivals had to perform the song as a duet. Ah-mazing. It was the kind of performance that I would have thought I’d hate before I became a Glee fan. The first time I heard the Glee version of “Don’t Stop Believin'” I thought there was no way songs like that could be covered by a choir. And if you’d told me that two Broadway stars were going to perform “Dream On” I would have said it was rock music blasphemy. But no – it’s fantastic. Neil Patrick Harris and Matthew Morrison have such great chemistry together and they belted out those high notes like nobody else. Plus, it was the first time I could actually make out all the lyrics to the song.

One of the highlights of the show was the scene between Bryan Ryan and Sue Sylvester. Yes, we should have known that Sue Sylvester would somehow be behind Bryan Ryan’s decision to shut down the glee club. But once he’d auditioned for Les Mis and had rekindled his love for show tunes he decided to look at the Cheerio’s extravagant budget as well. Sue was furious. So furious she was kind of turned on – and who cares if Bryan Ryan is married? Not Sue Sylvester. The two decided to have angry hate sex. And in the most shocking twist of the whole show, Sue revealed that she actually has a special room upstairs for that. Ew!

Meanwhile, Artie was hurting after Bryan Ryan had told the entire glee club that their dreams were never going to come true. He’d had everyone write down their biggest dream on a piece of paper, and then as an example he’d balled up Artie’s and thrown it in the trash. Tina checked it out later, though, and saw that Artie had written that his biggest dream is to become a dancer. Everyone watching went “Awwww”. Along with Kurt, Artie provides a real heart to the show. “Wheels” was on of my favorite episodes and I loved the progression of his character this week.

Tina tried to help Artie walk (using some kid’s “spare” set of crutches) but he fell to the ground and felt humiliated. Tina’s character has been a bit of a mystery for us. All we really know about her is that she’s kind of punk and fakes a stutter. That said, all her scenes with Artie were really sweet. She did a bunch of research and told Artie that with all the new scientific studies going on he would definitely be able to walk – and dance – someday. The two went to the mall together, and while Tina went upstairs to get pretzels Artie daydreamed that he was able to walk again. Singing “Safety Dance” (I know, right?!) he danced around the mall a la Christopher Walken in the “Praise You” video. Not only was it great to see Kevin McHale, the guy who plays Artie, have a chance to shine but it was a really awesome number. It was also heartbreaking when Artie snapped out of his daydream, still sitting in the mall in his chair surrounded by people walking around.

Rachel also had a pretty touching story this week, although it wasn’t as heartwarming as Artie’s because, well, she’s Rachel Berry. Even though Rachel’s Number One Dream was to become a big star, she also really wanted to meet her mom. Jesse (who is apparently now definitely her boyfriend) encouraged her to try and track down her missing mom. Originally Rachel came up with harebrained explanations of how Broadway legends could be her mother, but Jesse brought her back down to reality. They started to go through some old boxes from her dads’ basement and Jesse planted a cassette tape in one of them. Ha! I knew he was evil. Only not so – yes, he’d been sent to McKinley High by the Vocal Adrenaline coach Shelby, but not because she was trying to sabotage New Directions. She’s Rachel’s mom. OK, not a huge surprise but I was happy nonetheless. The resemblance between Lea Michele and Idina Menzel is just too strong for them to have not gone there. Seriously, Idina could have played Rachel Berry 20 years in the future and I would have thought “Wow, they did such a good job aging Lea Michele”.

Rachel was too scared to play the tape. “What if she’s singing on it?” she panicked. “What if she’s terrible? Or worse, what if she’s better than me?” Jesse played the tape anyway and yes, Rachel’s mother was singing it. We got treated to Idina and Lea performing a flawless duet of “I Dreamed a Dream”. Suck it, Susan Boyle! Because that was amazing. I’m a huge fan of Idina Menzel and I’m excited to see what else will come from this storyline. It also softens Rachel’s character a bit and wraps up the Jesse St. James mystery quite nicely.

Just when everything seemed A-OK, Sue Sylvester informed Will and Bryan that Will had won the lead role in Les Mis. And congratulations to Bryan too, you get one line! Bye-bye New Directions. Will gave his leading role to Bryan in exchange for keeping the glee club alive. I guess it was supposed to be a big sacrifice, but come on – Will is a teacher, coaches the glee club and is going through a divorce. Did he have time to star in a musical anyway?

The show wrapped up with a special performance from Tina. Artie sang “Dream a Little Dream” while she danced with Mike Chang. It was a subtle, sweet performance that got me a little choked up. It perfectly suited Artie’s story and wrapped up a great episode.

While this episode wasn’t as funny as some others – no hilarious lines from Brittany, not a lot of Sue Sylvester moments – it was artfully done and really emotional. They managed to capitalize on Neil Patrick Harris’ appearance without making the episode feel gimmicky. What did you think of the episode?