Before I watched last Thursday’s episode of ‘Glee’, I had been somewhat “spoiled” for the subject matter. The title itself (“Shooting Star”) is a bit of a giveaway; there were also warnings circulating online that an episode about a school shooting might be a trigger for folks whose emotions are still raw after the mass shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook last year. Knowing this, I was a little worried going in. ‘Glee’ tends to veer pretty wildly between high drama and broad (if fairly dark) comedy, and I didn’t want to see gun violence treated too cavalierly.
I’m glad to say that, for the most, my fears were unfounded. The show began in typical off-kilter fashion, with Mr. Schuester telling the club who their Regionals competition would be (the Hoosierdaddies from Indianapolis and the Nun-Touchables from Our Lady of Perpetual Loneliness in Battle Creek – ‘Glee’ saves some of its goofiest humor for these little throwaway lines). As he was getting ready to pump the kids up for practice, Brittany walked out onto the stage, told him to shut up and announced that an asteroid (or was it a meteor, or comet?) she named Tubbington-Bopp was headed straight for Lima and was going to kill them all. She promised to spend her last hours on Earth getting right with someone she loves – her feline sidekick, Lord Tubbington. Mr. Schue, who’s pretty down with Brit’s particular brand of cray-cray, deflects this into the song theme of the week: “Last Chance”. He tells the kids in the club that they meteor will either miss them (in which case they need to be prepared) or it won’t (in which case they need to take care of any unfinished business with the people they love).
Ryder takes this as his cue to push for an in-person meeting with Katie, the girl he’s been having a “text-lationship” with online. He finally sees Katie in the halls of McKinley and decides to do the what any self-respecting glee-clubber would do: he pulls her into the choir room to serenade her with Elton John’s “Your Song”. Katie is duly impressed, and seems to know who Ryder is, but then tells him that her name is actually Marissa and she isn’t the one who’s been chatting with Ryder and that someone is using her picture to ‘catfish’ him.
But Katie (er, sorry, Marissa) isn’t the only one being serenaded this week. Sam suggests to Brittany that she should bring Lord Tubbington to the school so she and the glee club can sing him his favorite song. That way her furry friend will know how much Brittany loves him, and the club will stop thinking she’s choosing her cat over them. The resulting rendition of Extreme’s “More Than Words” is sweet and ridiculous in equal measure, much like Brittany herself.
Coach Beiste also uses the comet’s impending arrival as an opportunity to take care of unfinished emotional business with Mr. Schue. She makes him dinner in the locker room and then confesses her romantic feelings for the one guy who’s treated her like a girl even when she doesn’t fit the stereotypical vision. Knowing what both of these characters have been through, it’s heartbreaking to watch him shoot her down, even as he does it with tenderness and grace.
At this point, the episode takes a bit of a left turn (even for ‘Glee’). Brittany announces to the astronomy club that the comet is actually a dead ladybug at the end of her telescope; further, her telescope is just a Pringles can. She apologizes and disbands the club – hey, she’s the senior class president, she can totally do that! Becky, a cheerleader with Downs Sydrome, hangs around afterwards and asks Brittany to not graduate at all, and stay with her on the Cheerios. Brit has to let her down too, and pinkie promises that if Becky prepares herself, the world won’t seem so scary.
The next scene opens in the choir room, with the Mr. Schue getting the club ready for a rehearsal – he does the standard “Alright guys, let’s get ready!” and claps his hands, which coincides with a gunshot from somewhere in the hallways. The next 20 minutes are are devoid of any music or cheer, and the acting from the entire cast is wonderful. My heart just broke for poor Sam, who had to be physically restrained by both Mr. Schue and Coach Beiste from trying to go find Brittany. She, in turn, is trapped in a bathroom stall. Heather Morris really sold the terror and sadness of cowering in a tiny cubicle, waiting for who-knows-what.
My one and only complaint was the resolution of the gun incident itself. It turned out to be Becky, taking Brit’s words a bit too literally, who brought the gun to school. She showed it to Sue, who tried to get her to hand it over. Becky ended up firing the gun by accident, and then dropping it, where it went off again. Sue took the fall for Becky and was fired as a result. The final group song is “Say”, which literally includes the line “say what you need to say”. Unfortunately, important words are left unspoken, and the episode ends with a whimper instead of a bang. This subject deserved more.