Glee gets an A plus for ‘Asian F’
Harry Shum Jr plays Mike Chang Jr
At the risk of receiving an angry phone call from Ryan Murphy as so many TV reviewers have – all gleeks will recognise the trope of Good Glee and Bad Glee. Last night’s episode, ‘Asian F’, was Good Glee. Throwing the spotlight on criminally under-used Harry Shum Jr as Mike Chang the episode employed the stereotype of pushy Asian parents to facilitate some sweet moments of reflection, an introduction to his mother and a dance routine which showed off his skills as well as giving an insight into his life. His rendition of ‘Cool’ was a standout number in the season so far’.
The episode was rife with character insight and development : where so much of Bad Glee is about awkward segues into songs (‘Britney/Brittany’, ‘The Power of Madonna’) ‘Asian F’ was about those moments which loom large in the lives of young people – making your mark, challenging your teachers, rebelling, and choosing between your friends and yourself. There was also a sweet storyline between Emma and Will which managed to avoid sinking into mawkishness despite the addition of the Glee club singing Coldplay whilst wearing white. There has been some cynicism over Blaine and Kurt’s relationship, after all, they’re a gay couple on primetime and neither of them has yet died. We’re so used to gay characters being pain magnets on TV that it’s almost jarring to see Kurt bring Blaine flowers to congratulate him for getting the part he wanted, but it represents a moment of selflessness for Kurt which contrasted neatly with Rachel’s power struggle with Mercedes and her decision to run against Kurt for class president.
Ian Brennan always writes good Mercedes and her decision to quit New Directions in order to get out of Rachel’s shadow allowed Amber Riley to act rather than just ‘park and bark’. The Dreamgirls number ‘It’s All Over’ was one of the best the show has ever produced, allowing the song to integrate into the script rather than shoe-horning it in. The relationship between Mercedes and Shane (LaMarcus Tinker) set them as a more mature power couple than Rachel and Finn, giving Mercedes the confidence boost that she needs on stage.
Many critics have named ‘Asian F’ as one of the best episodes Glee has ever produced and it’s hard to argue with that. Focusing on character and story rather than gimmicks and guest stars has already gotten the season off to a great start. Next week’s episode ‘Pot O’ Gold’ is written by debutante Ali Adler and features the winner of The Glee Project Damien McGinty as an Irish exchange student. On paper it could be season three’s first brush with Bad Glee. Let’s hope they pull it off.