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Glee: The Power of Madonna

Sue: "Somewhere on the English countryside, in a stately manor, Madonna is weeping."

And everywhere across the U.S., thousands of true Gleeks breathe a sigh of relief.

I tried not to get too excited about the much-hyped Madonna episode. I didn't want to see my beloved show fail to live up to expectations - mine or critics. But I was more than pleasantly surprised - I was actually quite blown away .

"The Power of Madonna" is easily the show's best episode yet. This, my friends, is Glee at it's full potential: laugh out loud one liners, inventive mash-ups/interpretations of the music, some pretty damn good performances, and just enough Rachel/Finn to make the heart sigh. Nothing as silly as a plot got in the way - which, frankly, is a good thing for us all, as I have to finally admit that plot and pacing is probably Glee's biggest weakness.

"Express Yourself"
Rating: 6 out of 10

The patently ridiculous premise - Glee girls are being mistreated by the guys, and Shue trying to empower them with Madonna - led to our first number of the night, which happens to be my personal favorite Madge song. The costumes were very cute (even though Quinn's baby bump was conspicuously missing), but overall, I didn't love "Express Yourself". Those of you who have been reading my reviews can guess why: it was just a straight up rehash of the song, even down to the costumes and the crotch grabbing choreography. Although I will concede that it would have been damn near impossible to reinvent such an iconic video, so maybe an homage was the best choice.

Also, I do love me some Lea Michele, but her voice was not very well suited for this number. Madonna may not have the greatest voice in the world, but her lower-pitched alto gives it the grittiness that it deserves. Lea has a beautiful, crisp soprano voice that soars in duets and on ballads - but on this one, she came across sounding like a high school girl trying to be all grown up.

But - brownie points for Kurt's excellent expression throughout the number, as well as Artie's misogynistic (but hilarious) demands if Tina wants to "get all up on this."

"Borderline / Open Your Heart"
Rating: 9 out of 10

At the heart of the episode was Rachel's dilemma: Jesse is pressuring her to sleep with him. Wait, how long have they been dating? Like a day and a half? I never have any sense of time in Gleeverse, so I can't even tell you if this makes any sense. (Not that a day and half of dating ever stopped any boys from wanting it.)

Regardless, the fact that Rachel is seriously considering it - and almost went through with it - is both realistic and telling. She may be beyond arrogant when it comes to her talent, but when it comes to boys, she's insecure, and doesn't want to lose her first real boyfriend. Plus, I mean, Jonathan Groff is completely adorable - and any boy who wants to talk through issues, or "at least sing about it" is a keeper in my book.

You know what else is completely realistic? The fact that Rachel can't keep her mouth shut ("She talked about him yesterday and practically sprayed the choir room"), even knowing that it'll alienate her the only friends she has. Finn, back in adorably dim-bulb form, confronts her, culminating in a juicy mash up of "Borderline" and "Open Your Heart".

Yes, some of the early transitions in the song were a little awkward, but overall, I really loved the number. The gratuitous use of the wind machine was offset by the random Madonna impersonators wandering the halls of McKinley (loved it!), and the chemistry between the two was the strongest I've ever felt - I could actually feel both of their yearning. Both songs actually are quite relevant to the Finn/Rachel relationship - she's trying to get over him, but can't quite let go; he was too scared to be emotionally honest with himself about how he feels. "Open Your Heart" was particularly appropos, since the video famously featured Madonna stripping for a 7 year old - which is just how old Brittany's new younger man is.

Rating: 6 out of 10

More importantly, we FINALLY find out what Sue has against Will's hair ("Hey William, I thought I smelled cookies wafting from the ovens of the little elves who live in your hair"). Apparently Miz Sylvester damaged her hair trying to bleach it in her not-too-distant youth, so she can only wear it short - and she's jealous of Will's lustrous waves. Mercedes and Kurt, either terrified from her rampage or feeling bad for her, give her a black-and-white makeover - and, voila! - "Vogue"!

I gotta tell you, I would have given this a perfect 10 if Fox hadn't played the video in its entirety last week. I actually fast forwarded through it, I was so annoyed, but it was freaking hilarious the first time around, and its' not their fault that the programmers at Fox are boneheads. Plus, I thought Will's comebacks were actually pretty damn funny ("How's that Florence Henderson look working for you?"), and the look on Mercedes' and Kurt's faces in Sue's office were just priceless.

"Like a Virgin"
Rating: 10 out of 10

It's not often that Glee catches me completely off guard, but I just did not put 2 and 2 (and 2) together and see that virgin theme at all. Could Glee actually be learning subtlety? Or was I too busy scarfing down a chile relleno burrito to pay attention?

Either way. The "Like a Virgin" montage was very well done, tying together several plot lines, and showcased the talents of Santana and Emma. That it was completely a fantasy made it all the better. In contrast to the number, the starkness of Rachel/Finn/Emma in the bathroom stood out. I'm glad Emma didn't sleep with Will, and Rachel and Finn respectively lying about their experience was actually kind of sweet. I might need to eat my own words - maybe I can believe in the Emma/Will and Rachel/Finn pairings after all.

Full disclosure: I have a soft spot for the song, as Like a Virgin was the first album I ever owned, so maybe I'm just completely biased. (Me: "Mommy, what's a virgin?" Mom: "It's a girl's name, honey." Me: "Oooh, I want to be a Virgin!" Mom: "And you will be... for a very long time.")

"Like a Prayer"
Rating: 7/10

Uh huh. Jesse transferring to another high school for Rachel? Come on. This breaks my heart, because Jesse is so obviously playing Rachel, and I'm not looking forward to the fallout. What I want to know is: How does Shelby figure into this whole scheme? Are the Glee writers dangling obvious plot developments (Shelby being Rachel's birth mom, Jesse's betrayal) so that they can fake us out? Am I giving them too much credit?

What I also want to know is:Why did they make such a big deal about Jesse being another male lead, when he was hardly used on "Like a Prayer"?

I've read a lot of online reviews that are calling the "Like a Prayer" number one of Glee's best, but I have to disagree. Besides the complete absurdity of suddenly having a choir at their disposal, I didn't think that the performance was all that. Yes, it was big, and it was dramatic, and perhaps in any other episode I would have loved it. But it paled in comparison to "Borderline/Open Your Heart" and "Like a Virgin".

As I said, this was easily the best episode of Glee to date. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that's a good thing. Based on the unevenness of last fall, I am fully expecting this coming week's to be a disappointment. And call me a cynic, but I'm just know that the success of the "Power of Madonna" will make Glee more and more gimmicky. In addition to the Lady Gaga episode (which I *am* excited about, b/c I loooooove Lady Gaga), they're already planning another Madonna themed episode, which I desperately hope they won't do, but I'm sure they will. Even Britney is tweeting about a potential Britney themed ep!

I feel like Buffy after she lost her virginity to Angel - after the moment of perfect bliss and happiness, I fear that Glee is going to turn into a soulless, money sucking, product placement machine.

Le sigh. Who knows? Angel came back from Hell, maybe Mr. King Of Shock Value (Ryan Murphy) will resist his natural urges. In the meantime, 5 out of 4 younger men.

The Tunes

There were a lot of other great numbers in "The Power of Madonna" which didn't tie into my review. Here are my ratings:

-- "Ray of Light". I know it's technically not a Glee Club number, but the Cheerios-On-Stilts routine was impressive. I love watching the Cheerios. 9 out of 10.

-- "4 Minutes". This is actually one of my favorite Madonna songs, so maybe I'm being overly critical, but I didn't love it. The staging with the marching band and the Cheerios was really awesome, but for whatever reason, Kurt and Mercedes' performances didn't do it for me. I'd say 10 out of 10 for the staging, and 7 out of 10 for the singing - so averages 8.5/10.

-- "What It Feels Like For A Girl". An oddly charming number. Plus it actually felt like a rehearsal, which apparently no one in Gleeverse needs to have. 7/10.

Bits 'n Pieces

-- Kurt: "Mercedes is black, I'm gay: We make culture."
This one wins quote of the night.

-- Jesse: "Just come out so we can talk. Or sing about it."
I know I already mentioned this one, but it was just so super awesome. I totally didn't buy into Jesse as a character until those words came out of his mouth.

-- Mercedes: "That would make you, like, 30."
Sue: "29."

-- Sue: "My parents were famous Nazi hunters, so they weren't around a lot."

-- Brittany: "When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist."

-- Sue: "What would Madonna do? Well, the answer to that question would normally be: date a younger man."

-- Jesse: "You tell me when you’re ready, and I’ll make sure I’m fastidiously groomed."

-- Sue: “The woman most responsible for my take-no-prisoners demeanor and my subconscious tendency to constantly be looking for someone named Susan.

-- Puck: "Uh, Mr. Schue, I think we're gonna need a new baritone 'cause Finn would like to become Finnessa."

-- Rachel: "Can I ask you something private?"
Santana: "Yes, you should move to Israel."

-- Emma: "Foreplay begins promptly at 7:30"

-- Tina: "My eyes are up here! I am a person, with feelings! Get out of my grill! I am a powerful woman and my growing feminism will cut you in half like a righteous blade of equality!"


  1. I loved this one. It was so funny. Sue doing "Vogue" was classic. And I couldn't believe the "Like a Virgin" thing worked; it was done so well. I totally agree with you, Serena. (And I was glad they reran it on Friday or I wouldn't have seen it.)

  2. I enjoyed this one, but didn't think it was the best episode ever. I might feel differently if they hadn't overpimped the 'Vogue' video. I agree with you, Serena. My jaw was on the floor the first time they showed it, and I wish they had left it as something we experienced for the first time in the context of the episode.

    I pretty much agree with your assessment of the numbers this week. I find any number which involves Quinn dancing to be difficult to fully enjoy, because I'm distracted by the baby bump or lack thereof. The 'Like a Virgin' number was very good, made even better by the ending reveal that it was all a fantasy and the three virgins were still staring themselves down in the mirror. Good stuff.

    I don't agree that Rachel and Finn make a good couple. I don't want to see them end up together, and I find their "yearning" irritating. If it weren't for the fact that Jesse is totally playing her, I'd be happy to see Rachel with him. He's definitely a cutie. And a much better match for her vocally.

    I, too, hope they don't go overly gimmicky with the show because this episode got such a good response. This was a fun tribute to all things Madonna, but it will get stale pretty quickly if they start doing specific artist episodes all the time.

  3. This was my second Glee episode after watching the pilot when it was teased a couple of years ago(yikes! was it that long ago?). I spent most of the episode in a state of bizarre disbelief mush like I was the first time.

    So from a relatively fresh perspective I thought I would share my thoughts. First and foremost, Serena that was a great review and you made me laugh several times.

    I have read a few of your reviews in an attempt to glean whether or not I should attempt to start watching. I now have Season 1 Part 1 in my Netflix queue.

    "When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist." Was my favorite quote along with your favorite; "Mercedes is black, I'm gay: We make culture."

    I nearly completely agree with your opinion about the numbers except for Vogue, I think that it was brilliant. Of course I wasn't spoiled for the video at all because I rarely watch Fox (fallout pain from too many canceled shows).

    That being said I think that the duet with Borderline and Like a Virgin were just awesome, and they were definitely the strong points of the episode.

    Thank you again for your reviews, I'm looking forward to actually watching the rest of the season.

  4. Great ep, the 1st one i gave a perfect score in my personal rankings after the pilot. So many great quotes and just couldn't stop smiling during "Like a Virgin" and "Vogue". After it ended i said: so you don't have to work years to get a musical "Mamma Mia" style working. Just a tv show ep will suffice. :)

    But on the other hand i have all the fears you described Serena. I don;t want them to sell out do bidding wars. Who will pay us the most cash to have an episode themed after his songs? That probably depends on iTunes sales of the Madonna songs.

    But on the bright side. Episode 19 is directed by Joss, i hope he will get a bit more to say then just roll the camera. Here's to 5-minute oners. (scenes without cuts for the ones not familair with Joss' Buffy/Angel DVD commentaries)

  5. @ Everyone wishing that Glee won't go down the gimmick route:

    Wish again --> http://tvguide.ca/TVNews/Articles/100426_britney_glee_DW

  6. Well i wouldn't mind such episodes 1-2 per season, but they should do it with real music not Britney Spears...

  7. How fantastic was the Vogue video? I loved it! The re-vamp of some of the lyrics had me howling.

    Followed closely by 'Like a Virgin' that I thought was brilliantly executed. What was even better is that I didn't see it coming, although I should have.

    Serena -- the story about your mum is hilarious! Made me laugh out loud. Great review, again.


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