Apparently that bit about Blaine joining the superheroes club a few episodes ago was not a typical throwaway "Glee" gag, but a setup for "Dynamic Duets," an episode of "Glee" that brings the show both back to its roots of a specific mix of insanity and earnestness, while subsequently moving the show forward into its new, uncharted future. It's a deft move, and something many fans weren't sure the show could even achieve, let alone achieve with a campy superhero themed episode.
First, the new kids. Ryder and Kitty officially join the glee club and Finn kicks off his first official lesson with a bit fumbling and with the idea that the sectionals theme (hey, sectionals is next week!) is Foreigner they will only sing songs by Foreigner in foreign language in outfits of the world. When no one takes to the idea, Finn realizes he has to embrace the superhero obsession and comes back with the Dynamic Duets idea, pairing up the newbies in unlikely duos to perform together -- Marley with Kitty and Ryder with Jake. Ryder and Jake is especially awkward, since they are both overtly going after Marley, with Jake asking her out and Ryder shutting him down in the hallway. Still, in the interest of the assignment they come together to perform "Superman" by R.E.M., each dressed as Clark Kent and trying to one up each other as they flirt with Kitty. It's fun until it turns sour and Jake punches Ryder, the pair of them wresting on the floor until the boys pull them apart. Finn's punishment is for them to sit in a room and tell each other their secrets. Jake goes first with a written note about how he feels like an outsider because he's half black and half Jewish, meaning he doesn't fit in anywhere. Ryder makes him say it outloud instead of reading the note because his secret is he can't read.
Meanwhile, Kitty is still egging Marley into bulimic behavior with a mix of "Mean Girls"-style veiled insulting compliments and playing at being her friend. Their duet of Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero" is whip-tastic and what most Faberry shippers' (that's Quinn and Rachel for the uninitiated) wet dreams are made of. Kitty is one of the most interesting villainesses "Glee" has produced since Crazy Terri. By all "Glee" logic we know she must be redeemed in some way eventually, but her complex blend of devious and clearly hurt and yearning finally hits home this episode. She's going to be the best thing to watch until they likely give her parent issues and make her dye her hair pink and get a Mario Lopez tattoo.
Jake tells Finn about Ryder's literacy issues and they take him to a specialist. With special care, "Glee" shows the testing that reveals Ryder's dyslexia and then the plans for action around it. What's great about this is it's "Glee" focusing on a story that isn't about a relationship at its core, it's about a boy and his own struggles (and then, later, how that will relate to his parents and the girl he likes). It's one of the most worthwhile and interesting things "Glee" has done, in the middle of an episode where more often than not the characters are all wearing spandex and capes. The fact that Finn delivers him to this is a moment for Finn too, in finding his way as the adult and leader of these kids. In repayment, Ryder stands up to the jocks for Jake (who is getting teased for standing up for Marley's mom). After several episodes where the new faces have been resonating as just background fodder, for the first time we care, especially when they focus on the friendship instead of the romance. While it's great that Kitty's prodding gets Marley the courage to actually assert herself to the boys she may or may not like, what's more interesting is the dynamic of Ryder and Jake's friendship that will make this complicated.