Right from the start it’s easy to spot that this “Glee” episode is not your normal one. The cinematography, for one, is stuttered and jarring, more documentary style than “Glee” ever approaches. The pace, also, jumps along at fuller speed than normal, dropping us into the plot continuation of Ryder’s internet girlfriend. He see her in the hallway, and pulls a very happy but confused blonde girl into the choir room to privately serenade her with Elton John’s “Your Song.”
Of course, as we all knew, this girl isn’t Katie, but someone whose picture has been used in an elaborate Catfish. When Ryder confronts the culprit by text, he or she promises a true reveal outside the choir room.
Brittany’s concern is a comet she believes is headed straight for earth and will wipe out civilization. As we often do on “Glee,” the crowd respects Brittany’s reality and Schue forms an assignment around her belief, telling people to perform songs around the theme of “Last Chance.” For Brittany, this means bringing Lord Tubbington to school and singing him Extreme’s “More Than Words” with the help of the rest of the Glee club. It’s the kind of weird “Glee” that the bread and butter of the franchise, set up here as both an illuminating theme and a contrasting tone to what’s to come.
Things are progressing to the requisite ‘sing your feeling’ Glee choir room scene when an unmistakable pop rings out from the hallway, then another. Stunned and then spurred to action, the class locks the doors and takes cover away from the windows as Glee descends into something the musical doesn’t often deal in — silence.
It’s not complete silence, for sure, but a punctuated one. Quickly we realize not all the students are safe in the room, and Sam tries multiple times to make a break for Brittany, who’s seemingly alone in the bathroom, standing on top of the toilet and waiting, tears streaming down her face. Tina was late to the meeting and we find her outside in the chaos begging to return inside to find her friends. In the choir room the kids react in various ways — Marley frantically calling her mother inside the school and receiving no answer because her phone is across the room from her hiding spot; Kitty coming clean about her deception over Marleys weight earlier this year; and Artie, out of his chair and obviously in the most vulnerable position, beings filming the group, asking them to leave messages for their loved ones. Jake, Ryder and Marley all leave messages, but when Artie turns the camera on Sam he shoves it down although it’s later revealed he, Artie and Unique all leave messages too. Blaine is the only student unable to say anything to the camera.
The only plot-point that transfers from pre-gunshot is Ryder calling the still-mystery Katie and hearing a phone ring from one of his classmate’s bags, narrowing our options down considerable for the culprit of his online love affair — the only people see without phones in their hands excluding teachers are Jake, Brittany and Sam. Of course, the greater concern in that moment is silence, and so the club forces him to stop calling before we can figure out who’s backpack is on the receiving end. Eventually Schue ventures out to rescue Brittany and the other two students abandoned in the bathroom, and as they cross to the choir room we see our first images of a SWAT team piling through the school and quickly giving an all-clear.
The next day the school has metal detectors, and the police search each locker methodically and find nothing. When it’s revealed that each student will also be questioned about their involvement in the incident, Sue comes forward and claims it was her gun that accidentally fired. As this is not a typical zany Glee moment we can write away with a slap on the wrist, she’s fired from her position. Schue confronts her, trying to puzzle out what she’s covering for by accepting this punishment, and we flashback to the actual incident from her POV. Becky has come to her office, explaining how scared she’s feeling at the idea of going beyond McKinley, before revealing a handgun that she took from her father. Sue tries to calmly get Becky to hand over the gun, and as she moves to do so it fires, startling Sue and Becky both. She drops it and it fires again, and while the rest of the school erupts in panic, Sue clutches Becky and tells her it will be okay. In the present, the only hint Sue gives is for him to keep an eye on Becky for her.
We close on the third and final song of the night, John Mayer’s “Say,” which the club performs privately on the stage of the auditorium in the space created between two high risers facing one another. Intimate, womb-like, and haunting. Ryder is the only missing figure, determined to keep his date with “Katie” outside the choir room, but she or he never shows.
This episode is far from perfect. There’s a Bieste storyline about her feelings for Schue that feels as misguided as his awkward “I’ll kiss you because you should get a kiss” plans. Sam’s reaction to the whole thing is to buy Britt another cat. But up against the Very Special Episodes of last season that couldn’t quite figure out how to lend gravity to their topics amidst the insanity of a regularly scheduled “Glee” moment, this week is much improved from before.
If Glee should be doing this is a point up for debate, but the actors and crew execute something inherently raw without music, a new feat for the series. How the shades of this moment play out for the rest of the season remains to be seen. Who is Kitty neutered of her rivalry with Marley, and where does Tina go now that she and Blaine have mended the last of their post-crush divide? Will the rest of our newly shaken characters figure out how to say what they need to say to move on from McKinley?