Blackbird singing in the dead of night

I haven’t watched this latest episode of Glee as many times as I’ve watched Once More With Feeling, the hilarious but also moving Joss Whedon-composed musical episode of his Buffy the Vampire Slayer; but, it’s getting pretty close.

No, I haven’t succumbed to dance moves in front of the iMac — maybe because I’ve never been particularly impressed with the choreography in the show — but I have been caught singing along and guilty of replaying Chris Colfer’s restrained and beautiful cover of The Beatles’ Blackbird. I felt like me as a kid: Picking up the tone arm and dropping it back onto the 45’s first groove because I was too impatient to wait for the automatic repeat. (My own record of When Will I Be Loved? comes to mind, as does my sister’s In the Year 2525. Also, I got in the habit of playing her copy of The Sound of Music over and over before I’d ever even seen the movie.)

Original Song is not so much a return to form for this frequently glib but nevertheless habit-forming TV show but it does maintain an overwhelming emphasis on what the show does best: Re-contextualizing pop songs and imbuing those songs with the personalities of the characters.

That’s also what the show does worst: Create dramatic tension through strained plot development and twisted character development, interrupt it with an unexpected, but just as often obvious or dubious song choice, and then abruptly abandon it all for another build-up and another easy pay-off. Often, I get the feeling that the creators simply wing it sometimes. That leads to some inspired moments and some groan-worthy embarrassments, as well. Far too often those choices lead outside good storytelling and sometimes even good taste.

In this ep, one good and one amazing song precedes Blaine and Kurt’s kiss, however, making me rethink what one of them was about. The drama was earned, in other words.

Paul McCartney claims that Blackbird’s lyrics are about the burgeoning civil rights movement in 1965. That sounds nice but strikes me as apocryphal. Nevertheless, it does beautifully express the sudden joy of self-discovery. The blackbird discovers it can still fly, that its ability to do so has always been within its nature and when it does, suddenly there’s light in the darkness; suddenly it can see.

So, although on the surface, the performance is a eulogy for Pavarotti — The Warblers bird-mascot — really it’s about Blaine’s waking up and seeing what’s right in front of him, and that’s Kurt.

The song made a point and we know what it is if we look closely into Blaine’s eyes in the screen shot above. Then Blaine makes it again as he confesses to Kurt:

You move me, Kurt.

Somehow it comes off wonderfully as neither repetitive nor sentimental. The two leads imbue the two kisses with more grace and wonder than lust, which seems appropriate for Kurt and Blaine. (Darren Criss really comes into his own in this ep. Colfer remains the best actor on the show.) Am I right in saying this is the first male-male kiss on television between characters who were high-school age? Amazing it took so long but amazing in execution. I wanted to clap and cry. After all, there was a build-up, a consistent development and then a payoff.

Bravo.

P.S. Blaine and the Pips? Genius.