This songs of Michael Jackson invaded the halls of McKinley High School Tuesday night, when Fox aired its much-anticipated Glee tribute to the King of Pop. Glee has paid homage to musical icons before with mixed results. Thumbs up: Its Madonna episode. Thumbs down: Its exercise in all things Britney Spears. "Michael" was brimming with no less than nine of Jackson's iconic songs, plot twists (including Rachel's will-she-or-won't-she engagement to Finn), and typically cringe-inducing dialogue (Mr. Schu: "Unless you have proof that he tampered with the slushie, the police aren't interested in getting involved"). What did critics have to say?
The plot was "bad (as in good)": "More songs, more fantasy, less talking, and less adults": When Glee adheres to that formula, as it did here, it shines, says Rae Votta at Billboard. Mr. Schu, Sue, and the rest of the adults were, thankfully, mostly M.I.A., while Glee's trademark emotional speeches merely bookended the episode's many musical numbers. And with several characters receiving college acceptance letters (or, in Rachel and Kurt's cases, callback letters), the show launched a promising graduation story line.
"Glee recap: Michael Jackson tribute was bad (as in good)"
The plot was bad (as in awful): "When the history of Glee is written," says John Kubicek at Buddy TV, this episode will mark the moment when the show "officially jumped the shark." Because Darren Criss (Blaine) needed to sit out a few episodes to accommodate his three-week Broadway run of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, he was implausibly written out: Nemesis Sebastian throws a slushie laced with rock salt in Blaine's face, scratching his cornea and necessitating eye surgery. "Yes, slushies are now deadly weapons." Then Rachel maddeningly accepts Finn's marriage proposal, briefly believing she might not get into her dream college. The silver lining: Glee has "gotten so unbelievably awful that it's entertaining."
"Glee recap: Michael Jackson week is so 'bad' it's good"
The performances were bad (as in good): The episode kicked off with an exciting cover of "Wanna Be Startin' Something" featuring the New Direction members dressed in iconic Michael Jackson costumes, says Michael Slezak at TV Line, and kept pace with two nearly shot-for-shot recreations of Jackson videos. "I got chills" from the fight choreography in "Bad," while a dream-sequence version of "Scream" starring Artie and Mike Chang was "damn hot." Despite missteps (an interminable rendition of "Ben"), the episode was packed with musical high-points: Santana and Sebastian's "Smooth Criminal" was "an instant Glee classic."
"Glee recap: A thriller of a night!"
The performances were bad (as in awful): "Not every glitter-socked" Michael Jackson number was a mess, says Jen Chaney at The Washington Post, but most were. "Wanna Be Startin Something" was drained of funk, while "Bad" and "Scream" were similarly neutered. The cello-infused duet of "Smooth Criminal" defied reason, while the homage to Jackson's facial morphing music video in "Black or White" was downright creepy. One exception: Finn and Rachel's duet of "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" was "genuinely moving."
"Glee by the musical numbers: Maxing out on Michael Jackson"