With all the critical backlash Glee faced last season, it's easy to forget that it's produced more than its share of acclaimed television, from its beloved "Don't Stop Believing" pilot to its "Born This Way" ode to self-acceptance. After critics praised the third-season premiere for finding its footing again, they're now calling Tuesday night's episode, "Asian F," the show's "best... ever." In the episode, the chronically underserved Mike Chang and Mercedes both get long-awaited star turns. After Mike earns an A minus in chemistry (the notorious "Asian F"), his father threatens to pull him from the glee club, squelching his love of performing. Meanwhile, Mercedes goes up against perennial leading lady Rachel for the top role in a school production of West Side Story. Was the episode really that good?
Yes. Glee's never been better: "Glee has completely found its heart again," says Kristin Dos Santos at E! Online. "And then some." Focusing on core characters and the "emotional crux" that made the show resonate so strongly in the first place, "Asian F" was Glee's best episode yet. The musical numbers, including Brittany's rousing performance of Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" and Mike Chang's first-ever solo, were among the strongest the series has produced. But beyond that, the storylines were "tight, grounded, completely believable, and emotionally gripping."
"Get ready for the best episode of Glee…ever!"
But let's not get too giddy: Let's praise this episode with "proper restraint," says James Poniewozik at TIME. Glee's sub-par season two also produced episodes that promised a return to greatness, but then the show would fizzle out again. Sure, "Asian F" offered strong story lines. Mercedes's resentment at being passed over was "an apt meta-touch, since she's been overlooked by the show for some time now." Mike Chang's dance with his mother was touching, but viewers had to sit through Tiger Mom stereotypes to get there. And a "bizarre backstory" about Emma's red-haired supremacist parents tanked. Still, "Asian F" was reassuringly good.
"Glee watch: Gotta dance!"
Actually, "I really didn't care for it": I give the episode an "Asian Q," says Matt Richenthal at TV Fanatic. Despite some winning turns, especially Brittany's flash mob Beyonce performance, the episode "tried to jam way too much into a single hour." So many of the plot twists seemed "slapped together" — Mercedes' sudden seething jealousy of Rachel — or "heavy-handed" — the scene with Mike Chang and his mom. A show can only attempt so many tear-jerking moments per hour before "it turns more eye-rolling than tear-inducing."
"Glee review: A non-Asian F"