Glee Season 4: Stop the Revolving Door of Relationships and Start Looking Backwards

Fall 2012: Glee Season 4 Premiere "The New Rachel"

As we all know, last week’s much-anticipated return of Glee saw the long-sidelined Tina Cohen-Chang get a storyline to call her very own. The trouble was, that storyline involved her liking and pursuing fellow glee club senior Blaine, who was originally introduced as a love interest for Kurt and has since shown little interest in members of the opposite sex. There was one incident in season two when he got drunk and kissed Rachel, but a follow-up date proved once and for all the Blaine Anderson is one hundred per cent gay. So why did the writers of Glee decide to go against their own rules and pair him with Tina?

Sure, he wasn’t shown to be as interested in the relationship as she was (or at all, depending on your perspective), but having an episode revolve around a certain pairing means that there will almost certainly be a fraction of the fan community who now name the pair as their OTP. It’s the laws of fandom, and it’s quite right too. Television writers should know by now that the things they make their fictional puppets say and do matter, at least to the people they ask to invest 40-mintues of their time each week. It’s the reason watching television is often such a rewarding experience, and also why it’s worth discussing the issue.

A cynical mind (i.e. mine) would deduce that the sudden and unexplained Blaine/Tina pairing is a symptom of fickle writing, which has forced Glee to go through more couples than any given season of The Bachelor. At this point, almost every character has been with every other character in some capacity, and Blaine’s sudden re-purposing could just mean that they ran out of male participants for the straight ladies at McKinley. The episode even brought back Lauren, previously Puck’s flame, and paired her with New Directions’ own hippy mute (seriously, when did he last have a line?), Joe, so as not to leave anyone out.

Let’s take a look, shall we: Tina was with Artie, who was then with Brittany, who was then with Santana, who dated Puck, who impregnated Quinn, who dated Finn, who was engaged to Rachel, who kissed Blaine, who loves Kurt. Mercedes briefly liked Kurt, but then fell for Sam, who is now dating Brittany. Finn lost his virginity to Santana, who also dated Puck for a while, and Puck has had an on-off flirtation with Rachel, too. This show has only been on the air for three and a half seasons, and it couldn’t really get any more incestuous if it tried. The show has even paired the kids with adults, as with Rachel crushing on Will in season one and Puck sleeping with Rachel’s mom last year.

All high school dramas are a little bit like this but, when it seems as though the team behind our favorite show are playing one massive game of spin-the-bottle, it becomes hard for long-time fans care about anything that happens as a result. Character motivations are crafted to suit a particular relationship that the writers want to establish, and often this makes absolutely no sense in terms of what has gone before. Great television is built around characters, not the relationships along the way, and, if individual personalities are lost or discarded in pursuit of a fan-favorite couple, that can sabotage a show entirely.

The flip-side of this was ‘The Breakup’, which saw Glee make the ballsy decision to separate three of their core relationships. All of them broke up for legitimate reasons that made sense for their characters, and the show has so far stuck to its guns by not reuniting Kurt and Blaine, Rachel and Finn or Santana and Brittany. The episode was a beautifully heartfelt hour of horrible truths and bitter-sweet goodbyes, and it’s hard to believe we were watching the same show that brought us this mess of forgotten relationships and ret-conned feelings. Remember when Brittany inquired to Artie whether they had ever dated? That was the last straw for me.

Back when Santana was still in the closet and Brittany was indeed dating Artie, I distinctly remember feeling really torn. I loved, and still love, Brittany and Santana’s relationship, and hope they reunite, but she and Artie were so lovely and innocent and pure during their time together. It also meant that there was a legitimately bisexual character on television – an important part of Glee’s DNA that should be celebrated. I was even proud of Glee for sending up the inevitable “angry lesbian blogger” rage that would come with Sam and Brittany’s new relationship, but right now is seems as though the writers want to forget all previous relationships in case it detracts from their current storyline.

Other shows do this just as frequently. The two years The CW’s 90210 has on Glee have means that the crossover between relationships has become even more icky. One particular character has slept with every guy on the show at this point, even though one of them is gay, and none of my personal OTP’s have so much as looked at each other for a couple of seasons now. It’s disheartening to watch, and I’m really frightened that Glee could be going the same way. I was asked to invest my energy into rooting for Sam/Mercedes, shed my tears for Brittany/Santana, and notice the bittersweet realism of Mike and Tina growing apart.

So why are they ignoring me? There’s a delicate balance to be struck here, and perfect examples can be found in shows like One Tree Hill, Dawson’s Creek or even Gossip Girl. As a fan of Lucas/Brooke and Pacey/Andie, I wasn’t given what I wanted when those shows wrapped, but I never felt cheated out of the resolutions I craved. Like people, characters should carry their experiences along with them, which means that their past relationships have to be part of their present, too. Character development is thrown out of the window when previous storylines are unceremoniously forgotten.

It may just be a temporary problem that comes along with absent characters and an unavoidably haphazard time for the show, but I really hope that the last three seasons of Glee weren’t just a waste of time. Affection for characters grows over time, so we shouldn’t feel like we’ve only just met them each week. I’m not asking for my favorite couples to be together forever (that rarely happens), just some consistency in future. If we’re going to be asked to invest in a certain storyline or particular characters, I want to know that it’s still going to matter in a year’s time.