One of the things I, and pretty much everyone else who analyzes Glee a lot, talks about is the idea of WMHS and/or Lima, Ohio as hell, the underworld, the afterlife, or purgatory. It’s not a nice place, and we don’t want to live there. And it must be a physical landscape, a place to be escaped, or else we wouldn’t have just had three seasons about a bunch of kids struggling to be something other than “Lima Losers” and I wouldn’t spend so much time talking about the Ferryman or crossing the river.
But glee is also a feeling you carry with you. Brittany, perhaps, knows this most clearly. Yes, earlier in the season, she draws Rachel and Kurt “in Heaven,” but she’s also a member of the Left Behind club, carrying a portable, practice run at The Rapture (and let’s pause to take in all the meanings of the world “rapture”) in her backpack. You can’t escape hell without carrying things from there with you — that’s like the most basic premise of any horror movie.
And a horror movie is, on some level, explicitly what the show becomes in “The Breakup,” not because the episode was filled with so many things we didn’t want to have happen (the anguish on Tumblr is palpable, heartrending in its own way, and also at times frustrating), but because it was, like a horror film, filled with so many inevitabilities. You can shout at the screen all you want for people to not ignore the warnings (Kurt), go into the basement (Finn), open a door (Rachel), or have sex (Blaine), but they’re still going to do those things with their expected consequences.
Death, the little and the large, is all over the episode — in the song lyrics (Rachel has a particularly memorable moment on this, and the eternal youth discussed in “Teenage Dream” is a death too in a live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse sort of way); in the story of Finn’s gun; in the profound and constant way Blaine is untouched; and in Kurt’s remark, delivered almost casually over a cup of coffee, that he feels like he’s dying. That is what it feels like, of course, when these things happen, but it was eerie for me to see the boy so narratively associated with death say that so casually.
There’s a lot to untangle in the wake of “The Breakup,” from the many possible implications of the name “Eli” to the obvious necessity to revisit “What’s wrong with Blaine Anderson?” to speculation about what happens next. Even without trying to figure that out, confirmed spoilers for future episodes hint at some deeply rich symbolism.
Blaine as “Teen Angel” in Grease is just one amazing detail when reflected against his role as Tony in “West Side Story” and the function sexual activity has played in the narrative around both casting and performance moments. While likely (and appropriately) exiled to permanent subtext, the metaphors embedded here around a young gay male about sex as life and sex as death are significant, harrowing, and appropriate, at least if you are in the part of the Glee viewership that recognizes and remembers Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson as having the preoccupations and fashion sense of gay teens circa 1987.
Also potentially on the table? Kurt finally getting that gay mentor that Blaine turned out not to be once the writers realized what they had on their hands with Darren Criss and “Teenage Dream.” Chase Madison, who Tumblr is already considering as having a possible interest in Kurt, I’m looking at you.