Glee was an interesting show. To paraphrase an old nursery rhyme, when it was good, it was very, very good, but when it was bad, it was horrid. While the high-school musical series could be very fun, and it was filled with show-stopping numbers, it sometimes struggled with storytelling. The characters often behaved in whatever way would best suit the plot of that episode rather than in a consistent way.
Somewhat surprisingly, the ratings of Glee episodes aren’t too bad. The lowest rating for an episode is a 7/10 and that would equal around a C+. Especially considering the series as a whole has a rating of 6.7/10. But there are definitely a set of episodes that fall far below the rest.
10 Episode 4x13 – “Diva”
There are two issues that led Diva to get it’s 7.4/10 rating on IMDB. First of all, it’s the retread of Kurt versus Rachel in the Midnight Madness contest. From the very beginning of the series Kurt feels that Rachel is too much of a diva and wants to battle her to prove his worth. There was nothing new with that storyline and as a result, it’s a bore.
The second, ickier issue are Tina and Finn’s actions towards Blaine and Emma respectively. Tina, having realized she’s in love with Blaine, confesses her feelings. But Blaine is sick and has passed out, so naturally she strips off his shirt, mounts him, rubs him with balm before thinking better of it and gets off of him. Finn doesn’t do much better, trying to calm a hysterical Emma by kissing her. Both scenes make for a very uncomfortable episode.
9 Episode 3x09 – “Extraordinary Merry Christmas”
There are some good songs and heart-warming moments in “Extraordinary Merry Christmas”. But it earns its 7.4 rating through weird characterizations, and trying to do too much. First of all, Jewish Rachel obsessing about what she’s getting for Christmas is bizarre. Rachel is many things, a lot of them problematic, but materialistic was never one of them. It would make so much more sense if it were Santana demanding things from Brittany.
Secondly, it was a never-ending list of Christmas specials the episode cribs from. Charlie Brown, Judy Garland, Star Wars, Frosty, the list goes on-and-on. At least they didn’t throw It’s a Wonderful Life in there. (More on that further down.)
8 Episode 4x07 – “Dynamic Duets”
Season Four struggled with the addition of the new members of the glee club. “Dynamic Duos” only received a 7.4/10 on IMDB because it focused so much on the new characters. The original members of the group, while not always the best people, were all interesting characters with distinct personalities. The newer members seemed pale in comparison. Kitty was the only strong personality, but in the beginning, all of her personality traits were negative. Ryder, Marley, and Jake just seemed boring.
And Blaine struggling with the opportunity to return to the Warblers versus staying with New Directions even after he cheated on Kurt just seemed hollow. And was resolved way too quickly.
7 Episode 5x05 – “The End Of Twerk”
In this episode Glee tries to tackle a couple of serious issues and falls flat on both counts. With the issue of Sue banning twerking, they don’t actually address the inherent racism in the act, rather concentrating on other dances banned in the past. And Will’s decision to have them sing “Blurred Lines” to protest is presented as a mistake, but it doesn’t really address the core issue. Will Schuester’s has a White Savior Complex and whether it’s making sure teens can twerk or that a transgender student has use of a bathroom, he needs to save the day. Because Unique’s right to use a bathroom safely is touched upon, but not really delved into. It’s just another way for Mr. Schue to save the day.
6 Episode 5x16 – “Tested”
“Tested” is a filler episode. Nothing major happens. Everything that comes up is resolved by the end of the episode. Mercedes struggling about whether she wants to lose her virginity was more or less all covered a couple of seasons earlier in “The First Time”.
Blaine and Kurt’s fight over Kurt’s new physique and Blaine’s jealousy could have been more interesting. Why is Blaine even with Kurt if he thinks no one would have been attracted to Kurt before he started working out? And it’s touched on that Blaine likes being needed by Kurt, but they don’t go deeper into that.
5 Episode 5x18 – “The Back-Up Plan”
For the first five seasons of the series, Rachel Berry’s one and only goal has been to become a star on Broadway. And in Season 5, she gets there. The lead in Funny Girl, which was her dream scenario. So of course once she’s achieved that, she immediately gets bored of it and decides she wants to be a TV star instead.
The whole episode is so dumb. If there had been more of an existential crisis for Rachel, that would have made more sense. But it comes off as her just wanting more. There are a lot of smaller things in the episode that are also dumb, but Rachel risking her Broadway career was just lunacy.
4 Episode 2x17 – “A Night Of Neglect”
The earliest episode of the series to appear on this list, “A Night of Neglect” is another that suffers from being simply a filler episode. It does have one long-lasting ramification, Will and Holly breaking up. But they were never going to last due to Will’s love for Emma. The rest is just Sue being obnoxious, and a parade of recurring characters coming in to make the Glee Club’s life difficult. Even the recurring characters in the Glee Club (Lauren Zizes) are insufferable this episode.
3 Episode 4x20 – "Lights Out"
One of Glee’s major issues is that it could never quite decide what the tone was. It marketed itself as a comedy but it often wanted to tackle more serious issues. Sometimes it was successful in doing so but more often than not, it fell short. Never was this clearer than in the episode where Ryder revealed that he’d been molested when he was a tween. The story itself wasn't bad, or even the characters’ reactions because a bunch of guys saying he was lucky is sadly probable. It was that things surrounding it, especially in the musical numbers, didn’t strike the right tone. It was presented as a surprise twist and it’s far too serious of an issue to be used a plot device, especially in a comedy.
2 Episode 5x04 – “A Katy Or A Gaga”
Following the episode memorializing Cory Monteith was never going to be easy. Glee is a musical comedy and it is nearly impossible to strike a completely light tone following the premature death of a lead actor and character. The episode in large part ignores the elephant in the room, mentioning it only in conversations between Rachel and Kurt.
The bulk of the episode is another of Mr. Schue’s weird battles between factions in the Glee Club. In this case, it’s the Katy Perry lovers versus the Lady Gaga fans. They’re set up as opposites, but although Katy and Gaga are obviously different, they’re not exactly opposites so it doesn’t make a ton of sense. And there’s more drama with the new members of the club, and they’re just not interesting enough to sustain all the emotional weight of an episode.
1 Episode 5x08 – “Previously Unaired Christmas”
The fifth season’s Christmas episode is the lowest-rated of all of Glee’s episodes on IMDB with a seven out of ten. The episode suffers from a lot of unnecessary extras. It’s set a year earlier for no discernible reason. It features some pretty obnoxious musical numbers. Rachel, Kurt, and Santana’s rendition of “Christmas, Don’t Be Late” helium voices and all, is completely unnecessary. It’s touted as being edgy, but it’s not more edgier than any other Glee episode. But it’s insensitivity is somehow harder to take because it’s a holiday episode, and for most TV shows, those are a high point, and heartwarming. Glee goes the opposite way with theirs.