If we were to take Rise as a whole based on the first three episodes of the show, we’d be left with something that isn’t quite Glee and isn’t quite Friday Night Lights, the two most bold comparisons that the show had received leading up to its network debut. Thankfully, we don’t have to stop at just three episodes and this week’s episode rightfully gets the program back on the path. Episode 4 of Rise, titled ‘Victory Party’, captures so much of what we wanted out of the show when the news of its release first broke. Within the 50 or so minutes that comprise the fourth episode of the inaugural season of Rise, we get to see exactly the special kind of craft that the showrunners are capable of delivering. Let’s look closer at what could end up being the turning point for an already impressive show.
A Not So Victorious Party ft. ‘His Name is Michael’.
Robbie is a man divided. Of course, Robbie is only divided because of outside societal pressures and breakout star Damon J Gillespie deftly handles each and every twisting wound to his conflicted heart. Robbie is a kid coming into who he is. Of course, Robbie’s father (the extremely prickly Detrell Thorne) is one of the bigger antagonists that Rise has displayed so far and what is shocking is that many viewers, particularly those in the more ‘held back’ areas of the country, likely don’t see him that way. In ‘Victory Party’, Mr. Thorne hypes up Robbie’s big game at quarterback by putting together a victory party before the game is played. The writing was on the wall early on that this episode would feature more than a few letdowns. Robbie, struggling to balance football and the upcoming ‘Spring Awakening’, looks tortured in the moments leading up to the game and even inviting Lilette to the big party doesn’t calm him down.
Leading up to the football game we are treated to probably the best musical number of the episode with (a much calmer) Simon singing the national anthem alongside Lilette. The beautiful rendition turns out to be an introduction to chaos as Robbie literally blows the game all on his own. Robbie’s poor performance on the football field is only rivaled by how ugly things get once the team of dispirited football players makes it to the so-called victory party thrown by Mr. Thorne. The football players arrive alone and the atmosphere is bleak. Only, it doesn’t stay that way — it gets worse. Enter: the theater club.
Robbie’s ‘Spring Awakening’ crew arrives at the party and things are soon thrown into chaos. Michael is instantly picked on by the football players for being transgendered. Mr. Thorne is constantly pressuring Robbie to ‘save the party’ and shut the theater kids up. Robbie is clearly distraught and he doesn’t take advantage of the fact that Lilette is there, ready to find their first kiss. Bullying of Michael culminates with Robbie taking a stand — and siding with the theater kids. Robbie heroically steps in between the two cliques proclaiming, “I invited them, and his name is Michael.” The party ends up breaking down when Robbie gets short with Lillete due to his fear of ostracizing the football team. Robbie eventually comes to his senses and hauls across town where he invites Lilette to step outside of her house. The two finally share their first kiss and we have an inkling that all may be well between the conflicted teens.
Mr. Mazzu Continues to Drop The Ball.
Elsewhere, Mr. Mazzu continues to create issues with the people around him. Mazzu pushes Miss Wolfe into a date that goes as catastrophically as it can before rebounding to become slightly sweet. However, this is followed up by things getting even worse at home for Mr. Mazzu’s family. The Mazzuchelli’s head to Pittsburgh in order to catch up with a friend and watch a local showing of Cats. Gordy opts to skip and Mr. Mazzu uses his sudden free time to try and get a donation from the upper-class family they are visiting. Gordy flees home to attend the Victory Party where he immediately gets into the bottle. Mr. Mazzu becomes wise to where Gordy has gone and the two have it out right outside of the party. Josh Radnor finally shows some real dramatic flair. Gordy and Mr. Mazzu have it out in such dramatic fashion that things approach getting physical and that is the dark note that we are left on.
Rise airs Tuesdays at 9 PM EST on NBC.