[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's "Shooting Star" episode of Glee.]
Fox's Glee tackled its heaviest subject matter in its four-season run on Thursday with an hour primarily focused on a school shooting.
During "Shooting Star," New Directions tackled "Last Chances" when Brittany (Heather Morris) is convinced there was a meteor heading for Earth. The theme winds up being a fitting one after two gunshots echo through the halls of the Ohio high school, trapping most of the aspiring singers in the classroom, where aspiring filmmaker/director Artie (Kevin McHale) films his classmates' poignant messages to loved ones.
After Sam (Chord Overstreet) attempts to leave the choir room to find Brittany and Tina, respectively, the SWAT team sweeps the school and offers the all-clear -- forever bonding the club after their harrowing experience in a way unlike any as they head into Regionals.
As cameras and metal detectors are installed at McKinley -- where Principal Figgins and the SWAT team are searching every locker -- Sue learns that every student is being questioned and will be expelled. At that point, she vows that no student will be expelled and confesses that she owns the gun that went off. During her meeting with Figgins, she says that in light of recent events -- i.e December's Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting that left 26 students dead -- she feels safer with a gun in her office.
"It's a different world," she tells him. "The safety net of the public mental health system is gone. Parents with troubled kids are too busy working three jobs to look after them and the gun yahoos are have everyone so worked up about Obama taking away their guns that every house as a readily available arsenal."
She claims she was doing her daily safety check to make sure the gun was locked up when it accidentally went off and the second shot came when she accidentally dropped it. The shell casings, she says, are at the bottom of a lake and she moved things around in her office to cover it up.
Her punishment -- with McKinley's zero tolerance policies -- costs Sue her job. "All I'll be remembered for is this one thing," she says after ratting off some of her former Cheerio all-stars.
As Sue packs up her office, Will questions her motives -- which he doesn't accept as it seems out of character. And he's right: In a flashback, Becky (Lauren Potter) is revealed to be the one who brought the gun to school. She explains to Sue that she's scared about graduating and being out in the world with no one to protect her. "I wanted to be prepared and protect myself -- I need help," she says as she reveals her father's gun. Turns out it was her exchange with Brittany -- during which time she begs her fellow Cheerio not to graduate so they can avoid going out into the real world -- that inspired her to "be prepared" by bringing the gun to McKinley.
As Sue bids McKinley farewell, Will begs her to let him help her and the outgoing Cheerios coach tells him to keep an eye on Becky -- who's "tough -- but like all the kids, gets scared sometimes."
The episode marked Glee's latest socially relevant episode and comes during a season that has so far explored unplanned pregnancy (Rachel), eating disorders (Marley), dyslexia (Ryder) and gender identity (Unique). In the past, Glee has used its platform to address coming out (Kurt and Santana), homophobia (Finn), bullying (Kurt), Down syndrome (Becky and Sue's late sister), texting while driving (Quinn), domestic abuse (Coach Beiste), disabilities (Artie), adoption (Puck) and teen suicide (Karofsky), among others.
It comes five months after the Sandy Hook shooting that left 20 students and six faculty members and the shooter's mother dead. The Newtown, Conn., shooting -- the most deadly mass shooting by a single person in U.S. history -- renewed the debate about gun control. The shooter, Adam Lansa, is said to have used firearms that his mother -- a gun enthusiast -- kept at their home. The tragedy also sparked a wave of social debate about the need for a national conversation on mental health after reports surfaced that Lansa may have had a personality disorder, Asperger's syndrome or autism.
As for Lynch's future with the Fox musical, a spokesman for Glee producer 20th Television eluded that there would be more aftermath to the shooting story line in the four remaining episodes of season four. "All we can say on that front is, 'Stay tuned,' " the spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter.
Other key developments during the episode included:
-- Will reveals that he got back together with runaway bride Emma (Jayma Mays).
-- Coach Beiste (Dot Marie Jones) professes her love to the first man who ever kissed her: Will. After he lets her down easy, Will winds up setting up an online dating profile for McKinley's football coach -- and she already has a suitor: ex-football coach Ken Tanaka (Patrick Gallagher).
-- Ryder's officially been Catfished. While it remains unclear just who was using the picture of a pretty blonde classmate named Marissa, the suspects are apparently within New Directions as he makes a call to "Katie," the girl he's been texting that is traced to a stray backpack in the choir room when the group fears a shooter is roaming the halls. After suspecting Jake and Marley -- who both deny involvement -- Ryder seems to be over trying to figure out just who did it as the shooting puts things in perspective for the New Directions newbie. Ryder's big guess: Kitty (despite her denial).
-- After feeling second-fiddle to Lord Tubbington for the better part of the hour and being separated from Brittany during the shooting, Sam gifts her with another cat -- Lady Tubbington -- and they profess their love for one another.
-- Kitty (Becca Tobin) confesses that she altered Marley's (Melissa Benoist) Grease costumes and the duo come out as stronger friends when the former reassures the latter that her well-liked mother is OK in the cafeteria.
-- Marley reveals that she writes her own songs. "I never told anyone but I'm really proud of them," she confesses to Artie's camera.
-- In a touching scene, Tina tells Blaine that he -- along with the rest of New Directions -- are like family to her as the friends share meaningful "I love yous."
What did you think of "Shooting Star"? How do you think Sue's story line will play out? Do you think Artie's video footage will play a big role in his future? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.