Magic? Debatable. Flute? Definitely.
Overview (Spoilers Below!)
A dude plays smooth guitar jams in the courtyard outside our heroes’ school. After Dave scoffs at the music, Allen eggs him on to play some flute (Dave does serve as the first flute in Advanced Band, after all). Jerry narrates as the surrounding students feel increasingly awkward about Dave’s classical tunes. Eventually, everyone else just laughs at him and leaves.
Well, at least I got to hear some sweet flute music.
This episode follows a tired formula that’s far too common on Highly Gifted: Dave is in a generic high school situation, we expect him to fail and make everyone uncomfortable, and he fails and makes everyone uncomfortable. Nothing new or exciting here.
It’s even worse here, though, because this time Dave really didn’t do anything wrong. When he’s acting overly cocky or spinning lies, there’s a certain sense of justice inherent in Dave’s failures, but in this episode, we’re supposed to cheer about… people not liking his beautiful flute music? Sure, maybe Dave committed a crime against high school social norms by playing classical flute in the courtyard, but I’m not really interested in a moral that says we should shame people for daring to be different. Once again, what’s intended as comedy feels almost tragic instead.
I do like the musical elements in this episode, though: both the brief snippet of a Jason Mraz guitar cover and Dave’s flute piece. But “Magic Flute” is broken up by three commercial breaks (which, of course, feels offensively excessive for a three-minute episode) and two of them interrupt the flow of Dave’s flute piece, preventing me from enjoying it fully.
There’s also the fact that the piece Dave plays… is a duet for flute and piano. I was deeply confused when Dave put his lips to his flute and then strains of piano began to filter through my headphones. At one point in the song, it’s just piano and no flute. I’m baffled at this choice of music, and it really took me out of the moment (I was almost searching the crowd of students around Dave for this mysterious piano player who had joined him). Why didn’t they just choose a flute solo for Dave to play? It’s so careless.
Also, a large portion of the episode’s runtime is taken up by Allen making a reference to The Shawshank Redemption (which I assume Jerry’s narration is also parodying). While I have seen that movie, it’s been a while, and I don’t really remember the scene in question. Maybe “Magic Flute” is funnier for people who do remember it. But if the comedy of an episode depends on viewers getting a pop culture reference, the joke is guaranteed to fall flat for any viewers who haven’t seen the film, and I don’t think they used the reference super effectively here.
All in all, “Magic Flute” is a pretty typical episode of Highly Gifted: it made me sort of half-chuckle but never laugh out loud, and as usual, I left feeling pretty sorry for Dave. But hey, at least this episode has a good soundtrack.