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Glee Season 4 Premiere Review: A New Direction

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Oh, Glee. Welcome back to my television. Did you have a good summer? I've missed you. Yes, even after the train wreck that was the middle of Season 3. Let's just pretend that never happened and go right back to being friends, okay?

This was a good first outing from a fourth-year show. I didn't love everything about "The New Rachel," but I loved enough to keep watching.

There was a whole lot of new mingled in with the old, proving that the more things change, they can also stay the same. More or less.

Will and Marley

In a nutshell, Glee clubbers are at the top of the McKinley High pyramid. For now. Rachel's on the very, very bottom of NYADA's. For now. Kurt is a barista without a sense of purpose or direction, but he and Blaine are still going strong, which is more than can be said for Mike and Tina. Rachel hasn't heard from Finn in two months and has a new, and yes, hotter, piece of temptation in her life. Kitty is the new but less awesome Quinn. The New Directions have new members, namely Marley, Jake and Wade/Unique. And Sue Sylvester has the gestational period and super-growing offspring of Bella Swan.

Did I miss anything? Good. I didn't think so.

So let's break all of this down, shall we?

We've got the New Directions in high school and Rachel and Kurt following their dreams of stardom in New York, making Glee feel like two shows in one. Rachel's a small fish in a big pond now and, while dance teacher Cassie July (Kate Hudson) may have been cruel, seeing Rachel begin to fight her way to the top all over again brings us back to the start of the series. (To read a few of Cassie's biting remarks, and even add your own, check out the Glee quotes.)

I like the way Kurt was pushed by both Blaine and his dad to move to New York to find his place in the world. Both of them tell him in different ways that he's outgrown Lima and that's a nice contrast to Rachel's breakdown that perhaps she doesn't belong in New York like she's always thought.

The focus on New York, however, gives off the feeling that Rachel's story, with guest appearances by Kurt, is the heart and soul of the show despite this being an ensemble cast. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I like seeing her start over and become, literally, the new Rachel, but not at the expense of the other stories to be told.

Speaking of the new "Rachel," Will's posting of an audition sign-up sheet, ever hopeful that students would throng to the auditorium in droves to be a part of his glee club, was reminiscent of the pilot. But this time, students DID flock to the audition. Some are odd but two potential "new Rachels" are stand-outs: Marley, daughter of the overweight cafeteria worker, and Jake, Puck's half-brother.

I want to like Jake, but so much of his story right now is Puck's story that it just feels like Puck 2.0, especially in light of Will's "I see good things in you" pep talk. However, since Puck doesn't know of his younger half-brother's existence, the writers have at least opened the door for a potentially interesting tale for the rest of the season.

Marley's background is a mix of Rachel and Sam. She's ostracized because of her mother and their social class, so they try to keep their relationship a secret from the students at McKinley, the latter of which is not unlike Sam's one-time homelessness. She's like Rachel in that she dreams of being a star, except different because her dream is to be on the radio instead of the stage. So much of it feels rehashed I'm having a hard time accepting her the same way our glee club does. She did, however, sing a smashing rendition of "New York State of Mind" at the same time as Rachel, marking the similarities between these two "doe-eyed ingenues."

(To download songs from tonight's episode, go to our Glee music section.)

By introducing these two characters when there were other cast members to fill the Rachel-shaped hole in the glee club, it feels like we might be headed down the road of previous years where the group members who pay their dues get no love while those who are new get the spotlight. Glee Project Season 1 third place finisher Alex Newell is reprising his role of Wade/Unique full time at McKinley and he, Tina, Brittany, Blaine and Artie are all jockeying for the role of Leader of the Glee Club. Artie's declaration that Blaine should be the new Rachel was filler. While Darren Criss clearly has the star power, Tina and Artie have been around longer.

Several other characters were notably absent, the most conspicuous of which was Finn. I'm not really surprised by the lack of screen time for anyone else, but not seeing Finn was odd. Even if he's supposed to be in Fort Benning, he's a core member of the cast and things felt off-kilter without him, like the writers are trying a little too hard to create a triangle between Finn, Rachel, and Brody. There were better ways to go about setting up that conflict.

That said, I liked the parallelism of Rachel's meeting Brody with Finn's introduction from the pilot. If this is supposed to be two shows in one, and that really is what it feels like, that was a nice bit of symmetry. And who doesn't like seeing a shirtless Dean Geyer, right?

I know it may seem like I'm pointing out a lot of negative from the episode, but really, I'm just trying to wrap my head around where the show is headed this season and how the two separate-yet-similar storylines will be carried out. It's no small task, to be sure.

Too much focus on McKinley's happenings and this show becomes Glee: The New Class, and we know how well that worked for Saved By the Bell so long ago. Too much focus on New York and Rachel and Kurt and there's no more glee club, so where would that leave Glee? There are certainly questions to be answered. Hopefully, Ryan & Co. are up to the task.

What did you think of "The New Rachel" and the new characters? Do you think the show will work with the two story lines coexisting? What do you hope to see from this season?

Review

Editor Rating: 3.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (323 Votes)

Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Marley is BY FAR the best thing about Glee in a long time, when FNL did the whole new class thing I coudnt care less about the show anymore but Glee pulled it off PERFECTLY, I just wish they would have given Rachel her own spin off or dropped her from the show entirely because I couldn't give two craps about any of the lame NY stuff, Glee is a HIGH SCHOOL show not half high school half pointless wannabe Fame

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Okay, I loved Glee. I was a Gleek up one side and down the other for the first two seasons. I loved all the characters. Something happened in the third season, basically the whole second-half of the third season was typical high school crap, (I think because the writers were focusing on American Horror Story which is still running strong, and they WEREN'T focusing on good plots for Glee.) This is when I honestly stopped being such a Gleek and started to see if anything else was on. On the premier of the fourth season, I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. But, it disappointed.
First, I don't really buy Kurt and Rachel's friendship, and I don't like Rachel or Kurt. Kurt forced himself on Finn in the first season, and was unapologetic about it, saying HE thought FINN was different... Well, hitting on a straight guy doesn't exactly make you brownie points with him... sorry. Rachel was NEVER apologetic, even after sending Sunshine to the crack house, even though people blatantly pointed out to her she loved herself and her own success more than anyone else around her, including Finn and the rest of the Glee club. Their characters grew the least as the seasons progressed, and now we are supposed to enjoy these two characters holding up half the show on their own? No. I thought Rachel might finally grow being completely broken down by her dance teacher, but no, she's not learning anymore, and in fact still sees herself as a victim. *rolls eyes* Kurt has found himself working for a broken down Sarah Jessica Parker who doesn't really know him from Adam... but we are supposed enjoy this success, ‘yay they made it in New York!’, love the new characters, and love Kurt and Rachel together? So Kurt and Rachel's side, hate it.
As for the REST of the cast and the story, it all seems old and/or boring. The writers seem to be literally rehatching old characters - such as the misunderstood punk kid, the doe-eyed happy go lucky girl, and the bitchy cheerleader - only this time, it's done far more cliched and far less interestingly. I HATE Kitty. She is just MEAN... nothing more, nothing less, just MEAN. Not interestingly cruel with some snarky comebacks, but to the point where she might end up killing Marley with her advice to throw up because she's gaining weight. Marley is okay, but just seems to be too much a Rachel-copy.
Secondly, redoing plot points WITH the redone characters, only this time, it's in a different order. So, the cheerleader and the doe-eyed girl have a disagreement, but this time, the cheerleader is much more willing to be on the doe-eyed girl's side if it means she can kill her more quickly. The punk guy being reeled in by the Glee club because he's not really all bad, and like the doe-eyed girl and the cheerleader (sounding familiar?) the 'Finn' of the group having some type of academic issue, being a football player, and wanting everyone to get along, who ALSO likes the doe-eyed girl... then the bromance between the punk and the jock... only THIS time, the punk ISN'T a jock...
The only enjoyable moments so far from this season were when I THOUGHT Rachel would be coming off of her pedestal - which didn't happen, a somewhat touching moment when it is discovered that whatever-his-name-is is dyslexic, the Grease song on stage where all the original kids saw themselves singing the songs and thought perhaps it was a mistake to break up, and Marley passing out... But in all honesty, I didn't really care that much about Marley passing out or the kid being dyslexic which means something isn't working. I used to either be overjoyed and laughing or crying my eyes out from either happiness or sadness with this show, with this season, I am seeing how much time I have left before the credits begin rolling.

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Not impressed with "marley"! She is so blah and boring. Not a good character at all. Kitty is at least interesting even though she's crazy. Please stop giving so much air time to poor sorry Marley, she's not a star and that pink song sucked. Why not follow the characters we actually fell in love with in the first place instead of regurgitating the same high school plot line they already exhausted for three years.

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Glee should have just ended in Season 3 if you ask me. Season 3's ending was just amazing and I was perfectly satified on how everything turned out in the end. Sure Glee was the most popular show in the past, but the creators need to know when to officially end an amazing series.

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Okay I have watched all three seasons of Glee and the New Direction characters would not just throw some insults willy nilly. Tina this season just seems much more of rude girl. Honestly I felt sorry for her last three seasons but now she's just not as inspiring as in last season where she told Mike to follow his dreams. If Tina is going to stay in this attitude for the whole season I might quit watching Glee. Just not what I'm used to. I'm missing all the former characters.

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Kitty definitely reminds me of Quinn before she became all "nice" and stuff, but she is just so annoying, her voice reminds me of a poor kitten being tortured to death. I think I'm just gonna wait till Season 4 is on Netflix, I'm getting tired of watching musicals since I've just finished season 3 yesterday.

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I agree with Cleo and Theresa. Too many PSA's again. And Glee with clones of previous characters, Marley Jake and Kitty. Those topics are passe. I'm just like many other fans of the show, that I watch for certain characters and their stories. The New Rachel was good not great but an interesting start to season 4. Just have to wait and see where the writers take us. For the first episode to introduce the characters and their functions Glee managed it pretty well.

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Glee has several problems this year.
Has any tv show ever asked its viewers to keep track of 30 characters, including some who we may never see again? They need a caption on every closeup. It would say things like : Britney, dumb bisexual slut, or Wade: gender-confused. Trust me, that would work.
Nothing terribly interesting should happen to Rachel in her first year at NYADA (or her second or third either) but Glee does not take place on Earth but in an alternate reality, so she'll probably be going on Broadway by the end of the season.
If they hook her up with the shower guy it will be a crisis for the show. It will mean that her supposed love of Finn was a fraud. Also sex is still important to her, so if they start fornicating it will mean she's changed radically. He's too attractive to be available, so there should be a girlfriend or recent ex-girlfriend nearby. Rachel can not expect him to be faithful no matter how intimate they get.
The new cast has to do everything the originals did. That's not bad writing. That's life. The question is will anyone care?

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Just because some people don't like Rachel doesn't mean they are haters if that's the case all the people who like Rachel are ass kissers if u like Rachel then you like rachel if you don't then you dont.

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I loved the Rachel in NYC part! I think this was a great start to an amazing season 4! :)

Glee Season 4 Episode 1 Quotes

Cassie: I bet you were a big star back in...Iowa.
Rachel: I'm actually from Ohio.
Cassie: Ohio? That's even worse.

Cassie: What's your name?
Rachel: Rach...
Cassie: Little Miss David Schwimmer?
Rachel: Little Miss David Schwimmer.

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