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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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Amie

Unique annoys me, because on the one hand he is all about being who he is and being accepted and on the other hand he just expected to the star just like that....I don't know, this character does not really interest me. I like Rachel's storyline and especially the part where she was crying over the phone to Kurt because again, that felt so real, so many times we can't wait to get somewhere and when we get there, reality kicks in and we become homesick. But that shower dude had a point Rachel needs to move forward and make space for new things in her life, but I guess she is still holding on to Finn and really wants him there by her.

Amie

I have a 50/50 reaction to the first episode of season 4. I also did not know what to expect after the very very very unstable s3, especially now that so many people have left Glee club On the one hand, I enjoyed this episode in terms of the whole New Rachel sl within the glee club itself, because boy did that room look so empty - no Santana to give an awesome sarcastic remark, no Finn to be well, Finn, no Mike Chang to do an entertaining dance move, no Kurt to be super excited, no Rachel who would kill a song. I mean, I love Tina, Artie, Brittny and Blaine, but really, I missed everyone else soooo much. So the whole theme of how they were fighting over who was gonna be the new Rachel was understandable and had to be addressed. Although, I would not give it to Blaine, sorry, he is great, but Tina apart from Artie is the only remaining first Glee club member, she deserved it more. Pus, why did they break her and Mike up? I loved them together. Unique annoys me, because on the one hand he is all about being who he is and being accepted and on the other hand he just expected to the star just like that....I don't know, this character does not really interest me. I like Rachel's storyline and especially the part where she was crying over the phone to Kurt because again, that felt so real, so many times we can't wait to get somewhere and when we get there, reality kicks in and we become homesick. But that shower dude had a point Rachel needs to move forward and make space for new things in her life, but I guess she is still holding on to Finn and really wants him there by her.

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Forgot to mention that I love Kate Hudson, and I liked her acting but the dancing segment was painful to watch. Most likely, because it's obvious to me that Heather Morris could dance circles around her and its hard for me to buy her as a top dance teacher when all she did was walk around. They probably should have gotten someone more experienced. I wouldn't have minded seeing Hudson playing Sarah Jessica Parker's role. Oh, well. I can only hope in the future we aren't subjected to that kind of torture. I can believe it if I'm not proven wrong.

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I didn't expect to like it, but I did. I didn't even mind the music-I don't watch Glee for Grammy-quality performances. I'm apparently the only one who truly enjoyed NOT seeing Finn, for once. So tired of him and Rachel being the show. I was actually not annoyed by Rachel, for once. I enjoyed the transition between NY and Lima, and didn't expect to. That will probably change if Kurt and Rachel continue as a huge presence. I didn't mind Brody-I don't think he's supposed to be a triangle, so lack of chemistry wasn't a problem for me, and Rachel needs a friend. Didn't mind the new people that much and enjoyed less Sue. Don't like Kitty, but I'm not supposed to. I really miss Santana-she added a lot of spice and attitude!

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Maybe I'm just getting too old for this show but I feel like this has been one of the better premieres/episodes in a long time. I really enjoyed watching Rachel's story transition into the "real world". It actually had the maturity and realism this show was missing. The "McKinley High" kids are losing my interest quickly. While I thought the "new" recruits (new versions of old characters) were fine to add, the dynamic didn't change. The show is quickly evolving into Rachel and Kurt in the city. Which is fine with me.

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PART 2 (from below)...I did feel Cory Monteith's absence. Not sure if the show will ever be able to fill it. Finn wasn't the most talented character. But, IMO he provided a strong moral center that all the other characters worked around. Even Rachel would spin off the deep end & Finn would yank her back to what was important. He made mistakes, sure. But, he always owned up to them & admitted when he was wrong. It's hard to find another teen character to fill that role. It can't be an adult. Has to be one of the kids. I do like seeing both McKinley High & NYADA based stories. They complement & contrast well. It would be stretching reality if Santana & Mercedes somehow found their way to NYC to room w/Kurt & Rachel. Plus, the show would have too many characters. As much as miss Finn, Santana & Mercedes, I think doing Kurt & Rachel stories is enough. But, with all due respect to Chris Colfer, Kurt wouldn't last 2 minutes in dance class at NYADA. Looking forward to next week!

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Good start to the new season IMO. As usual, Mr. Hummel brought me to tears in no less than 20 seconds as he pushes his young adult bird out of the nest, knowing he'll never come home again. Best. TV. Dad. EVER. I was probably tearing up because the audience may never see Burt again and he's one of the few consistent examples of decent parenting on tv today. He's just a gem, and because GLEE has such an exaggerated style, he's also the rare eye of the hurricane on the show. Way to cast against type with Kate Hudson! She was great as the bitter dance instructor. I really haven't liked any of her performances since ALMOST FAMOUS as much as I liked last night's. Stop doing the rom-com's & buddy comedies, honey, because you're much more effective & memorable as a witch!...TO BE CONTINUED

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Finchel Forever simple as that

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I MISSED FINN!!! It was NOT the same show without him. And,it didn't make sense that he hadn't contacted Rachel in two months. Huh?
Marley is just okay- she seems really restrained. Blaine stood out as always and Wade/Unique was really watchable. Missed Santana for sure.
I agree about Damian, the Irish guy. He was so cute and personable on the Glee Project yet somehow that never came through on Glee. I do like Dreadlocks guy- he needs more to do.
Kate Hudson's song and dance was way too long.
Just an okay episode. Bring back Finn!!

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Glee just isn't the same without Finn. I cannot wait for him to reappear and to see what RIB have in store for him this season. I also don't care for Brody - he's glorified as "hot" but that's about it...he's boring, there's no Brody/Rachel chemistry whatsoever, and frankly, the acting is lackluster. He's only been in one episode and I'm already bored to tears (enough bored tears to fill Ryan Murphy's swimming pool).

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.