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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
  • 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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Just a quick comment about Damian. I think they missed a large opportunity when they did not write him in as a "Hugh Grant" type character with a shy bumbling type of charm. Would have been entertaining, lots of opportunities for comic relief and I think he would have caught on huge. Unfortunately none of his personality came out on the show but I think that was clearly the writers fault. Only other thing I will say was the season 4 premiere was pretty good but I do think Glee needs to increasingly watch being too preachy and not jam too many lessons down people's throat. Feels less believable and the audience does not want to be told what is right and wrong. Good way to loose their audience. If there is a message let the story lines carry it and trust the audience will figure it out. I watched some Glee Project and if the creator wants to change the world that is great but don't use the show as your pulpit. Entertain and let your story lines matter.

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This episode was a disappointment. Missed Finn and Santana. Brody has no chemistry with Rachel. No need to have another triangle. Glad Kurt is in NYC. Love Burt Hummel. Only new character that was good wás Jake.

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Of course, DeGrassi has been making the formula of rotating in, and shifting focus to, the new kids work very successfully for decades -creating some big stars in the process. And, frankly, DeGrassi also deals much better with social issues, making them integral parts of the ongoing plot, rather than turning episodes into PSAs-of-the-week. Glee could learn a lot from that show.

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I missed Finn. As Finn and Rachel are the "main" couple on Glee, they have to be subjected to angst and drama. While this makes for "good TV," it frustrates me. I want Rachel and Finn to be happy, and I happen to think they would be happiest if they are in each other's presence and can share things with each other.

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I love Glee as a comedy with occasional touching and poignant stories. I am so over the angst that RIB have decided to keep tossing our way. Brody's character is fine as a friend and mentor but there is no chemistry there. Also why is he attending all Rachel's freshman classes when he is a junior? Have these writers never been to college? Bring back Finchel and their chemistry and continue the love story the writers have built over 3 years. There is plenty of funny material with Finn, Rachel, Kurt and Santana in NYC chasing their dreams to balance the Glee club left in Lima. Sue should not be the only funny part of Glee if it is intended as a comedy.

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Not a fan of Brody he brings nothing to the show. Finchel forever

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Dean is mediocre actor and has terrible American accent. Had no chemistry with Lea and was cheesy and boring. Bring Cory and Naya to NYC. HUDSONHUMMELBERRYLOPEZ in NYC would be pure gold. Liked marley a lot. Can really relate to her. Want my Finchel not this shiny distraction

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Brody is not hotter than Finn. I think he is unattractive. By I digress. I enjoyed this episode for the most part, but the only parts I'll rewatch are New York State of Mind and Chasing Pavements. I love Rachel/ Cassie scenes and Hummelberry scenes were perfect. Loved Marley. Didn't like the Brody stuff. It was cheesy, awkward and no chemistry. I really missed Finn. And I miss determined to succeed Rachel who fights for solos and fights for the boy she loves. Need my Finchel back. Overall a good starter.

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Glee was boring. Without Finchel and especially without Finn it wasn't interesting and knowing they are going to break them up YET AGAIN in episode four it feels like a slap in the face to season 3 and I don't want to watch it. I don't care how hot Brody is because he's boring and there is no chemistry between him and Rachel and they put him in the "older brother/mentor/friend" zone and of course they're going to make it awkward in the next episode because of the old storyline "Rachel Berry isn't sexy" when she is so... This season better shape up real quick or I'll watch something else. I'm tired of love triangles and I'm not going to put up with it.

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I want my Finchel back

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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