‘Glee’ still in tune at fourth season’s start
TV Review | 3.5 out of 5 stars
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 08:10
The fourth season of “Glee” is now underway and there are big changes at McKinley High. Rachel (Lea Michele) is in New York attending the New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts (NYADA), Kurt (Chris Colfer) is interning at Vogue.com, other old characters are scattered across the country and the New Directions glee club is trying to define its new identity.
This new season may have already had some ups — Darren Criss’ rendition of “It’s Time” — and downs — the plotless second episode — but it remains worth watching for one simple reason: Glee still makes its viewers care. We want to see Rachel triumph over her nasty new dance teacher, we want to see Kurt and Blaine’s relationship survive the long distance and we want New Directions to win the national title once again. And even as the plot twists get increasingly ridiculous and writers smash together new sets of odd couples, longtime viewers still feel compelled to watch.
That said, it’s difficult to care about the new characters just yet. Many of them feel like carbon copies of older characters. For instance, Kitty (Becca Tobin) is Quinn Fabray 2.0, rocking the same ponytail and cheerleading uniform with added nasty scheming and diminished humanity. Another new character, Jake (Jacob Artist), is Puck’s half-brother, filling the vacant “bad boy with a heart of gold” slot.
Finally, there’s Marley (Melissa Benoist), also known as the “New Rachel.” Like her predecessor, Marley has the requisite gorgeous voice and a familiar storyline, complete with a love triangle and a mean cheerleader nemesis. Viewers have already endured this plotline for two whole seasons. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a love triangle that was a little bit different — or maybe to skip the love triangle entirely? After all, it was “Glee’s” willingness to poke fun at teen TV tropes that made the first season so much fun.
The new season does have two stellar guest stars: Kate Hudson, who plays Cassandra July, Rachel’s demanding dance teacher at NYADA, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Isabelle Wright, Kurt’s boss and mentor at Vogue.com. These are memorable, vivacious characters that not only sing and dance well, but also play integral roles in the show’s story arc. Hudson’s and Parker’s characters are clearly there to advance the plot and help Rachel and Kurt mature, not to help producer Ryan Murphy flaunt “Glee’s” prestigious guest stars.
Rachel is already a more sympathetic character this season. Instead of constantly talking about how talented she is or singing “romantic” duets with Finn (Cory Monteith), she’s trying to adjust to a new environment and a new love interest, Brody (Dean Geyer). “Finnchel” fans may already hate Brody, but he’s a likable and charming love interest who seems to have authentic chemistry with Rachel. Sparks fly in their sweet, fun and energetic duet to “Change Would Do You Good” in the third episode.
Other highlights of the new season include more laughably stupid quotes from Brittany (Heather Morris), promising character development, some good production numbers, the judicious use of old characters and some well-written, emotional storylines.
Blaine (Criss) is showing signs of emerging beyond his role as Kurt’s perfect boyfriend. Hopefully, the writers will choose to develop characters like Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) and Joe (Samuel Larsen). Moreover, many of the musical numbers seem to have recaptured the spontaneity of the first season while retaining the later seasons’ polish.
The show’s creators and writers also seem to have found a balance with their use of old characters, by meting out their appearances over the first few episodes and saving some for later, most likely for upcoming holidays and Mr. Schuester’s wedding.
Finally, the storylines involving the characters that viewers know and love are touching. For instance, Kurt’s airport farewell with his dad Burt (Mike O’Malley) was touching and authentic.
Overall, the new season of “Glee” may not win any Emmys, but it continues to draw viewers in with compelling characters, snappy one-liners and skillfully executed production numbers. Ryan Murphy won’t let us stop believing any time soon.