TV Review - Glee: Season 4

Dean Geyer (left)
and Lea Michelle in "Glee"
My observations are limited to the first episode of Season 4 only, but, I will say the episode entitled "The New Rachel" was a strong start to what I believe is a transitional year for Glee. The series, for the most part, contained itself to what was going on inside the walls of the fictional McKinley High School, and never really strayed far beyond. This posed a problem because a large chunk of its cast graduated and were no longer going to be inside those walls. The question is if creator and head writer, Ryan Murphy, would let those characters leave the show and lose the bulk of the established, singing talent, which are the hallmark of this musical comedy, or if he would follow them wherever they went.

Past TV shows that revolved around high school students simply followed those characters. Given Murphy's controversial, subversive and bold nature, I was hoping he would do the opposite. I almost hoped he would simply take the opportunity to reboot the show and essentially do what he's doing with American Horror Story. What he's doing instead is both. Of the swath of characters who graduated, Rachel was by far the star. By calling the episode, "The New Rachel," he is signaling a reboot of sorts. He's finding new talent, but he's also breaking down the girl we've known for three years and is building her back up again.

At the same time, he wants to introduce totally new characters and perhaps take the show down new paths and into new directions, which is also the name of the school's show choir that the aforementioned Rachel, played amazingly by Lea Michelle, practically led for three years. With Rachel gone, sent off to New York City to attend NYADA, the performing arts school akin to the one in Fame (1982), someone has to take her place, not necessarily in leadership or vocal ability but in the scrappy, dark-haired girl with humble circumstances that Rachel was, although Rachel was always somewhat privileged. In steps Marley, played by Melissa Benoist.

Even though Rachel hasn't officially passed the baton, which may happen in a forthcoming episode, Marley is no question the new Rachel. In no scene is that more clear than in her audition scene. Last season was a championship-winning season for the glee club. The kids are now riding high in their victory. They're popular, which is a position they've never had and that means they are behaving like popular kids in all the good ways and especially bad ways like worrying about status, intolerance and bullying. With a large chunk of the glee club graduated, auditions need to be held, X Factor-style, and Marley is the clear standout but she's also the one to standup against the glee club's bad ways.

Marley's audition is inter-cut with Rachel singing the same song. It's "New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel but popularized by Barbra Streisand. Rachel needs not to pass the baton. The editing and sound mixing of this scene makes the point in a powerful fashion. Marley's performance of Adele's "Chasing Pavements" also cements it.

My only criticisms is at the moment Murphy doesn't seem to know what to do with Sue Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch. Sue now has a baby girl, inexplicably. He also doesn't know what to do with Kurt, played by Chris Colfer. Both feel like they're barely hanging on. Lynch's ascerbic wit and comedy style was too much of an asset to lose, but shifting Kurt to New York to be basically Rachel's sounding board was the best that he could do. Either way, their presences in this episode weighed it down.

Whoopi Goldberg reprised her role as Carmen Tibideaux from last season and Kate Hudson is Cassandra July, a dance teacher at NYADA who perhaps has a drinking problem. Hudson makes up for her wasted talent in Nine (2009). New characters look promising like Wade Adams, played by Alex Newell, the black cross-dresser or possible transgendered student, Jake Puckerman, played by Jacob Artist, the rebellious and angry half-brother, and Brody, played by Dean Geyer, a hunk who's like Finn but with a hotter body.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Airs Thursdays at 9PM on FOX.


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