TV Review - Glee: Season 6

Emmy winner Jane Lynch returns
in full force in the final season of 'Glee'
The final season of the musical comedy undoes the last two seasons of the show, which changed the direction of the series for the better and for the worse. Reversing course and taking the series back to its roots is good and bad as well, but given that this is the last season, it's not surprising. Most American series like to circle back to the beginning even after being on television for years in order to close the loop.

The problem that the show developed immediately after its first and second season is its need to add more and more new characters and storylines and its inability to juggle them properly. The show throws so many balls in the air and often times drop them, or doesn't give them enough time. The prime example is the slew of characters introduced in Season 4 who were never given enough time to be acclimated and endeared. The reason is because the show focused more on the old characters, which was fine because the old characters are amazing, but the show should have made the choice to focus on only the new characters or only on the old ones. Trying to do both was a mistake.

So, here's the skinny. The show is about a high school in Lima, Ohio, called William McKinley High School, and a frustrated, Spanish teacher and failed, Broadway star who begins a glee club at the school to promote the arts, particularly the musical arts, as well as providing a safe space for the awkward and unpopular kids, the misfits, the oddballs, the geeks and various minorities, or anyone who liked to sing. The teacher was Will Schuester, played by Matthew Morrison, and his glee club called itself New Directions. It consisted of about a dozen kids. They included Finn, Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, Quinn, Puck, Santana, Brittany, Artie, Tina and Mike Chang.

The show is about high school, which only lasts four years and when the show started, most of New Directions were sophomores, so by the third season, it was obvious that most of the characters had to go. They went to college in outside cities or left school for jobs. Instead of letting those characters disappear and keeping the show in high school, the show after the third season decided to follow all those characters as well as keep it in that Ohio school and introduce nearly a dozen more new characters, and it was too much.

Shows like HBO's Oz or Netflix's Orange is the New Black can juggle huge casts of characters. Those shows have a more thoughtful pace though. Because this show infuses pop music as actual performances within the narrative and not just as background on the soundtrack, the pace of this show makes it not a good vehicle often for that kind of thoughtful pace. The show has done that successfully at times and in the beginning, but now, creators and head writers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan have a kind of ADHD that makes juggling so many characters nearly impossible.

Thankfully, the series has cut back. Most of the new characters added in Season 4 have been dropped and the focus has shifted back to the old characters and shifted back to the Ohio school. After the third season, the New Directions' best singers, Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes and Santana moved to New York City to pursue their dreams. Most of the others in New Directions ended up there in one function or another. Will Schuester stayed in Ohio to recruit new glee club members, and we bounced back-and-forth between Ohio and New York.

Emmy winner Jane Lynch co-stars as Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach and TV personality-turned-principal. Sue is the show's bonafide villain who opposes the promotion of arts and opposes any and everything the glee club does. She's highly conservative and Republican, but she is very smart, very well-versed in the whole culture left and right and has a vast assortment of resources. She is brutal in her verbal attacks. She lobbies the best and meanest insults, yet she is hilarious and entertaining to watch, just because you're shocked by what she says and does.

Unfortunately, when the show started focusing more on New York, Sue was the character that was lost and little seen. Lynch was doing Broadway, so she was fine, but it's good that this final season has brought Sue back and in full-force. At the beginning of Season 6, Sue has fired Will and eliminated the glee club. Sue has in fact turned the band room where the glee club met into a computer lab.

Lea Michelle stars as Rachel who returns to McKinley to re-launch the glee club at the school and restore arts there. Having ditched her NYC career and having failed in Hollywood, she basically takes Will's old job. Chris Colfer also stars as Kurt who takes time away from school in New York to help Rachel with her goal to bring back the glee club. They face obstacles from within, meaning Sue's efforts to thwart them at every turn. They also face complicated competition from without.

Darren Criss co-stars as Blaine. He's the ex-fiance of Kurt who is the leader of the Warblers. The Warblers is the name of the glee club at Dalton Academy, a rival private high school in Ohio. The reason Blaine takes the job there is because Kurt dumped him when Blaine tried to be with him in New York. Blaine was originally a Warbler when he was a high school student. He and Kurt still have feelings for each other, but Blaine is currently dating David Karofsky, played by Max Adler. Karofsky was a football player-turned-bully.

Will lost his job at McKinley, but he did get a comparable job at a rival, public high school. He leads the opposing glee club called Vocal Adrenaline. Will's relationship with the students in Vocal Adrenaline isn't the same as it was with New Directions. The dynamic is dramatically different in that the students of Vocal Adrenaline don't respect Will as much or even seem to like him all that much.

The song performances have been and probably will be the true draw at this point, aside from the epic take-downs from Sue or Santana, the lesbian cheerleader and aspiring star, played by Naya Rivera. Over the past couple of years, I've noted some of the best of the song performances. They range from huge, choreographed dance numbers like "Run the World" to a person sitting in a chair and belting out vocals like "I Want to Hold Your Hand." This season opens with a great song performance. Rachel sings "Uninvited" by Alanis Morissette.

Myko Olivier plays the lead singer of the Warblers, referred to as the Head Warbler. Olivier was recently in a musical comedy called Eternity: The Movie. He really shows how great of a performer he is when he and the Warblers perform "My Sharona" and "You Spin Me Round." The songs performed by the new New Directions were really great too, including "It Must Have Been Love", "Father Figure" and "All Out of Love."

Finally, the show has never been shy about tackling LGBT issues. One of the members of the new New Directions is Spencer, played by Marshall Williams. Spencer is gay but he's also on the football team. He then overcompensates by being hyper-masculine and super-rejecting of anything that's even slightly feminine or stereotypically gay. He's like the gay version of Finn, played by the late Cory Monteith, or a riff of the character played 15 years ago by Bryce Johnson in Ryan Murphy's series Popular. Supposedly, Spencer is also representative of real-life people like Michael Sam.

At the same time, Coach Shannon Beiste, played by Dot-Marie Jones, has come out as transgendered. Supposedly, she's a transgendered man, or a man born in a woman's body, which was something joked about for years prior but now is being taken seriously. It's very much like Dylan Neal's character in the final season of Dawson's Creek.

Despite some problems like the other members of the new New Directions not being fully realized characters but just jokes or easy and weird archetypes, the show is still fun and funny. It looks as though it will end on a very good note. Rest in peace, Cory Monteith! And, happy trails, Glee!

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


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