Like April’s back-nine return after a long hiatus, Glee’s Season 2 debut with Audition suffered some from “reintroduction-itis.” With so much updating and stage-setting, the episode lacked cohesion and one of Glee’s customary mantra-like yet useful themes. Even its big show-stopping finale, while a fantastic song, was lost emotionally without a fitting narrative context.
While I loved hearing Lea Michele’s Rachel sing her heart out for A Chorus Line’s What I Did for Love, uh, excuse me, but why exactly was she singing it? She’d just behaved very badly by alienating newcomer Sunshine (Charice) to the point of the bombastic belter skipping to Vocal Adrenaline, and even admitted she did so for selfish reasons, not the “I’m saving your fewer solos” spin for her less-featured Glee-mates. So now Rachel pours her soul into a proclamation that she did it all love? I’d love to get it, but I’m not.
But my, how this show got some things right, including the season’s opening number, Empire State of Mind, as infectious a song as Glee has ever done. And it’s oddly good to see McKinley’s glee club back as bottom feeders, scorned as ever, since underdogs make such grand eventual heroes.
New blood? Bloody well done. Dot-Marie Jones’ Coach Beiste is a superb character at second glance, epitomizing the outcasts that all of our beloved Gleeks claim to represent. A big, gruff, deep-voiced, manly female football coach is a treat in itself, but to quickly reveal her humanity made her not just a one-note rival for Sue, but a rich new character (now that Coach Tanaka has had “a nervous breakdown”).
Meanwhile, Chord Overstreet’s Sam makes a fine new Gleek (now that seldom-used Matt has “transferred” — quotes again signifying “been dumped by the producers”). This show choir needed some younger members, especially with several of the actors leaning toward their late 20s in reality. And I suspect he’ll be more than a compliant newbie.
Really, I’m fine with Sunshine winding up so quickly out of McKinley. Charice has a huge voice in a tiny body, but her Listen was cookie-cutter Mercedes, full of grandstanding histrionics that turned yet another so-so song from the overrated Dreamgirls into a frenzied, warmth-challenged shriek that made me wonder if she was passing a kidney stone. If we want to hear this style, Amber Riley can handle it just fine. But Sam’s lilting reggae-meets-rap for Billionaire — nice. I look forward to more from the big-mouthed Beiber-haired newcomer.
Sunshine and Rachel’s truncated but spot-on Telephone is well worth redialing as a full-length studio recording, and as noted, What I Did For Love was lovely, even if its placement in the show didn’t do it narrative justice. I swear, I’d listen to Lea/Rachel sing the phone book.
Will Finn be reinstated as quarterback? He needs something jock-like to do. Will Rachel and Finn have a real relationship? They lasted all summer, so maybe. After all, Glee needs a romantic couple we can pull for. All it’s offered so far have been on-and-off relationships among just about everyone, though Brittany winds up the whipping girl for such indescretions. Constancy and loyalty are important traits — so let’s see them. But I did love Rachel’s meaningful moment when she told Finn, “I’ll never break up with you.”
Spoiler alert! We all know where this is headed: New Directions will win Sectionals, and it will win Regionals, and it will compete in Nationals in New York — otherwise, why dedicate a whole number to Nationals’ site in the season’s very first show? And I suspect when cast and crew shoot there on location, it will be a tad hard to keep under wraps.
So with no need to worry about the show choir surviving, we can sit back and enjoy its shenanigans, lolligagging, tomfoolery and just plain fun. Glee remains the most entertaining show on TV, even when it does misfire a bit, as this time. I know I’ll keep watching, keep exalting and keep singing along. After all, it’s what we do for love.