Five episodes into Glee Season 5, I was worried.
Sure, the opening Beatles two-parter was a tuneful treat, but it had been planned for years and had zero to do with a post-Finn series. Then the tribute to Cory Monteith and Finn was a soulful, somber triumph, but also a one-time eulogy existing in a world of its own.
Then when Glee resumed its ongoing course, the first two shows beyond that turning point were — how do I say this? — not noteworthy. That’s a nice way of saying “not very good.”
But with Glee’s Episode 6, Movin’ Out, the show moved on — big time. It did so by delivering one of the most entertaining and fully realized episodes in many a moon, crammed with seven songs which happened to be by Billy Joel but essentially were fodder for a wide-ranging story about moving on, not just out — moving on with life post-high school, moving on from broken relationships, moving on from a key cast member’s departure — and Glee itself moving on to the kind of vibrant musical fantasy it still can be, full of fun, heart and song.
It also was fitting that an episode steering more of the cast to Gotham would employ music by quintessential New Yorker Joel, starting with title tune Movin’ Out, which did for the visiting Blaine and Sam what Girl on Fire did for NY-arriving Santana last season.
But I swear — every song worked. No song felt tacked on or like filler.
Piano Man (done briefly in Season 1 by Mr. Schue and Bryan Ryan) was an ideal Broadway debut — albeit at the hammy Showtime Diner — for an ivories-stroking Blaine. Honesty was a touching plea from Artie to Becky to be honest with herself. An Innocent Man was a beautifully sung affirmation of constancy by Blake Jenner’s over-eager Ryder. My Life was an arrogant yet pitch-perfect ode to self-acceptance by Jacob Artist’s defiant Jake, having struck out with Marley by being the ladies man she knew he was. And Just the Way You Are was a lovely Brooklyn loft sing-along, with sweet leads and harmonizing entwined.
Heck, even the show-closing craziness of a full-school romp for You May Be Right had a chaotic comic kick and fierce energy. (Note: In previous seasons Glee also did Only the Good Die Young, Uptown Girl and New York State of Mind, for a grand total of 10 Billy Joel songs now on the series.)
Elsewhere, Tyra Banks was closer to the real model-tormenting Tyra of America’s Next Top Model than she claimed with absurd innocence on a spin-heavy online sneak peek. So be it. She breathed bitchy life into scenes of Sam’s first foray into NY modeling.
I also loved seeing, however briefly, little Ravi Sinha Smith play young Blaine for a second time, bow tie and all. (And happy birthday Ravi! May someone give you your own vintage Operation game.)
Also satisfying was seeing Sue, amid some classic tirades, show her softer side in her love for Becky, evincing more pride than dismay that she’d be leaving the nest.
What can I say? I loved this episode — loved it. And not only for the show itself, but for what it signifies.
And what is that?
It signifies that tragedy can turn to triumph. It signifies that Glee can move on — and has moved on — beautifully.
It signifies, thank goodness, that Glee is back.
— Bruce Westbrook