For Glee’s sixth and final season, Fox may have banished it to the Nielsen wasteland of Friday night, but the show’s cast, crew and creators aren’t phoning it in or just playing out the string. Based on the major time-jumping leap from last season’s stumbling finish to this season’s opening two episodes, Glee is going out with a bang — and a big one.
Ten sensational song performances. Lively new characters. And a plot which — dare I say it? — actually makes sense.
Look around you. People in their early 20s do make mistakes, they do lose their way and they do often return (or stay) home until they get their bearings. It’s fitting that Glee’s original core cast comes back to Lima — and not permanently, just for now — to reconnect and launch a mission to resurrect and reboot the glee club that Sue Sylvester trampled into the dust of pragmatic, all-business educational expedience.
That not only rings true from a story standpoint, but it allows Glee — like many great stories — to come full circle and end where it started, echoing the past via glorious touchstones but also reworking it with new elements and a new context.
Much has happened in the unspecified months since we last saw the cast going in new directions (no pun) at last season’s end, artfully conveyed in masterful flashbacks: Kurt and Blaine broke up (with some superb acting by Darren Criss); Will became coach of Vocal Adrenaline; Blaine became coach of the Dalton Warblers; and Rachel’s TV series spectacularly bombed, sending her running from La-La failure to security in Lima — where she learned her dads are divorcing.
Can it get worse? Ask Kurt after hitting Lima to reconnect with Blaine, only to learn he’s dating Dave Karofsky. Ask the other returning alumni at McKinley’s homecoming after finding utter indifference to the “song in your heart” spirit which made their high school years the time of their lives.
But four appealing newbies join a reinstated glee club by the end, setting the stage for more conflict with Sue as New Directions vies with its old rivals for show choir supremacy.
Yes, it was maddening in May to see Rachel surrender her Broadway dreams for a witless TV show (though That’s So Rachel was an inadvertent hoot). But it makes perfect sense now for her to be back in Lima to restart and ramrod the new glee club, aided by Kurt on an unlikely NYADA third-year “work study” project. My guess is that both will return to NY by season’s end, showing that their big ambitions weren’t in vain, just temporarily derailed.
In fact, Rachel said as much, hinting that her Broadway dreams may not be over.
Sure, Glee can’t end exactly the way it was originally envisioned by creator Ryan Murphy — not after the death of Cory Monteith. But in his place to restore the glee club is soulmate Rachel, which is only right. “I always thought Finn one day would take this over,” Will said to Rachel, but in Finn’s place, who’d be better?
It also was good to see so many returnees back already, with more (Coach Roz, etc.) to come. But clearly the new New Directioners from Seasons 4-5 are gone for good, save for Kitty, who was, after all, Sue’s “head bitch.” And we won’t see much of Emma, which was awkward in these episodes, since Jayma Mays has another series.
As for music, the two-part premiere’s 10 songs were a vibrant mix of new and old hits given vivid new life. Lea Michele’s dramatic reworking of Uninvited by Alanis Morissette (whose music, along with Carole King’s, will dominate Episode 3) opened the season with a powerful punch, and the Warbler’s all-out Sing evoked the dance-filled greatness of their first number in Season 2, Teenage Dream.
I also loved the storyboard motif of A-Ha’s Take On Me laced throughout the second hour, echoing the original music video which won six 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. (Btw, the group was performing in my hometown of Houston that night and received their honors in a remote telecast from backstage.)
Newcomer Jane’s Tightrope for a failed Warblers audition kicked sassy, brassy butt, and fellow newbie Roderick’s Mustang Sally rivaled that of a fellow beefy boy’s take on Wilson Pickett’s hit in the movie The Commitments.
But my favorite song was at the finish, when a full-cast Home gave a rousing lift to a homecoming bash, though Kurt’s dismay at seeing Blaine with Karofsky left him with only best friend Rachel’s shoulder to lean on.
With Glee finally back after its longest (eight months!) hiatus, and even with the series’ end in sight for March 20 (in another two-parter), I want to say how grateful I am for this show, which is my favorite TV series ever — ever.
Yes, it’s flawed — what show isn’t? But year after year, Glee has delivered spectacularly and often movingly as the first true movie-musical style, burst-into-song series in TV’s long history. So instead of crying about the end that’s near, as many are doing, I celebrate Glee’s very existence — and that it came this far.
In the fall of 2009, there was no guarantee that this bold little show with no real stars would last beyond its heady first 13 episodes. It could have ended right there.
Instead, Glee is lasting for six seasons, 121 episodes, two concert tours, a concert movie, many millions of song downloads, two seasons of offshoot series The Glee Project and a wealth of beautiful memories.
Yes, Glee has made its mark — and it’s not over yet. So instead of bemoaning Glee’s finish, I celebrate it, and with enormous gratitude.
From the top!
— Bruce Westbrook