Review of Glee ‘The New Rachel’

Sophie Warnes

glee 1 300x225 Review of Glee The New RachelSPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 1, series 4 of ‘Glee’

Last season saw half of the Glee club members graduate with some moving across America. While the last time we saw Rachel (Lea Michele) she was on a train bound for the Big Apple where she will be studying at the New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts (NYADA).

Predictably, there’s some new characters to make up for those that are missing, which is refreshing – the third season was beginning to drag on with overdone story lines and stale characters. Hopefully this means the writers won’t need to recycle and reuse the same tired ideas and we’ll see a great mix of music and musical influences this year.

The episode started off with Rachel facing her first grueling dance class at NYADA. It’s tough and her teacher Cassandra July, played by the wonderful Kate Hudson, makes it clear from the start she dislikes her. The show has a history of introducing stars that you wouldn’t expect – we’ve had Kristin Chenoweth, Ricky Martin, Neil Patrick Harris, John Stamos, and Gwyneth Paltrow so far – and Kate Hudson is an absolutely perfect addition to the cast. She’s perhaps the most exciting thing that’s happened to Glee in a long time. Oh that and Whoopi Goldberg! She is incredible as the unflappable, formidable Carmen Tibideaux – who saw that coming?

The introduction of Brody (Dean Geyer) sets up a potential love triangle in the future – he’s undeniably hot and it’s clear that Rachel and he have chemistry. It’s perhaps a bit clichéd though – why do all of the characters have to be paired off nicely? – but it’s interesting that the writers mirrored the meeting of Rachel and Brody and Finn and Will in the very first episode. It’ll be a bit disappointing if the storyline goes in that direction – pairing Brody and Rachel is too obvious, particularly when Finn is completely out of the picture.

Sadly, Chris Colfer as Kurt doesn’t really get a lot of screen time in this episode – by far one of the most talented people in the cast, he has seemed chronically underused in the past, usually giving way to Michele’s Rachel. In this episode, we see him being encouraged by Blaine to move to New York to live out his dreams instead of being stuck – which was something that was a bit of a risk in the first place. Kurt is a popular character on the show, not least because he is one of  the very few ‘out’ teenage characters on mainstream TV, therefore it’s hard to see where else the scriptwriters could go but to have him move to New York and live with Rachel.

New character and head cheerleader Kitty (Becca Tobin) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) who seem to be competing for the title of Super Bitch, formerly bestowed upon Quinn (Dianna Agron). Again, this is a bit cliché – the super bitch cheerleader has been done to death, and even that was fairly bland. Quinn went from being quite a complex character (Christian, popular, cheerleader) to a stereotype (bitchy cheerleader) and being entirely bereft of personality, fading into the background. It’d be nice if we could have some genuinely horrible characters rather than a regurgitation of ethical and moral righteousness whereby characters learn their lessons, then become hugely uninteresting – could Kitty be the mean character we’re looking for?

One genuinely really exciting and interesting addition to the cast is Alex Newell, who plays Wade ‘Unique’ Adams. This is surely great news – it’s extremely rare to find adequate representations of transgender people or even just cross-dressers on mainstream TV. It’s not really been made explicitly clear yet which group Wade falls into, so it’ll be interesting to see what the scriptwriters have planned for his character. It looks like they might be setting up for some good issue-tackling episodes which is excellent news because this is where Glee, in spite of its numerous faults, really seems to excel far above any other contemporary television show.

The other new characters Marley (Melissa Benoist) and Jake (Jacob Artist) barely warrant a mention. So far it seems like Marley is a younger Rachel and Jake is a younger Puck – here’s hoping that they are more fully developed and interesting and don’t turn out to be Rachel 2.0 and Puck 2.0. The introduction of Marley’s mother as the dinner lady gives her another dimension to her character and her life but again the poverty issue has already been broached with Sam in a previous season.

The episode ended nicely with Marley leading on Adele’s Chasing Pavements, though the stand-out song and performances were definitely summer hit Call Me Maybe, where Blaine (Darren Criss), Wade, Brittany (Heather Morris) and Tina vie for the position of the ‘new Rachel’.

The season opener has started several potentially good storylines – Wade ‘Unique’ Adams and his struggle for acceptance, Rachel and Kurt living together in New York – what will Kurt do in New York? Then there’s Marley striving to assert herself in the group, Jake and his anger problems. Will he join New Directions? He definitely has the voice! Also, the introduction of the new super bitch Kitty. One thing to keep an eye on is how much the show is split between New York and Ohio – it’ll be interesting to see how the writers tackle the inevitable problem of having characters spread out across the US, particularly where they are too popular to be dropped.

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  • Derek Goss

    So pleased Glee is back! best show on T.V. So warm, uplifting, camp and cheesey with an often waspish script. Looking forward to seeing how the characters develop away from the warm bubble of McKinley High. Where will Ryan Murphy and his writing team take them? we Brits just can’t do this kind of show

  • Jay Chaplin

    Rachel is the lead character so of course she get more time . Kurt had a nice little story in this episode so I am not sure what you are talking about.

  • marykmac

    He had a storyline but no singing or dancing! What’s the point?

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