Once More with Feeling: “Glee” Returns for Season 2


I like Glee. Quite a bit, in fact. But I’m not as over-the-moon in love with the show as the diehard “Gleeks.” I found watching season one to be an often frustrating viewing experience: the wildly inconsistent character writing, the constantly recycled “Oh no! The glee club is being disbanded/This member is threatening to quit!” storylines; the over-reliance on guest stars; and the cheesy themed episodes that became so prevalent in the second half of the season, all constantly threatened to drown out the moments when the show actually worked. But despite its problems, the show managed to stay in my good graces. As critical as I have been of the show, I still count myself among its many fans, because when it’s good (and it often is), it’s like nothing else on television.

I wasn’t alone in my criticism, and I hoped that Glee‘s creators, Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk, would take stock of critical reaction to the first season and make the necessary adjustments to ensure that Glee‘s second season would live up to the potential shown in its first. But as summer wore on, the constant announcements from producers about the casting of new characters, booking more guest stars, and special themed episodes began to eat away at my feeling that season two would be anything but an unmitigated disaster.

So, I’m happy to report that the season premiere, “Audition,” appears to hint that the critics had been heard after all, and the creators have paid attention to what worked and what didn’t last season. Overall, I thought the episode struck a nice balance between introducing new characters, shaking things up a bit and avoiding the show’s tendency to simply return everything to the status quo.

The episode opens with a tongue-in-cheek sequence that plays up the show’s appealing willingness to make fun of itself and addresses some of the various criticisms leveled against the show, from the fact that the glee club’s song selection “sounds like it comes from a drag queen’s iPod” to the overly auto-tuned musical numbers to Mr. Shue’s constant rapping. Some very funny stuff, including Brittany‘s priceless description of her activities over the break: “People thought I went on vacation, but actually, I spent the summer lost in the sewers.”

Following a disappointing third place (out of only three teams) finish at Regionals, New Directions returns to McKinley High to find they’re still the socially rejected pariahs of the school. Mr. Shuester learns that the club is once again facing budget cuts, this time due to the hiring of a new football coach, Shannon Beiste, who demands an upgrade in funding for her team. The increased demand for the school’s monetary resources means that not only does the glee club face cuts, but so do Sue Sylvester‘s Cheerios. With a common enemy, Will and Sue decide to join forces to drive Beiste out, and thus restore their precious budgets.

Coach Beiste is an interesting new character, and I thought the show handled her storyline with a sensitivity that the show has proven, time and again, to be quite adept at, whether in revealing Sue’s sweet relationship with her sister, or the emotional plots revolving around Kurt and his father. I liked that the writers refrained from turning her into another Sue, and I found her response to Will and Sue’s mean-spirited bullying quite moving.

Back at the glee club, Mr. Shue decides that they need to recruit new members in order to grow from “a small rebel force to a giant wall of sound.” This leads to the introduction of two more new characters, as Finn discovers the talents of new student, football jock and Justin Bieber clone Sam Evans, in a weird, slash-fiction-y recreation of Shue’s discovery of Finn in episode one. Only this time, it’s Finn peering at Sam in the locker room shower. Somehow the situation didn’t seem quite so fraught with sexual tension the first time around. Or maybe that’s just my own wishful thinking. But that scene, in combination with Sam’s actual audition, during which Puck inquires about how many balls Sam can fit in his mouth, is a gift to Glee fan-fiction writers everywhere. However, Travie McCoy‘s “Billionaire” was a bizarre song choice for Sam, in my opinion.

The second possible New Directions recruit is Filipino exchange student Sunshine Corazon, a tiny girl with a big voice. This plotline involves another dark turn for Rachel‘s character, when, fearing that the addition of another powerful female vocalist means more competition for solos, she gives poor Sunshine directions to a local crack house instead of to the glee club’s auditions. Though Sunshine does eventually audition for the club (with a fantastic rendition of “Listen” from the film version of Dreamgirls), she is cherry-picked toward the end of the episode by Vocal Adrenaline’s new coach, Dustin Goolsby (played by the delicious Cheyenne Jackson. Swoon!).

Other minor plot points that (depending on if this season of Glee is anything like the last) will either be abandoned or picked up again ten episodes from now: Tina dumps Artie for the newly hot Mike Chang (Yay for finally giving Mike increased screen time, and double yay for that unzipped hoodie look he was sporting.); Quinn is back with the Cheerios; Finn is cut from the football team and tries out for the Cheerios; and my pick for most pointless plot point, Santana gets a boob job.

I was pleasantly surprised with “Audition,” and I hope it’s a sign of a strong second season for a show that I can’t help but root for. The real test will come next week, though, when we get the long-publicized Britney Spears-themed episode.

What did everyone else think of the episode? Are you excited for the upcoming season? And the most important question for any episode of Glee: which musical number was your favorite?

Reviewed by ADAM <a href="; title="imageimage

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