FOX’s Glee recently released The Complete Third Season on DVD and Blu-ray. This is the final year of high school for many of the original members of the New Directions, and they would like to go out with a bang. That means winning Nationals, setting themselves up to achieve their dreams, and for at least two students, a walk down the aisle.
Season three begins bumpy. Sugar Motta (Vanessa Lengies) tries to buy her way into the glee club, but given her lack of talent, she is rebuked by the existing members. But she soon finds friends when Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Santana (Naya Rivera), tired of losing the solos to Rachel (Lea Michelle), join forces with Sugar as the Troubletones. Now there are two rival glee clubs at the school, fighting for attention and competition awards.
Who do these girls get to coach their new singing group? Why, it’s none other than former director of Vocal Adrenaline, Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel)! Shelby’s return to Lima comes at a bad time for Quinn (Dianna Agron), who is really struggling with her own purpose. Suddenly, Quinn sees the chance to make Shelby look bad while getting her baby (adopted by the teacher) back. Unfortunately for Quinn, her accomplice in this matter, Puck (Mark Salling), decides a better alternative might just be to seduce Shelby into a relationship.
Toss in a renewed rivalry with the Warblers, led by the duplicitous Sebastian Smythe (Grant Gustin), new students, hockey bullies, the return of a few familiar faces, four winners from The Glee Project, a musical, and a couple of love triangles, and season three turns out to be a heck of a ride for Glee!
Of course, besides the fun and the singing, things do tend to take a more serious, nostalgic bend towards the end of the season. Graduation is looming. Rachel and Kurt (Chris Colfer) try to get into NYADA by impressing the legendary Carmen Tibideaux (Whoopi Goldberg), and both face failure. Finn (Cory Monteith), too, sees his dreams slipping away, and is faced with the reality of his father’s secret past. This complicates the plan the three of them have to move to New York City, Finn and Rachel as husband and wife.
And there are also a couple of dark turns. Most memorably, Coach Beiste (Dot Jones) falls in love with an abuser. Glee has a lot of cheeriness in it, but it’s hard to see things looking up when one’s own husband is beating you. Jones turns in a masterful, award-worthy performance as a woman struggling with self-esteem and pride.
Other highlights of the year include Santana and Brittany (Heather Morris) fully out of the closet and together as a couple, a kinder, gentler, pregnant Sue (Jane Lynch), Burt (Mike O’Malley) saying a touching goodbye to Kurt, Ricky Martin as a Spanish teacher, Will (Matthew Morrison) being honored for his influence on the kids, a Michael Jackson and a Whitney Houston tribute, Helen Mirren providing an inner monologue for Becky Jackson (Lauren Potter), and two elections.
Of course, not everything flows smoothly. Glee, while frequently killing musical numbers, is very uneven in the writing. There will be fantastic episodes, like “Nationals,” running close by horrible installments, like “Prom-A-Saurus.” Sometimes the students lose their character, or seem to switch which grade level they’re in. Parents who act like they’ve been at every event throughout the series just now show up on screen.
Season four will be a very transitional year for Glee, with a lot of fresh faces filling in the holes in the club, while splitting screen time with the alumni, especially Rachel, as they move into adult life. Will things improve, providing a different, but more stream-lined show? Or will added chaos finally cause the whole train to wreck in spectacular fashion? You’ll have to tune in to find out.