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TV Review: ‘Glee’ – ‘New New York’

It's finally here! We're done with Ohio, a state I dearly love, but which has been played out on FOX's Glee, and the story has shifted entirely to New York City. I've mentioned for weeks in these columns my hope that things will improve when this happens. Now that the first episode solely in the big city has aired as of last night, has the show gotten better? In a word, yes. "New New York," the most recent installment, is not the best episode of Glee ever. Other than a great, big opening number, "Downtown," which shows Blaine (Darren Criss),…

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Summary : "New New York" is the improvement many were expecting when Glee dropped Ohio from its settings.

User Rating: 3.63 ( 10 votes)
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It’s finally here! We’re done with Ohio, a state I dearly love, but which has been played out on FOX’s Glee, and the story has shifted entirely to New York City. I’ve mentioned for weeks in these columns my hope that things will improve when this happens. Now that the first episode solely in the big city has aired as of last night, has the show gotten better? In a word, yes.

“New New York,” the most recent installment, is not the best episode of Glee ever. Other than a great, big opening number, “Downtown,” which shows Blaine (Darren Criss), Sam (Chord Overstreet), and Artie (Kevin McHale) joining Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) in New York, nothing huge happens. It settles into what will likely be the fairly conventional stories of these people for the near future. Yet, it lacks most of the stuff that didn’t make sense before, as well as the cheesiness, making for a higher-quality series.

Glee, Lea MicheleRachel’s plot in “New New York” is about losing who she is. Talk about white girl problems! Gifted a town car and driver by her production, she suddenly realizes that she’s locked in a gilded cage, not experiencing the city or its people. In Rachel fashion, realizing this does not mean she truly grasps reality, still wrapped up in her sheltered, privileged attitude, but at least she makes efforts to work on this, and ends the episode with a terrific “People” performance, beautifully staged on the street.

Rachel enlists the help of Artie to keep her reigned in. Artie is having his own problems. We don’t yet see where he lives (not a dorm, since he has to commute to school), but he does spend lots of time hanging around the other McKinley grads, the new clique in New York, and has to ride the subway. This goes south when he is mugged. Rachel decides riding with him will help him feel safe, and he is a straight talker, so he can call her on her crap.

I have to admit, it feels mighty strange to see Rachel and Artie together, since they’ve shared very little screen time in the past. They are not close friends. But I guess in a city of millions, you cling to the familiar, and so it makes sense they’d begin to hang out more now. Their “Don’t Sleep on the Subway” duet is surprisingly fun, and even though it’s pretty far-fetched that they find Artie’s mugger and get revenge (as well as his stuff back), that is a hallmark Glee plot twist, so it doesn’t feel tonally off.

The rest of the players aren’t getting along as swimmingly. Kurt and Blaine start off fairy tale-perfect with “You Make Me Feel So Young,” but things quickly deteriorate from there. Kurt feels smothered by Blaine, now together all the time, in class and at home. Blaine doesn’t feel like the loft is his home since Kurt won’t let him make it his own. It’s hurting their relationship, and unless they can change the status quo, they risk losing what they have, something neither of them want.

Glee, Darren Criss, Chris ColferBoth end up going to Elliott (Adam Lambert) for advice. Kurt, because Elliott is one of his best friends, and they jam out to “Rockstar” together. Blaine, thinking Elliott may be trying to steal Kurt, but quickly finding a new pal in his own right as they share a moment and a little guitar improv. Elliott is not only wise, but he cares about them both, and so he helps them find a solution, which just reinforces that he should be upgraded to main character immediately. In the end, Blaine decides he needs to move out, it being too soon for the couple to live together, especially with the pressures of school and Blaine having just moved to the city, and then they can continue to happily date.

The dissolution of Blaine and Kurt’s co-habitation is well-handled. It would be very easy for this to seem like a step back or the first stage of a break up, but that’s not how it comes across. These guys are pretty self aware, at least when they have a sounding board to help them see themselves, and they’re smart not to rush things. This is a very dynamic time in their lives, and it’s not a bad thing if they both want to work on themselves as individuals before spending the rest of their lives together. This not only makes sense, but is more than most guys of their age could ever figure out. They will survive this.

Sam is also a source of tension between the two, though Kurt likely uses Sam as an excuse more than actually being annoyed with him directly. True, Sam is crashing on their couch and playing video games all day, but Blaine fixes that when he takes him out to sing “Best Day of My Life,” an energetic performance that inspires Sam to cut his hair and go back out on the job hunt, soon landing his first modeling gig. Unfortunately, the agency-provided housing is full of drugs and bad peer pressure, so that doesn’t solve all of their problems.

Glee, Kevin McHale, Chord Overstreet, Darren Criss, Chris ColferThe solution may be a bit too-neat, but it works in rounding out the new cast. Mercedes (Amber Riley) announces she’s moved to the city that never sleeps to join them, and conveniently has a spare room she’s willing to let Sam and Blaine share, thus solving the housing crisis. Perhaps there isn’t a real good reason to bring Mercedes back now,  but she’s been missed and I hope she sticks around. The tension between her and ex-boyfriend Sam is interesting, and she herself has always been a character I’ve liked, even when the show takes her arc in unrealistic directions, as her recording contracts have done.

Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany (Heather Morris) are absent from “New New York,” so the hour doesn’t give us a full picture of what Glee: New York Edition will be. However, the make up of the group they have now is fantastic, the songs are all wonderful, not a dud among them, and it feels right to get back to the basic chemistries that first compelled the show. Artie still drags things down a little, but since he’s the only lame character left, that can be overlooked, especially the way they use him to balance out Crazy Rachel. I am not ready to declare victory for the reborn show just yet, but early signs are positive.

Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • anon

    Actually the hour does give a full picture of NYC Glee. Heather Morris hasn’t been on set since episode 101 wrapped so there’s no Brittany in sight and Santana’s not going to be back until 5×17 and it’s unclear what’s going to happen with her after that. Glee was just extraordinarily misleading with that last Brittany/Santana scene and they’ve made no move to correct or clarify leading to a lot of confusion.

    • Gunny

      A lot of it should be decided when they figure out what to do with Santana. Will Snix continue and she never finds her own thing? Will she begin the process of dealing with her demons now that she has Brittany (or not)? Her career choices have narrowed now that she quit a major Broadway production as well as her contract for commercials. Blacklist’s are real.

  • heather

    i’m glad you chose the character in the wheel chair to deem the “lame” one. very cute. especially out of ever basic sam and blaine, neither of whom can sing or act that well and who have the vigor of paint drying. ableism is always fun!

    • Halanefleur

      I agree, Artie is not lame at all. If I had to get rid of someone, it’d be Sam. He really serves no purpose. His character has no depth, he is not funny and the guy is not that good as a singer, performer or actor. And he is average, not ugly of course, but definitely not eye-candy either.
      Artie is interesting, his goals are in a different field, he allows us to explore the difficulties of a disabled teenager (and believe me, he is lucky, living in a city well-prepared for his problems… The girl I hang out with in my uni class is not that lucky, our city is absolutely dreadful for wheelchairs. We are always left outside buildings. She can’t access the professors’ offices. It is a mess.).

      EDIT: The phone rang and I couldn’t finish the message. I would get rid of Sam, but I would totally keep Blaine. I like the character a lot. He feels real in a way, and his relationship with Kurt is, in very immature words, HELLA CUTE.

  • Willis

    Agreed, the songs are all flawless however, Artie, lame? Shut your mouth. That assessment has already been pointed out as how your intentions behind it can be misconstrued (check previous comments). You would do well to mind your tongue with such poorly worded statements like that in the future. You should carefully proof read and edit your stuff before submitting it. Also if someone else edits it don’t be afraid to point it out to them, I write reviews and myself and the editor share a mutual respect and we admit our mistakes and objectively accept criticism.

    Glee is always going to be unrealistic, hello they sing at random and your problem is that a character got a recording contract or a robbery storyline seemingly concluded with happy ending? Come on, it can’t all be sad things now can it, if the promo for the next episode is any indication we’re about to get another dose of it heartbreak.

  • Gunny

    Other than Rachel continuing to be the source of all things bad, I liked the show. However, I don’t think focusing on the “guys” from Ohio now in NY is the way to move this show along. It wasn’t the city people were frustrated with, it was the focus on Blam +1 or all boys +1 all the time. I do struggle a little with reality sometimes because the show does its’ PSAs hoping to influence behaviors, so to stretch reality (Mercedes first album and producers give her a two-bedroom apartment in NYC?) can be tricky. The person who dedicated her life for a dream achieves it, but then those who have not also get the brass ring. There are a lot of long shots taken here. I think showing this struggle and how hard work pays off can be interesting storylines. I would like to see a little more Quinn and Puck who chose more traditional routes after high school.

  • Susan

    i loved it. for the 1 st time ,. it didn’t seem empty .,without Cory Monteith. although deep in my heart i know he isn’t coming back. but when the show was in Ohio , for some reason i always expected him to jump out and say it was all a dream. wishful and unrealistic. at least now we can all move on.