Season four is when everything changes for Glee. Post-graduation for many of the students, the story became split between McKinley High School and New York City, with practically none of the alumni leaving the cast, and a bunch of newbies added in. It was a busy, full year, with many great installments, as well as some pretty weak ones, especially in the spring. Now, all twenty-two episodes are available in the four-disc Glee: The Complete Fourth Season.
The move to New York was a breath of fresh air for the show. Rachel (Lea Michelle) was always meant for bigger things than Ohio could offer her, and as she embarked upon a college career at NYADA, the series grew along with her. Following arguably the lead character of the ensemble show was great, and it provided the opportunity to bring in actresses like Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson, who added a terrific new element. The fact that Kurt (Chris Colfer), and later Santana (Naya Rivera), joined Rachel in the Big Apple was even better.
At McKinley, it was a little confounding at first that Artie (Kevin McHale), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), and Sam (Chord Overstreet) were only now getting to their senior year, since I swear they had been established as being older before, but combined with Brittany (Heather Morris) having to complete a fifth year of high school and Blaine (Darren Criss) sticking around, they provided cohesion, allowing some of the setting to stay the same. And, of course, Will (Matthew Morrison) and Sue (Jane Lynch) remained on staff.
They were soon joined by new cast members Marley (Melissa Benoist), Jake (Jacob Artist), Kitty (Becca Tobin), Ryder (Blake Jenner), and Unique (Alex Newell). Despite these fresh faces seeming a lot like the not-so-fresh faces, repeating stories and dynamics from earlier seasons, the quintet did resonate, eventually each earning promotions to series regulars for season five.
Pretty much all of the graduated seniors remained in the cast, even those who were not followed to New York. Finn (Cory Monteith) ended up working at McKinley, a twist that made no sense and wasn’t at all realistic, but allowed him to have a journey viewers wanted to see. Others, like Puck (Mark Salling), Mercedes (Amber Riley), and Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.), only briefly dropped in from time to time, which is why it came as no surprise that this would be their final year as full-time characters.
The season started pretty strong, but it soon became clear that Glee was now two shows, and the New York part was stronger. It didn’t help when some members of the New Directions would disappear for weeks at a time, and a Will / Emma (Jayma Mays) walk down the aisle kept being delayed artificially, including a terrible plot in which Finn kissed Emma. The worst, though, was when Finn disappeared, the actor entering rehab, and the writing never taking the time to explain his obvious absence. Sadly, Monteith passed away over the summer, and this will never fully be resolved.
The most polarizing episode of this season, and of Glee ever, was the spring installment “Shooting Star.” It begins as any normal episode would, but then gunshots rings out in the halls of McKinley High School, scaring the crap our of students and viewers alike. For a large chunk of the episode, the show becomes a super-intense, on-edge story that hits very close to home at a time when school shootings happen on a semi-regular basis. While it is arguable whether something like this belongs in a series like Glee or not, the hour is finely produced and not to be missed.
There are lots of special features in this release, including multiple extras dealing with the New York addition to the show. We get the Jukebox, deleted scenes, and more. Basically, no one should be disappointed here.
I’m a fan of Blu-ray, and always want to watch programming in high definition. Glee isn’t particularly visually stimulating in the way that it must be seen in HD. There are great costumes and choreography from time to time, but those can be enjoyed in a standard definition picture, too. The songs will obviously sound better with a sharper soundtrack, and Glee does have a lot of music, so for those who care more about audio, the argument is there. But for viewers who are only concerned about picture, I guess it’s up to personal preference whether you go DVD or Blu-ray, without a huge difference between the two. I still prefer the latter.
Glee: The Complete Fourth Season is available now.