Be warned — spoilers below!
Lest you attack me for my article title, I loved the first season of FOX’s Glee. Finally, a show that combined good storytelling with entertaining musical numbers! The problem with the first season, though, was that the storytelling was just good, not great. Sometimes the plot meandered. Other times, it felt like twists happened just to fit the songs that had been slotted for the episode. Glee had many great qualities, but it was also lacking in a few critical areas.
All of that was fixed by the season two premiere, “Audition.” I can’t point to a single weak spot in the first episode back. Spoilers will be rampant below, so if you haven’t seen the episode yet, I suggest you bookmark this article and go watch it.
The magic started with the opening credits. I knew that fan favorites Brittany (Heather Morris) and Santana (Naya Rivera) had been upgraded to series regulars, but I had no idea that the same courtesy had been extended to father-of-the-year, Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley). Perhaps the Emmys helped him with that. The three are the only upgrades appearing in the first episode, though Burt sat the premiere out, along with a couple of the other starring adults.
The music selections were amazing. From “New York State of Mind” to “Telephone” to “Billionaire,” each enhanced the story, and was used to further the plot, rather than stop it. Rachel (Lea Michele) even got to finish the show by belting out a Broadway staple, her strong suit. It no longer felt like the songs were decided first and then the story written around them.
Almost all of the main characters had interesting personal developments during the three months off. Rachel and Finn (Cory Monteith) are now in a serious relationship. Artie (Kevin McHale) lost Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) to Mike (Harry Shum Jr., the only member of the club left who is not a series regular) because he ignored her. Finn attempted to help Artie win her back, and his efforts got him kicked off of the football team, calling into question his whole identity. Solid developments, all.
Despite the focus on the core cast, there were plenty of new characters. My favorite was the female football coach, Beast (Dot Jones, The Boondock Saints, Patch Adams). She was introduced as a stereotype, but was fleshed out and sympathetic by the midway point of the episode. As much as I loved the Will (Matthew Morrison) and Sue (Jane Lynch) team-up, I loved even more when Will followed his moral code and apologized to Beast.
Other new singers were also introduced. Sam (Chord Overstreet) is a new kid who gets Finn’s place on the football team, and rejects the club to be cool. Sunshine (Charice) was a threat to Rachel’s place in New Directions, until the diva alienated her enough to send her into the arms of their arch-rival, Vocal Adrenaline. Both could be really cool characters, and I look forward to their return.
Part of what makes Glee succeed are the cast of recurring minor parts, and the premiere did not leave them out. “Audition” opened with great documentary interviews provided by Jacob Ben Israel (Josh Sussman, Warren the Ape), and Becky Jackson (Lauren Potter) sat in on Cheerio tryouts with Sue. I would be remiss if I did not mention Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba), who had more than the usual refereeing to do in the first episode back.
All in all, it was an unexpectedly awesome start for Glee‘s sophomore season. If they can maintain the fine tuning to an already hit formula, this show will only go up from here. Kudos to all involved.