The one thing I’ve loved about Glee, right from the moment the series was introduced to our screens, was its ability to always be fun and positive. The pure entertainment factor was what drew me in and promised I’d forever be a loyal Glee watcher. Despite this fact, I have some qualms with the third season, derived from the weightiness of it all.
For me, Glee has always been a musical comedy first, a drama second. The initial series was top notch. The cast were fresh and bright-eyed and the dialogue was quick-witted, current and comedic. Well and truly ingrained within the structure of the show has always been the music, a mixture of genres and songs spanning the past few decades, securing its universal appeal (if you like the musical comedy-drama genre that is).
Regardless of the needless comparisons to High School Musical, Glee has always felt authentic in its foundations, keeping to a minimum the level of cringe-worthy cheesiness that HSM is so famous for.
The show’s premise was something we’d never seen before within this format, something that the producers cleverly capitalised on. It was a breath of fresh air; the medicine the world needed after a bad day at the office, some light relief from all the repetitive and mundane medical and crime dramas.
Whilst it wasn’t always fun and games (there were fake pregnancies, teen pregnancies, break ups, make ups and ongoing struggles with sexuality), there didn’t seem to be an issue on the planet that the series couldn’t put an optimistic spin on. Even the second season, though delving deeper into the aforementioned matters, maintained that underlay of cheerfulness; the good prevailing against all odds, the reassuring element that told you that no matter what happened, everything really would be okay in the end. That’s what I’ve always felt Glee was about.
However, the third season seems to have been derailed from the happy track. There’s a significant change in the overall feel and some of the key elements that I always loved about the show have gone adrift.
The comedy for one, whilst still in the background, is not as prevalent as before. Where previously each individual character added their own comedic touch to the mix, the humour this season seems to have been reserved solely for Jane Lynch (Sue), Naya Rivera (Santana) and Heather Morris (Brittany). This isn’t a bad thing; it just felt as if some of the characters (male in particular) were given a comedy back seat.
It was a surprisingly slow start musically, with too many Broadway songs within the first few episodes to really grab my attention. Broadway may be where some of the Glee club members want to go, but make it too much about songs from musicals and it loses it’s well-rounded appeal.
The introduction of new characters caused mixed reactions. Joe and Wade/Unique were nice additions; I was indifferent about Sebastian Smythe (if that’s not a comedic villain name I don’t know what is) and Rory Flanagan irritated me from the moment he opened his mouth. Ideally Rory needs to be sent back to Ireland, where he can live out his days sifting through lucky charms as a leprechaun imposter (this reference will only be relevant to those who have watched the third season).
The issues surrounding this season carry more baggage; they’re bigger, deeper, more life changing. The characters seem jaded, many of them way too cynical for high school students. I do understand the need for this change though, the shift in mood signals the shift in the students’ lives. They’re moving on from high school, trying to figure out their place in the world. They’re losing loved ones and gaining others and more importantly their hopes and dreams hang in the balance. The melodrama has suddenly turned in to actual drama, which resulted in many of the episodes leaving a sour and sad feeling in the pit of my stomach…something I rarely felt with previous seasons.
This isn’t what Glee is about. I’m not used to feeling teary come the credits. The third season has lost some of the spark that the first and second seasons had. I want old Glee back. I want the magic, the light-heartedness, the innocence.
For all my complaints there are positives, which as usual demonstrate what Glee does best and, when all is said and done, they outweigh the negatives.
Firstly, the music overall was great. The formation of the all female Glee club ‘The Troubletones’ sees some fantastic renditions of songs, including a stellar mash up of Adele’s Someone Like You and Rumour Has It. The Saturday Night Fever, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston tribute episodes are among the best of the season. Possibly one of my favourite Glee songs of all the seasons combined came from episode 18, Choke, which saw the girls take on an acoustic version of Florence + the Machine’s Shake It Out. It’s a beautiful interpretation and when combined with the theme of domestic abuse is incredibly powerful.
Glee has always been great at redeeming characters we thought would never change. Sue Sylvester shows a softer side this season, without losing the sarcastic edge that’s made her so popular. The return of closeted homosexual Dave Karofsky is also welcome, showing him in a different light and helping to free his character of his nasty and abusive past.
I haven’t always been in favour of the previous celebrity appearances (namely Gwyneth Paltrow), but there are some great guest performances from Matt Bomer as Blaine’s brother, Cooper, and Whoopi Goldberg as the harsh but likeable NYADA dean, Carmen Tibideaux.
The cast have definitely upped their game, with both their acting and their vocal performances. Lea Michele continues to steal the show as Rachel and Darren Criss is a constant source of sparkly-eyed energy as once-Warbler Blaine, making it almost impossible not to be glued to the screen with a grin when he’s performing his numbers.
It’s not that Season 3 was bad or even disappointing; it was just heavier and lacking in the, dare I say it, Glee that has always prevailed. The finale, Goodbye, has left everything wide open. The Glee club members are spreading their wings, leaving for LA, New York, Georgia, Connecticut. The question is, will they fly or will they fall? And what of those left behind?
Season 4 won’t air in the UK until January, but as ever I’m excited to see what will happen.