Written by Marisa Carpico
Glee Season 6 Premiere – “Loser Like Me” & “Homecoming” Plot Summary:
When her TV show gets cancelled after one episode, Rachel (Lea Michele) returns to Lima to discover that her home isn’t as she remembers. Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) has disbanded the McKinley High glee club. Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) is coaching a rival glee club at another school. Fellow NYADA dropout Blaine (Darren Criss) is separated from Kurt (Chris Colfer) and back at his alma mater coaching the glee club, the Dalton Academy Warblers. Determined to get arts back at McKinley, Rachel follows in Schue’s footsteps, bringing the club and the old gang back and setting herself against Sue in the process.
Let’s get one thing straight: I was not coerced or forced into watching the premiere episodes of Glee’s final season by my lovely editors. I chose this. Not because I hate myself (though I guess we can’t rule it out, considering), but because I had every intention of watching it anyway. My only excuse for this shameful admission is that my desperation for musicals is so strong that it can get me to forgive almost anything. And boy, does being a Glee fan take a lot of forgiveness.
The show is a shadow of its former self, with none of the sharp satire or thrilling energy of those halcyon early days. Still, when last season ended, there was hope. The show had finally abandoned the repetitive high school drama of the Lima glee club, moved to New York City to become a show about young people trying to realize their dreams. The most successful of the group, was Rachel Berry (Michele), who achieved her lifelong dreams of starring on Broadway — only to realize she really wanted to go to Hollywood instead. The show was poised to become an almost too-meta parody of itself. Was this fiction or just creator Ryan Murphy cruelly mining events of Michele’s real life for entertainment fodder? Still, it was exciting new territory to explore and even if it failed, at least we wouldn’t have to watch a bunch of underdogs band together to beat the odds again.
But then that’s exactly what the show gave us. The first hour entitled “Loser Like Me,” was a premiere for a show nobody wanted. It resets the series and puts us right back where we started reminding us that students need the arts (as if we didn’t hear them the first hundred times). Rachel and Blaine go full Schue in the premiere, becoming glee club coaches in order to cling to the last thing that made them feel in control and special. On one hand, their mutual failure to realize their showbiz dreams is a nice note for a show that has always been unrealistically optimistic about what these kids can achieve in a historically difficult business. On the other, what a terrible message — don’t bother growing up and learning from your mistakes, kids, just go back to your comfort zone and recreate your glory days.
When the second episode, “Homecoming” begins, I knew where I stood. Glee –i n its last shot at redemption – isn’t going to become the fierce entertainment business satire it has always quietly been. No, it’s reverting back to its infancy, with a slew of uninteresting new characters and that smug, preachy tone that has always been its worst feature (a tough competition).
And then it surprised me.
Though the second episode would have been much stronger if it and the first were compressed into a single, focused hour, “Homecoming,” was the reboot the show needed. Plot, as “Loser Like Me” shows, has never been Glee’s forte. It just distracts from what really makes the show enjoyable: talented people expressing themselves through music. While the first episode was all about navel-gazing and broken dreams, the second was about getting the gang (back) together.
Unlike the mostly-forgettable round of new kids introduced when the original members graduated, this new crop of New Directioners brought back some of that old magic. Jane (Samantha Ware), Dalton Academy’s first female student, gave a performance of Janelle Monaé’s “Tightrope” that was the show’s first sign of life all night. Sure it was the result of a groan-worthy “teachable” moment about gender equality (Blaine literally warned the boys not to be on the “wrong side of history”), but Glee’s self-righteousness is always so much easier to ignore when there’s good choreography. Roderick (Noah Guthrie), a heavyset kid with a voice like Sam Cooke, was equally engaging. After much prodding (a self-expression/friendship is awesome speech, what else?), he killed with a rendition of “Mustang Sally.” Sure he had more stage presence than the character’s established introversion should have allowed, but with the Unholy Trinity (Santana, Quinn and Brittany) backing him up, it was easier to forget how terrible the show is with character continuity.
Speaking of the girls, what really made the second episode so superior to the first was that it finally brought back the old guard. I wouldn’t dare to diagnose anybody else’s madness, but what has kept me coming back to Glee despite every horrible, repetitive storyline is this group of characters and the actors who play them. Murphy and Co. have never done them right, but the actors have gamely played whatever has been thrown at them, singing through the madness.
Last night’s closing number, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ “Home,” was Glee at its best—just a group of friends enjoying singing together. As always, there are still major problems. Sue’s inexplicable and overplayed vendetta against the glee club is still a thing, the “post-modern” gay football player is about as good a singer as Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, those twins are trying too hard and nobody was asking for Kitty (Becca Tobin) to return, but at least the show can still do this one thing so gloriously right. If history is any indication, Glee will botch its landing, but “Homecoming” suggested that maybe these final episodes won’t be all bad. And even if they are, we’ve only got 11 more episodes before freedom. Almost makes you want to sing with joy doesn’t it?