I’d like to preface this article by saying that I love Glee. And I will undoubtedly watch every episode of season four. But it has always annoyed and frustrated me, and season four so far has been no different.
To watch Glee you have to suspend disbelief and just go with the flow. Otherwise you start asking questions that you can never get satisfactory answers for. Why has Sue Sylvester not been fired, despite the fact that she’s assaulted several members of staff and students? How can these students be pitch perfect and in time regardless of the fact that they’ve never sung this song before? Do any of the teachers at McKinley have a normal relationship with their students? How many different combinations of relationships can one group of twelve have? The list is endless. So disbelief and a love of music/musicals needed for one to really enjoy the madness that is Glee. But recently it has certainly required a lot of disbelief. With season four has come a dramatic shift in the show, as the original school kids have graduated. Instead of switching to a completely new cast, the focus has split, between McKinley high school in Ohio, and New York, where several of the graduates live. There are benefits to this change. We get to see the development of the characters we have connected to for the previous three seasons, who have spread out to colleges all across America (although for supposed busy college students they do manage to fly back to Ohio a lot of the time. Its as if they don’t have any lectures, classes or assignments.) We get to see a mixture of old favourites, and new characters. This however, is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. While its nice to see characters that you have connected to, and meet new ones, the problem with this format is the sheer vastness of the cast. To keep screen time anywhere near equal is impossible when trying to make thoughtful and fully developed story lines (though at times Glee does neither of these things well.) It results in several well developed characters, and ones which could be best described as stereotypes, or one dimensional shades.
While Glee can and has done hard hitting and emotionally affecting story lines well, such as the domestic abuse storyline last season and dealt with developing sexual orientation in a multifaceted way, as explored in season two. However, it also manages to create some particularly ridiculous stories as well. Season four is no different in this respect. In six episodes so far there has already been a student running to be the ‘first two term senior class president’, former students turning up to act in a high school musical, and a college dance teacher sleeping with a student to get revenge on another student. And while you can accept these kind of ridiculous story lines up to a point as one of the foibles of the show, there is a point when you have to stop, and when you do, the aforementioned questioning begins.
So far season four has been a little hit and miss. There are some interesting new characters, even if their parallels with older characters are obvious. The parallels between Marley and Rachel, and Kitty and Quinn are clear. And the development of characters like Rachel, Kurt and Finn beyond high school is interesting. But the show seems to have lost some of its sparkle. Its getting harder to suspend disbelief and go with the flow. That being said, I won’t stop watching it any time soon. If only for the musical numbers.