Knowing that Glee had intended to split its focus between Rachel's adventures in New York and the rest of the characters' lives back at William McKinley High School, I braced myself for what might be a very bizarre, fractured Season 4 premiere. As it turns out, not only was the season premiere not the mess I thought it might be, but things actually get off to a good start for the Fox musical dramedy's fourth season.
Season 3 marked an ending of sorts, as a number of characters graduated from high school, leaving WMHS glee club New Directions without some of its stars. The graduation of Rachel, Finn, Mike, Quinn, Puck, Santana, Kurt and Mercedes did shake things up, but we do see a few of them back in the premiere of Season 4.
Spoiler alert: I will avoid major spoilers in the review below, but there are mentions of some plot and character specifics, so read on with that in mind!
The title of the Season 4 premiere, "The New Rachel," carries a double-meaning, as expected. First, we have Rachel in New York City, attending NYADA and attempting to adjust to her new life, which involves an oversexed roommate and a co-ed bathroom. Whoopi Goldberg returns to cast more judgment, but Rachel's real opposition comes in the form of Cassandra July, Kate Hudson's role. The dance instructor doesn't think much of Rachel, but it becomes evident that there's more to the story there. At the very least, we get an idea of one of the major challenges Rachel is facing in the big city. On the bright side, Rachel does meet fellow student Brody (Dean Geyer), who looks good without his shirt and is quick to point out that he's straight. On a related note: the subject of Finn does come up, so expect an update on that.
Meanwhile, back in Lima, the remaining New Directions students are at a social peak following the club's recent success. And with Rachel gone, there's a spot open for the new unofficial star of the group. Some of the New Directions kids have hopes of being "the new Rachel." And then there are the newcomers hoping for a spot in the club. Auditions are held, and we're introduced to a couple of new faces, including Melissa Benoist's Marley, a beautiful underdog with a secret, and Jacob Artist's Jake, a talented student with an attitude. Speaking of newbies, Sue Sylvester's "new head bitch" is Kitty (Becca Tobin), a cheerleader who has n problem telling people what she's thinking. She's horrible, and I love her.
Expect a number of musical performances on both sides of the story, including one that features Kate Hudson singing and dancing (watch that here, and another that covers a very popular summer hit (that one's here.
Change is very much in the air, and it's an exciting thing for the characters - and the series. As I said, I went into the Season 4 premiere feeling apprehensive and expecting a choppy mess that jumped between two barely-related stories. So, granted, my expectations were on the lower side, but I actually liked the Season 4 premiere. It finds a comfortable rhythm right away, and does well to bring us back into the story, introduce new characters and reconnect with familiar ones as their stories move forward.
With the graduation last season, Glee had an opportunity to reboot itself in some respects, and from "The New Rachel," it seems to be taking full advantage of that, while also continuing the story fans have come to know and love. The episode starts off strong and builds up to a great finish that will hopefully set the stage for a strong fourth season.
Glee Season 4 premieres Thursday, September 13 at 9/8c on Fox.