Where do you go when everything works out? What happens to the hero and his damsel after that glorious last kiss? These are the questions that Executive Producer Ryan Murphy and the creative team behind Glee were faced with when their first season went to break after New Directions won sectionals and coach Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) finally got the girl. It is a task that they’ve hit head-on in the energetic and blissfully self-aware opening episode to the second half of their first season.
First things first, why am I reviewing Glee? For one, it is one of the few shows on television that has reached a level of cultural cache. It is, for better or worse, at the top of the upper echelon of primetime television. And there’s a reason for that. It’s fucking smart. As I found out in my inaugural For Science article, there is more to Glee than singing and dancing, there is a hot-bed of sexual politics, epic good vs. evil showdowns and dialogue so razor-sharp that it would burn, if the show wasn’t so delightful.
In “Hell-O,” technically the fourteenth episode of season one despite being more like the hour-long opener of season two, we return to McKinley high with the glee club, where all of those tightly-wrapped story lines from the first half of the season are again falling apart. Finn (Cory Monteith) is depressed, Rachel (Lea Michele) is still crazy, Will Schuester is trying to find his feet as he openly courts the adorable guidance counselor (Jayma Mays), and Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is back in rare form. It’s business as usual as they prepare to make a run at regionals, where they will face their toughest challenge yet.
Out of this first frame of the next era of Glee comes yet again the music and the infectious energy. The task for the kids is to come up with a new way for New Directions to say “Hello,” leaving them with several musical interludes that range from Neil Diamond’s “Hello Again” to the All-American Rejects’ “Gives You Hell” (how hip). Once again the songs are upbeat and the musical numbers are elaborate, but also tuned to fit in this space.
But it isn’t the songs that are most noticeable this time out, it’s the wit. A wit that is driven by Jane Lynch, still at the top of her game, and a self-awareness that sets Glee apart from just about every other show out there. The evil Cheerio twins Brittany (Heather Morris) and Santana (Naya Rivera) get some of the best of the dialogue (including my favorite moment of this episode — “Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?”) and Sue Sylvester works he magic with devious intent. Lynch is like a knife that cuts right through all of the cancer-curing optimism and smiles so big they would make The Joker cringe. Once again, we’re reminded that Glee is the happiest show on television in the same moment that we’re reminded that it’s incredibly layered.
For showrunner Ryan Murphy, the next phase of Glee has begun with a bang. He’s broken down the storylines that so neatly fit together when the show left off in the fall. He’s given his world several new and interesting characters — including the dastardly duo of teacher (Idina Menzel) and star (Jonathan Groff) from the new rival school — and he’s reminded us why the current characters were so interesting to begin with. If he and his team keep this up, the situation will only get worse. More people will discover the glowing absurdity and toe-tapping infection of Glee, and the audience will grow. And who would want a thing like that to occur?
As an added bonus, please take the time to watch Sue Sylvester’s rendition of Madonna’s “Vogue” video below. That crawling feeling up the base of your spine as you watch is intended, I believe.