After “Glee’s” rough summer, and the loss of star Cory Monteith, there’s no way everything they do this year and next won’t be shadowed by the what-ifs. “Glee” is now a completely different show from whatever creator Ryan Murphy intended, for better or for worse. It had to come back sometime, and instead of pulling off the bandage of grief upfront, “Glee” gave themselves a soft landing with a two-part season opener focused on the music of The Fab Four. While “Glee” has dabbled in the Beatles before, the hyper-focus special episode format keeps us feeling familiar, safe and generally upbeat as we transition into the brand new “Glee” world.
We start picking up the loose threads of last season with Rachel’s big Broadway callback. She only gets a few lines in for her “Funny Girl” audition before the director cuts her off and sends her on her way. She lingers and hears them discussing how she’s great but probably too green for the role, transitioning into the opening number of the season, “Yesterday.” It’s the strongest number of the night, vocally and thematically. As a viewer and a fan, we know what heartbreak is coming and this song becomes layered, anthemic for what this season will be beyond the control of the creators. This is “Glee” doing it right.
Santana nabs Rachel a gig at a singing diner, only for her director and lead actor to show up for some lunch. When they tell her that Rachel might very well be a star, but not just yet, she decides to prove her star potential. Performing in a singing diner is maybe counter productive to her point. Nevertheless, her rendition of “A Hard Days Night” with Santana and the rest of her co-workers makes you wish that “Glee” completely jumped ship from Lima and focused the entire show on the goings-on of a Manhattan singing diner and its inhabitants. Thankfully we actually do get more of the diner, with Santana’s new love interest Dani working there as of next week.
We still have Ohio to deal with, for now, and also a theme to declare. Schue makes an excuse for the kids singing two whole weeks of Beatles music in some typically flimsy way, about learning how to be great likes the Beatles so they win more National championships, or something we completely glossed over. Week one focuses on the band’s early work, and we dive into a group performance led mostly by Artie and Kitty to “Drive My Car.” The pair has started flirting, and their chemistry is fine but essentially rushed this whole episode. By the end of the song we meet a new catty cheerleader who tries to Instagram shame Kitty over her new beau, and in turn Kitty asks Artie to keep their love affair on the DL. After a later duet of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” between the two and a confrontation from Tina, Kitty turns completely on a dime and declares her love for Artie loud and proud — at least to the glee club. It’s unfortunate that “Glee” decided to steamroll this entire arc into a single episode, and while they make great duet partners, no one was really asking for Kitty and Artie duets. With Artie already set for college and Kitty already over his social status worries, we can’t figure out what interesting stories are left for either character in Lima.
In news about couples we care about vastly more, Kurt and Blaine are having a picnic date on courtyard steps, home to many of Blaine’s epic performances for Kurt. After convincing Kurt to try again with him for real — and Kurt doesn’t look like he needs much convincing — Blaine attempts to break into one of his trademark grand gesture performances, but Kurt stops him. Kurt has prepared his own number, “Got to Get You Into My Life,” as they leap on a picnic table and lead the marching band around in a flirty push and pull punctuated by a kiss. His love life back on track, Blaine immediately returns to super-speed and restarts his plans to propose to Kurt, asking the glee club and all the rival glee clubs to help via song, the aptly titled “Help.” He decrees, “I want this to be more than an ordinary proposal, I want this to be a cultural statement” and his persuasive, inclusive and upbeat charm offensive wins everyone over to his cause. As a side note, Blaine also decides to help cheer up an ever increasingly bitter Tina by pulling Ryder, Jake and Sam together for a classic Beatles performance of “I Saw Her Standing There” and offering themselves up to her choosing for a prom date (she chooses Sam, the “least gay and least Asian” option).
Tina taken care of, Blaine’s big proposal plan gets underway, with Burt Hummel in on the act trying to surprise Kurt. Of course, Kurt is smarter than everyone and knows what’s coming. He doesn’t know what he’s going to say, and Burt offers that he met Kurt’s mom young, and he’d never wished he’d waited because he didn’t know how little time he’d have with her. But he won’t go as far as to tell Kurt what to do, only to tell him to go listen to what Blaine has to say.
Whatever Kurt was expecting, it wasn’t as elaborate as Blaine propelling Kurt through Dalton as the various choirs join together to sing “All You Need Is Love” until Kurt arrives on the stairwell of their first fateful meeting. Sure, the trope of teenage engagement is overplayed, and sure the social justice bent of “Glee” the show might make us roll our eyes, but those eyes are also filled with tears at Blaine’s proposal speech. Despite Kurt’s valid wariness, there’s no possible way anyone could say no to Blaine Anderson telling them all he wants to do is spend his life loving them. Klaine forever.
There’s also an entire plotline about Sue becoming principal after she planted incriminating evidence on Figgins, and then Figgins becoming a janitor for no discernible reason. The less said, the better. How does Season 5’s premiere stack up? It’s unfortunately bloated plot-wise, and song-wise, but the tunes on the whole are enjoyable if not musically predictable — but then would we really tolerate “Glee” playing fast and loose with the Beatles? We start this season with hope, and new beginnings, and gritty determination in the face of non-believers. While the characters don’t know the punch that’s coming, we do, and it’s nice to see our favorites clinging to their happiness right now. This episode may not be perfect, but I’ll do.