Glee Season 4 Episode 9 Review “Swan Song”

This week’s Glee, ‘Swan Song’, could mark the biggest turning point in the season, if not the show, as New Directions’ season is over before it really begun. Marley’s fainting spell means that they have been disqualified and the Warblers are heading to Regionals sans their biggest competition. After finally winning Nationals last year, it seems the new guys really aren’t up to the same standard, and it’s certainly a bit of a downer.

But it’s also a show of sheer audacity on the show’s part, and might be the best decision the writers ever made. We’re now completely free of the constant, looming, competition episodes (which were, let’s face it, becoming repetitive) and our ever-expanding cast are free to just enjoy the music. It takes them a while to get there, of course, as Finn does his best petulant, pouty face until Rachel gives him a much-needed pep talk after winning her own accolade. All of New Directions take up new identities, but their hearts will apparently always stay gleeful.

This makes sense with characters like Tina, Artie, Brittany and Sam, since they have been through thick and thin with each other, have won a trophy, and have based their entire high school experience around singing and dancing, but people like Kitty? Why would they return? In any case, instead of blaming Marley for their loss at Sectionals, doesn’t the real culprit deserve to be punished? Aside from a call-out from Santana in the manic opening moments, there’s not a hint of comeuppance for the evilest of the new Cheerios. The final song (‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’) just reminded me how much these new characters are still strangers to me and to each other, no matter how similar they look and sound to the old gang.

I want to applaud Glee for its daring, and for just about sidestepping the college-curse that afflicts so many successful teen dramas, but a show of two halves really isn’t working as well as we’d hoped. The action in New York takes away from the new students, mainly because I’d rather be watching the graduates in their various settings, and time spent at McKinley smells like we’re just treading old ground. The characters are like morphed, half-baked versions of the people we’re already invested in, and there’s just not enough time each week to develop them any further. I miss the periphery characters we haven’t seen much of, and I’d much rather spend time with them than this new crew.

Complaint over, let’s talk about Rachel and Kurt’s storyline. As the latter expositions at the beginning of the episode, Carmen hands out a few golden tickets to her winter showcase each year, and receiving one pretty much guarantees you future success in the business. Of course, Rachel is handed one such ticket, and decides to rely on her voice as her main strength. This episode marks a welcome return of the old Rachel Berry; the girl who wouldn’t take no for an answer and the girl who holds an unwavering belief in her own talent. This is the Rachel we fell in love with, the girl who was such a uniquely unlikeable figure on television, and it’s glorious to have her back after weeks of the insecure eager-to-please version.

She sings two songs and is, as Carmen attests, “superb”. She even wins the competition, cementing the return of her self-confidence. We missed out on the triumphant competition ballad last week, but here it is anyway, as Rachel sings Barbra Streisand’s ‘Being Good isn’t Good Enough’ in a big, bold statement of intent. Similarly, we might also be seeing the flamboyant, un-heartbroken Kurt Hummel return to the show, as a surprise audition at the showcase (‘Being Alive’) gets him a place at NYADA. What does this mean for his internship at Vogue? Hopefully it means it’s gone for good, but somehow I doubt it. Rachel and Kurt together at NYADA sounds wonderful, and I can’t wait to see their dynamic change up again.

But what do we think of the new romances? Sam and Brittany have been inevitable since the first couple of episodes this season, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. Wouldn’t it have been nicer to have her reconcile with Artie, a genuinely sweet romance that has now been unceremoniously forgotten about? His cereal-based wooing technique was undoubtedly sweet, and I love both characters, but she’ll always belong with Santana in my eyes (and the eyes of the lesbian blogging community). There was also some smooching between Rachel and Brody, and, as someone not completely enamored with Finchel, this is a pairing I can get behind.

What did you think of the episode? Will the lack of competitions, and a chilly new rehearsal space, change the show? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter @carolinepreece