Glee Season 6 Review “Loser Like Me” & “Homecoming”

Glee Loser Like Me Homecoming 6

You think this is hard? Try being a Glee fan during that hiatus, that was hard!

This is it. The final season of Glee has finally arrived, and in eleven short weeks it’ll be off our television screens for good. Glee is a show that’s meant so much to so many people over the years, whether they’re still part of the small cluster of fans who are excited about returning to McKinley High School one last time or not, and having that come to a close is noteworthy no matter how you look at it.

This two hour premiere, ‘Loser Like Me’ and ‘Homecoming’, then, had everything and nothing to prove at the same time. On the one hand, the people still loyal to this once zeitgeist-defining show will probably see it through until the end no matter what (and they’re already cancelled), but on the other, those fans deserve a good send-off. Anything less would be a betrayal of trust, but viewers have been jerked around before.

There was a fair bit of controversy before season six even began, with entire storylines being leaked ahead of time much to the dismay of a certain corner of the fandom. That kind of anxiety-mongering is destructive before the thing even had a chance to air, which made the overall joy of these episodes even more remarkable.

It may not burn as bright as it used to, but people forget how important Glee really was at its peak, both to television and beyond the screen. The most striking thing about this premiere was how clear it was that the writers themselves hadn’t forgotten – they’re aware of what they were, what they became, and how they want to be now, and it’s utterly, utterly glorious to see such self-awareness from a team previously less than sympathetic to fans’ desires.

Everything from the situations of the old guard and why and how people have returned to Ohio, to Sue’s renewed venom when it comes to the arts and the choice of new kids proves how aware Ryan Murphy et al really are about the state of Glee‘s legacy as they bow out. There are no obvious apologies (aside from one moment with Kitty), and no compromises when it comes to the stories they want to tell, but it’s done with a kindness and assurance that hasn’t always been there.

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We start with Rachel, who’s ill-advised television pilot has crashed and burned, retreating to Lima after making so many mistakes in season five. It’s not comfortable viewing, especially since seasons 1-5 of the show were more or less about having Rachel achieve her dreams outside of her stifling hometown environment, but anyone who’s been an ambitious 20-something coming out of college will understand that feeling of failure that usually accompanies it.

Which is what the first 15-minutes of the episode amount to – what happens when the two people who were most obviously set for stardom are actually the people who fail the most quickly and spectacularly?

Seeing that star fall off Rachel’s stage door may have been heavy-handed symbolism, but for Rachel (and Glee) fans, it was probably the most upsetting moment of the hour. For others, there was the mess that Klaine has become over the break (a year in Glee-time), as Blaine has also had to come home and start over as the coach of the Warblers.

In a lot of ways, Kurt was Blaine’s Funny Girl – that thing he had been striving for his whole life. Once he had it, the romance wasn’t everything either of them had imagined, and seeing them break up over nothing more scandalous than incompatibility and a lack of communication addresses a lot of the problems the couple had left hanging ever since season three’s ‘Dance With Somebody’ (if not before).

Like Rachel as she decides to take over New Directions, Blaine is exactly where we first found him. Seeing the Warblers at Dalton and Blaine in his jacket will never not make me happy, and there were so many little touches that made his triumphant return even sweeter. The choir are all new faces, but there was the Sebastian-era dance moves, the jacket/bow tie shrine in Blaine’s office, and the return of those wonderfully satirical council meetings.

“The Warblers is a house of lies” isn’t quite “This is a kangaroo court,” but the attempt is appreciated.

The breakup was predictably brutal, but thankfully the writers have used the storyline to push both characters forward in welcome ways. The scene itself saw both Kurt and Blaine act completely in character, while subsequent moments pointed out how much each of them has grown, especially Kurt. He’s admitting to being at fault in the relationship, for one, and this may be the first time we’ve ever seen Blaine do anything but completely implode after the world kicks him down. “Was it something I did?” was followed by “I will never forgive you for this,” which is huge for Blaine.

Kurt’s moment of realisation came as soon as he’d reattached to Rachel, as is fitting, and while his return to McKinley is incredibly contrived, as soon as I saw HummelBerry bickering over sheet music (I agree with Kurt – by emotion is how they always should have done it) in the choir room, I didn’t care.

Something else I was impressed with? How they didn’t sugar-coat Kurt’s reaction to Karofsky. That moment in the bathroom was obviously supposed to mirror the moment in ‘Never Been Kissed’ (Blaine’s first appearance) when Kurt cowered in front of his locker during Karofsky’s tirade against him, and so that little touch suggests to me that Glee may actually be doing this for more than shock value.

I’m reserving any further opinion on Blainofsky until we see more, but they looked incredibly awkward at the bonfire.

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One masterstroke of this season may prove to be pitching Blaine and Will as pseudo-antagonists to Rachel and Kurt, as the rival glee clubs always worked better when we liked and/or enjoyed their captains (Jesse St James, Sebastian etc.). Will is always going to be everyone’s least favourite character, and Blaine is Blaine, so that could make the competitions – should we see another one – suddenly interesting again.

Which brings us to the new kids, all of whom feel very promising. Spencer, Jane and Roderick are all great additions for various reasons – Roderick’s voice, Jane’s Warbler-esque attitude – but Spencer’s whole thing stood out to me the most. Never has a bit of meta been so important for Glee to include.

In 2015, how Kurt defined himself in high school can be seen as an outdated relic of olden times, and that’s partially because of the doors Glee kicked open. Using this character to address how people view the show as opposed to something like Modern Family (shots fired) points that out in the best way possible. Even Sue’s new receptionist could be understood as a knowing wink towards Orange is the New Black.

Something that didn’t work quite as well as everything else, but I guess is unavoidable, was the return of the original New Directions to Lima for Homecoming week. A big problem of the last couple of seasons has been Glee‘s inability to let it’s characters ever go off into the sunset even when their stories are done and, though numbers like ‘Take on Me’ and ‘Problem’ were as joyous as expected, it’s just nostalgia for its own sake. Hopefully they don’t sing ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’

But we’re all watching the show for different reasons, and the episodes were careful to give almost every character a little moment to remind us why we love them. Sam – still a legitimate part of the show – was a delight all the way through. From his reaction to Darren Criss turning up in Blaine’s clothes to his one-liners in the choir room and at Will’s awkward dinner, Chord Overstreet refused to be overshadowed despite the little he was given.

All in all, ‘Loser Like Me’ and ‘Homecoming’ were a triumph, everything so meticulously handled that you wonder where this version of the show has been all this time. The jokes were funny, the songs gorgeous and the emotional moments affecting, but even the references were all obscure in-jokes that only the most devoted viewers would conceivably understand.

It’s that last one that gives me so much hope for season six, a big group hug for one of the most intense fandoms to ever exist, and if this two-hour opener is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat. The bigger the challenge, the more the bow bends and the more potential you create to do something amazing, after all.

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