Forget the new Rachel, this is the new Glee - more grown up, more sophisticated, but still knows how to have fun.
With its season four premiere, Glee went back to somewhere close to its best, piling in a raft of stuff and giving us a lot to think about, but never crossing that line into too much or just plain ridiculous.
Season three of Glee was really hit and miss (more of the latter than the former), with just a few stand out episodes and then a lot of crap that made fans want to tear their hair out and never watch again. I know the only reason I stayed watching were out of loyalty, and having seen the first episode of season four, The New Rachel, I'm glad I did.
My reservations about the Rachel in New York/everyone else in Ohio split were allayed somewhat. There was a good balance between the two worlds, and with Kurt now finally in New York, that balance will hopefully continue throughout the series.
It seemed like Rachel's story of growing up and moving on influenced all of Glee - the writers realised the show needed to grow up a bit too.
And of course growing up doesn't happen overnight, so the New Directions in Ohio still had to show us their childish side. But they, after an initial show of immaturity, showed strength and wisdom, yet it was all done in a realistic teenage way. Sure, there will be difficult times ahead and more fights over solos, but for now the glee clubbers have realised what's important to them - each other.
But what the battle to be the new Rachel showed was that actually everyone possesses Rachel's qualities, that they all have that same star quality she does, it just manifests itself in different ways.
While New Directions were fighting over who got to be the new Rachel, Rachel was trying to figure out who the new Rachel was. Still talented, but now a small fish in a very big pond. I thought she was miles less irritating than she was in season three, and perhaps taking her away from the other characters and putting her in an unfamiliar world means we get to see the real Rachel, and not just a carefully constructed star.
That real Rachel was trying to break through all episode, but she finally got through in a tear-filled phone call with Kurt, confessing her insecurities and fears. It's the first time I think we've seen the real Rachel, and I liked it.
Talking of Kurt, oh darling, I'm so glad you're in New York. Making the best of things has always been Kurt's strength, but he couldn't fool those closest to him. In a very sweet scene (the most adorable of the episode) Blaine told Kurt he needed to go to New York, that staying in Ohio was hurting him, And he topped it all off by singing to Kurt in the school courtyard. That's Kurt and Blaine's thing - Blaine sings to Kurt in the courtyard and the two come to a realisation that's good for everyone. Especially cute was the way the couple slightly mocked the tradition, with rolled eyes and sly smiles.
While Blaine was cheering up Kurt, he was also competing with the New Directions. He was rightfully named the new Rachel - he has the qualities needed in
leadership and that charm to lead everyone through. And he's just so, so
Marley is a good addition to New Directions, and once everyone got over their egos, they really all pulled together as a group. I loved the scene where Marley and Unique (woo) were "welcomed" to New Directions with slushees - they may be winners but they're still the same old New Directions, and that's really not a bad thing. I'd rather be in glee club surrounded by friends who'll clean me up after I've had a face full of red ice than a cheerleader with hair tied back so tight I've got a permanent headache and have to take it out on others.
In addition, Marley and her mum's relationship was cute, and could be this season's Kurt and Burt (although the latter can never be replaced). The two taught the glee club a lesson, but it wasn't done in a heavy-handed manner. And talking of Marlie and relationships, I can't wait to see what happens between her and Jake.
The introduction of new characters was done well. I got enough of a glimpse of Jake, Marley and Brody to want more, but I felt like the old characters weren't sacrificed for the shiny new ones. And hello Wade/Unique, I'm glad you've come to New Directions.
This episode wasn't crammed with musical numbers, which worked really well. I felt the plot took priority over the music, which is how it should be. Yes, Glee is a musical show, but the music should always enhance and never overshadow. That's exactly what it did this week.
Call Me Maybe showed the glee clubbers at their most playful and competitive.
Americano/Dance Again told us more about Cassandra July's character than she could have done in a 40 minute monologue - talented, gorgeous, but so, so lost and lonely and ever so slightly bitter.
Blaine's rendition of It's Time was a song about letting go, telling Kurt exactly what he needed to hear and showing us how much these two kids understand each other.
Never Say Never showed us just how smooth Jake's voice was, and just how smooth he can be, while the aftermath of his number showed us he's most definitely related to Puck.
New York State of Mind showed us both Rachel and Marley finding themselves in their voices even when everything surrounding them is unfamiliar.
And Chasing Pavements was a perfect New Directions song to bring everyone together, because they should never give up, they should just keep chasing pavements.
Glee is about acceptance and love, and I liked that this episode went back to the roots of the show to reiterate that. New Directions has always tried to stay true to itself, and even when Artie and Sugar and Brittany were making fun of Marley's mum, underneath and not buried too far down, you could see that there was that feeling of being different, but of knowing there was one place in the world you belong. And that came to the fore when the group came together at the end.
Look, let's face it, the thing we're all going to miss most now that Kurt's in New York? No, it's not the interactions between him and Blaine. It's the interactions between Kurt and his father. These two have, from the first moment we saw them on screen together, been the heart of this show. Whenever they are on screen together everything else has to stop. Their relationship is beautiful and compelling to watch, and you don't know you're missing it until you see it again. Watching Burt break down in the car as Kurt turned to get on a plane brought tears springing to my eyes. Thank you Glee for giving us something so wonderful to watch, and please let Kurt go home for every holiday so I can watch him and Burt together.