'Glee' Season Premiere: The More Things Change...



The second season of Glee premiered last night, catching up with New Directions after their loss at Regionals.

To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of musical theater and pop culture buffs—Meghan Brown, Patrick Burns, and Kevin Fallon—to provide their takes on how realistic the show feels, how well the romances develop, and of course, how good the musical numbers are.

They weigh in on this week's show, which find the glee kids back as the underdogs of McKinley High and recruiting new members for their club.

Kevin Fallon (writer and producer for The Atlantic's Culture channel): Much has changed since we last saw New Directions. Rachel and Finn are officially a couple. Tina dumped Artie for Mike Chang and his abs. Brittany spent the summer lost in a sewer. An online forum launched begging Mr. Schuester to stop rapping (after that "Empire State of Mind" performance, can we extend the petition to all glee members?).

But some things are the same. The song selections still "sound like they come from a drag queen's iPod." New male vocalists are still recruited in boys' locker room showers. The guest stars are still top notch (Coach Bieste!), while the lipsynching and Auto-Tune are still atrocious. And Glee still knows how to end an episode. From that first "Don't Stop Believing" finale, the closing numbers have absolved the (sometimes many) critiques of the episode before it. Rachel's performance of "What I Did For Love" was the show at its best: expert editing and cinematography, Lea Michele's unreal voice, and a song that perfectly encapsulates the teenage drama it's soundtracking.

If you weren't moved by it...in the words of one Sue Sylvester: "Cat crap in your coffee?"

Meghan Brown (co-founder of the Giraffe Hunt Theater in Los Angeles): If there's one thing to be taken from Glee's brilliant opening sequence on the season premiere, it's this: Glee knows what's up.

It's been reading the message boards. It knows that musical theater purists discount it as a "glorified karaoke club". It knows that when Will Schuester starts rapping, ears across America gush blood. It knows that it's keeping Auto-Tune in business. It knows.

And you know what? It doesn't care.

To paraphrase Kurt: It's easy to whine on the Internet. It's a lot harder to work up the courage to sing about something.

Glee's sophomore season started off strong with a snappy, fast-paced episode focused on reestablishing the status quo. The kids are still Slushied in the hall. Finn's still dumb. Sue's viciousness still steals the show. But some of the sameness has come through deep (OK, maybe not THAT deep) change. Quinn's return to social prominence is accompanied by a new sense of empathy. Rachel's plotting stems from insecurity, not arrogance. There are some subtle shifts nestled between all that banter. (Also, how cute are Tina and Mike Chang?) Glee has come back a little older, a little wiser, and with a season's worth of Internet commentary under its belt. Let the journey to Nationals begin!

Patrick Burns (writer, composer, and star of the original one-man-musical, From Foster Care to Fabulous): Has anybody else been waiting for Charice Pempengco to appear on something? I've been watching her for several years on YouTube and waiting for her golden pipes to make a signature song surprise!!! She has been singing Whitney better than Whitney could for years!

Though Charice's songs were the best surprises, Lea's turn at "What I Did for Love" was the most attached to the show. Not only did she sing her heart out, but the song sang the heart out of what Quinn, Tina and Mike Chang felt as the song underscored their dancing and acting. The whole number illustrated the defeat that each member of the club has been feeling, not to mention the feelings of Will Shuester and that football coach, Ms. Beiste. And for the record, I did think that Ms. Beiste was a man at first, then I loved her because of her feelings and personability.