GLEE is back! Season Five of the TV's biggest and best musical series to date kicked off in a big, big way - with a big, big show that would have made Ed Sullivan blush. Ladies and gentlemen... The Beatles!
"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away," go the epochal opening lines of the iconic Beatles anthem "Yesterday". Instantly evoking the tragic events of Summer 2013 and the passing of Glee headliner Cory Monteith, Lea Michele brought an intensity, sophistication and gravitas to her performance of the recognizable radio staple in a rare and vitalizing manner - vividly evoking the tragedy of her own life and imbuing her musical moment with the pain of her grief. Is that manipulative? The answer to that is up to you. Was it effective? The answer is clear to see and hear in Michele's superlative performance. A moment to remember, unquestionably. Plus, for the Broadway babies among us gleeks - of whom there are many - the entire sequence was shot in and around the theatre district in the heart of Broadway, highlighted by gorgeous photography of the St. James Theatre and the street outside it - outfitted with a faux FUNNY GIRL revival poster, to boot. Plus, a plucky Patti LuPone shout-out (albeit inaccurate; LuPone was never a waitress, according to record).
After all, who wouldn't want to work in a diner offering dishes named "Roxie" and "Billy Flynn"? And, anyway, that's just the beginning! Michele was also afforded a spirited upbeat song set in the eatery, amply offering us a jovial and welcome reminder of the convivial and enjoyable energy exhibited by the relationship between Rachel (Michele) and Santana (Naya Rivera) to counter the more heartbreaking aspects of events in real-life that are passed but which loom on the Horizon on the series. It was a "A Hard Day's Night" that goes down oh-so-smooth, supplied with some sexy red leather boots, too - totally lovable in the illuminating light of day, natch. What a pair!
Within the first fifteen minutes of the premiere episode of GLEE's fifth season, Brad Falchuk and Bradley Buecker managed to pack in not one but three major musical numbers - all paying tribute to this week and next week's central song subject, the one and only Liverpool-born band, the Beatles - with Michele's solo "Yesterday", a carnival-set cast rendition of "Drive My Car" led by Artie (Kevin McHale) and Kitty (Becca Tobin) as well as a McKinley High-set duet featuring Klaine themselves; Kurt (Chris Colfer), back from the Big Apple for a spell, and Blaine (Darren Criss), forgiven for his inexplicable d'alliance. A spirited, school marching band-accented "Got To Get You Into My Life", ended with a passionate kiss.
Without a doubt, within the first quarter-hour the creators of the show managed to introduce all the major elements that will most assuredly drive the next several episodes, if not the entire season itself and did so in a seamless manner - Rachel (Lea Michele)'s FUNNY GIRL audition acting as the main New York City storyline component, complete with her newfound position as a waitress in a theme diner alongside fan favorite and new NYC transplant Santana (and eagerly awaited upcoming recurring guest star Demi Lovato as Dani, an eventual love interest for the sassy spitfire who shows up next week) in addition to the many McKinley plot points. First things first, though, Glee gave us what we've been waiting for with an elegant and moving musical sequence segueing into a fun frolic back at the Ohio start of it all - including an emphatic speech by Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) laying the groundwork for what is to come in these first two Beatles-spiked shows and why. What a heady and hallucinogenic high it was! Between Rachel's perfect purple FUNNY GIRL audition ensemble, Kurt's camouflage-prominent couture and Blaine's yellow-and-white post-Labor Day fashion statement, this was a Glee to treasure for the fashionistas among gleeks, especially, as well. The pop culture behemoth becomes more pop art than ever!
As for the other returning regulars, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) made her grand return despite her seeming disappearance at the end of last season, bringing order - well, chaos, actually - back to McKinley high in her acerbic, acrid and always endlessly entertaining way. While the antics of prior seasons may be difficult to top, Lynch appears game as always, seeming a tad enlivened perhaps by her recent Broadway stint in James Lapine's revival of ANNIE. How will she best her unforgettable performances last year with Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" as well as ANNIE's own remarkable Charles Strouse/Martin Charnin classic "Little Girls", which had its world premiere last year on this very site, incidentally? "America, your prayers are answered," and then some: meet Principal Sylvester.
"Love, Love, Love" was the title of the episode, and, thus, so went the majority of the plot-lines, with romance as the common denominator - along with the Fab Four, of course. "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" gave new quirky couple Artie and Kitty another song with which to shine, whimsically depicting their cute, if complex, courtship. As for the marriage proposal storyline introduced in the final moments of the S4 finale by Blaine to Kurt, the stakes have been raised now that Blaine has informed the New Directions of his intentions - with a particularly supportive Sam (Chord Overstreet) posing a potential spoiler for the big proposition being planned by Blaine. "Help" illustrated and invigorated this significant story moment with spunk and verve, giving variety to the visuals as well as integrating the various McKinley thematic and dramatic threads together with some new elements in a striking style. What wrath will the Warblers reap for their "tarnished reputation," though? Well, as the return of Sebastian Smythe (Grant Gustin) showed, anything is possible - that is, as filming on Gustin's recent casting on superhero series Arrow allows. In stark contrast, Kurt and Burt (Mike O'Malley)'s conversation acted as a sobering introduction to the stirring finale song centered on Blaine's proposal - and the emotional ensuing acceptance of it.
"Jesus- and love-forsaken choir room," that it is, was and always will be - at least according to the expert assertion by reliably b*tchy Kitty - the New Directions, new and old, pulled out a Beatles homage worthy of Regionals with last night's multi-faceted and fast-moving return entree. Heck, it was worthy of Nationals - or, at the very minimum, Las Vegas. Also, notably, "I Saw Her Standing There" got full Ed Sullivan-era treatment - Blaine, Sam, Ryder (Blake Jenner) and Jake (Jacob Artist) in mop-top, black-and-white glory, full throttle, while "All You Need Is Love" ended the episode on an expertly heaven-sent pop music hallelujah. Truly, that brilliant final added coda of "He Loves You" said - and sang - it all.
"My soul knew something that my body and mind didn't know yet," said Blaine to Kurt, and so goes the feeling of being back to school again with GLEE. While "All You Need Is Love" may say "it's easy," Glee makes it look way too simple to give us more than we expected and set the wheels in motion for a spectacular Season Five.
Oh, yeah: Kurt said "Yes!"