(Spoilers lurk below.)
Last time, I complimented Glee on a funny Friends parody. This week, they’ve apparently taken it a step further and just… become Friends. And the result, as it’s drawn out to an hour and played completely straight, is not nearly as funny or entertaining. As Glee makes its transition to being based entirely in New York, it will be trying to find its new identity and break away from its clear influences. However, it simply hasn’t succeeded at that yet. Everything feels new and different, but not fresh.
It seems like a long time since Rachel and Kurt were out in the big city on their own, and it sure is crowded now. We’ve skipped forward in time a bit, and Sam, Blaine, and Artie are fully integrated into the New York experience, and though Santana is AWOL with Brittany, Mercedes suddenly moves to New York for no good reason. Sam and Blaine play Joey and Chandler (no points for guessing which is which), while Rachel Berry makes like Rachel Green and Artie… well, I guess he’s most like Monica in his attempts to ground Rachel.
Offscreen, Funny Girl has apparently become a reasonably big success, to the point that her producer provides Rachel with a chauffeur and limo (er, town car) on call 24 hours a day. Artie, who has been taking the subway everywhere and is bitter about having been robbed there, angrily accuses Rachel of not being a “real New Yorker” because she’s enjoying her success by going around in a limo (“town car!”) instead of taking public transit. Eventually Rachel gives in, telling her producer she doesn’t want the town car anymore, and joining Artie on his subway commutes as his protection, since he’s scared of muggers.
Artie’s snobbery over what constitutes a “real” New Yorker seems weird at first blush, especially considering this is the guy who, only a short time ago (in universe) was making up stories about how much his mom needed him to try to avoid going to NYC. However, now that he’s jumped in with both feet, it’s actually realistic that he would go a little overboard in embracing his new home. What’s annoying is that he is never called on it. While Rachel did find remarkably quick success in NYC, she spent more time paying dues than Artie did. She lived in that loft and commuted using public transit for months, while working (two jobs at times) and going to school. She has, to some degree, earned her success, and Artie is asking her to let it go because it’s not “authentic,” apparently, to be successful in NYC. Artie, who can’t have been in the city more than a couple of months and who seems to have no job outside of school, is awfully high and mighty and acts like a huge jerk, but is portrayed as being right.
Meanwhile, Sam is struggling with his modeling career, ironically (considering the message of “Movin Out“) because he refuses to change or adapt, just expecting success to fall into his lap while he’s busy being himself playing video games all day. This plotline is intertwined with Kurt and Blaine’s annoyance that Sam is still living with them in the loft, being useless, and Blaine’s attempts to get Sam to move on and out. Sam finally gives in to his agent’s advice and gets a haircut, after which he finally scores a gig. Sam initially moves out at this point and into a dormitory provided by his employer for models. He’s perfectly happy with this until he finds out that his hot blond roommate is on all kinds of drugs, at which point he does the right thing by abandoning her to her fate and moving out again.
Related to this, Kurt feels like Blaine is smothering him, as they’re living together for the first time and have a lot of classes together at NYADA. At least, he suddenly feels that way the very instant that Blaine asks him if he feels that way: they didn’t really lead into that very well at all. It’s realistic, it just feels sudden and underdeveloped, much like a lot of this episode, which attempted unsuccessfully to make up for a significant time skip with a song and expository dialogue.
Blaine has fallen far from the cool, collected kid he was in season two, as he acts like a lunatic here, bursting into Elliot’s apartment to accuse him of going after Kurt. I did like that scene, however, and Elliot’s careful disarming of Blaine was the best character moment he’s had yet.
Anyway, Blaine and Kurt decide that it would be best for their relationship for Blaine to move out, and Blaine and Sam end up rooming with Mercedes in a fancy apartment supplied by her studio.
Speaking of which, Mercedes is in town now, joining Rachel in the club of people who paid dues for a few months and then became successful beyond their wildest dreams. She’s working on songs for her album, and made up a bullshit reason for her studio to send her to NYC to live. This also apparently gives us a chance to pick up on Sam and Mercedes’s relationship, which keeps beginning and ending for very vague reasons. Whoop-de-doo. I suppose that any Friends knockoff needs a good “will they or won’t they” relationship. It’s just that this relationship has existed since the end of season two, and I’ve never cared if they do or don’t. Also, they already did.
You know, they never did explain why Sam and Mercedes were originally keeping their relationship a secret. Sometimes I think that Glee has more unanswered questions than Lost.
This wasn’t a good episode, but it wasn’t without promise. For the first time in a long time, Glee has focus on a single setting and a relatively small cast of characters. “New New York” established a lot of things, and we can only hope they follow through with some fresher writing.
The music was good, but not great. The highlight, by a hair, was opening number “Downtown.” It was great seeing all the NYC characters doing a number together, it established a lot about the new setting and what everyone is doing, and it was a good song choice. It didn’t quite do enough narrative work to justify the time skip, but it was a valiant effort. “You Make Me Feel so Young,” while a good number on its own merits, was an odd choice both because it seemed like a strange genre for Kurt and Blaine, and because it failed to foreshadow Kurt and Blaine’s later plot-dominating problems — it just made their relationship appear idyllic. “Best Day of my Life” was quite good (and I love the location NYC shooting), but it seemed way too easy a way to get Sam moving the right direction. As far as big musical numbers set in Times Square, I prefer Smash‘s “Cheers (Drink to That).” “Rockstar” was fun, but pointless. “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” was… weird. But man, the denizens of the NYC subway system are the friendliest, happiest people ever. “People” was good, but I’m not quite sure that the deadly solemness of the number fit the end of the episode. Also, “People” always reminds me of a bit from The Bob Newhart Show when Bob inadvertently starts reciting the lyrics while trying to give advice to a patient.
Having Lea Michele hang her head out the car window like a dog during “Downtown” was a pretty awkward way of getting that shot.
Mime jokes! … This does not make an argument for the freshness of the show’s writing.
I like how Mercedes pretty much just explains how she wrote herself into the spinoff.
I entirely reviewed an episode entitled “New New York” without making a single Futurama reference. That’s willpower.