Fox’s “Glee” returned this week after a four-month hiatus, shattering its previous viewer numbers. The mid-season break was a risky move for the new show, as audiences might have lost interest during the long gap. However, the suspense created by the break may actually have helped the show, as viewership went up drastically for this latest episode.
The episode, titled “Hell-O,” doesn’t spend much time dwelling on where it left us back in December. Instead, it goes full force ahead with new characters and plot lines. Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) comes back from her suspension after blackmailing Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) in typical Sylvester fashion. We learn that Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) and Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) are dating, but they change their minds multiple times over the course of the episode. The hilariously cocky Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff), star of rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline, provides a welcome new romantic interest for Rachel, who is on the rebound from her brief relationship with Finn. There is no shortage of exciting new characters, with Broadway star Idina Menzel (who bears a striking resemblance to Michele) playing Vocal Adrenaline’s coach, Shelby Corcoran.
Glee club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), who is in the process of divorcing his wife, slowly begins a long-awaited relationship with the adorable Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays). In an unpredictable and out-of-character move, Will hooks up with Shelby before backing off and becoming stressed about how confused he is. Both Shelby and Emma advise him to take some time alone to figure himself out, which may be necessary but would admittedly make for a less exciting show.
While this episode was a strong return, it seemed to be doing too much with the lead characters. It was all about Rachel’s, Finn’s, and Will’s relationships, which had a great deal of unnecessary back-and-forth mind changing. Such an approach may be realistic, but condensing all those changing feelings into one episode was a bit much. It also left little time for the supporting characters, and we didn’t see much of fan favorites Mercedes, Artie, and Kurt, other than the occasional one-liner.
Along with the relationship back-and-forth, which could soon approach soap-opera-level convolution, other parts of this episode also seemed repetitive. Schuester’s “If we don’t get serious, Glee club is over” speech has been heard many times before and gets a bit tiresome. Sue trying to get Rachel to leave glee is also something we’ve seen before. When Sue tries to convince Rachel to go out with Jesse, she complies too easily and with absolutely no suspicion. This is slightly irritating, considering that even love-struck Rachel should know by now that Sue always has an ulterior motive.
Character development has never been a high point for “Glee,” and this episode is no exception. The characters sometimes change briefly but always end up back at square one. This is true with Sue’s manipulation, Finn’s guilelessness, Will’s eternal relationship confusion, Rachel’s ego, and rival coaches’ deceit. Then again, part of the reason the show is so enjoyable is that we learn what to expect from the characters, and major changes would just throw off our comfortable conceptions. Besides, the show does not depend on character development but on infectious musical numbers, dramatic plot lines, and humorous acting. In those regards, this episode excels and continues the pattern of past episodes—it provides a viewing experience that is, quite simply, fun.