Warning, there are spoilers here for the opening episode of Glee's fourth season, The New Rachel. I won't be doing this every week but the premiere called for it.
So, last time we saw the show, half the cast graduated and while the majority of them were not in the episode (yay to no Finn, meh on no Puck, Mike or Quinn and boo to no Santana), the only two graduates to appear in this episode were Rachel (making sense as the episode's named after her) and Kurt. Of course, I'll focus on Rachel first. Her storyline can be summed up with meeting a cute guy, pining for Finn, being shocked by Carmen (Whoopi Goldberg) callously cutting a girl from NYADA after a bad performance of Ave Maria while getting the unfortunate moniker of Schwimmer and incurring the wrath of her alcoholic dance teacher, Cassandra July (which sounds like a porn name). I'm not the greatest fans of Kate Hudson but she's pretty solid as Cassandra and her performance of the mashup of Americano/Dance Again worked a treat. Chances are though, the longer she survives on the show, the more chances are Rachel will win her around but right now, the latter needs to toughen up a little bit. Besides, Rachel at least had two people in her corner in this episode and neither of them were Finn.
Elsewhere Kurt seemed to be stuck in a bit of a rut, serving caffeinated drinks to bitchy cheerleaders and awaiting community college before Burt gave him one hell of an encouraging speech and sent him on his way to New York. Boy, I really do love those scenes with Kurt and his father and the end scene of this episode is one of my favourites ever. This of course, was also after Blaine serenaded him a lovely version of It's Time too. I liked that Blaine had a bit more bite as a character in this episode and Darren Criss gave one of his better musical performances in this one too. It's also nice to see that while Kurt and Blaine were happy together, we also got a bit of an update on Brittany and Santana but there are some stormy times ahead within the next few weeks with these two couples and two others, so I guess we should enjoy it while it lasts.
As for the Gleeks themselves, it's interesting that for a moment that New Directions was suddenly popular but I wasn't too fond on seeing the new found popularity go to the gang's heads though. Blaine, Tina, Brittany and Unique fighting to be the new Rachel was tiresome and by the way, it's obvious that Marley (Melissa Benoist) is going to be fulfilling that role and not Blaine, even if he did get the 'award' from Artie. Of course, the downside of being popular means that it doesn't last and the gang quickly became unpopular again, due to apologising for ridiculing Marley's mother but if I never hear Call Me Maybe again, I'll be pleased.
Last but not least - the new folk. Well, I liked them actually. All of them. Brody (Dean Geyer) does seem to be little more than totty but it's nice to see someone else interested in Rachel romantically and there's a decent chemistry with them while Kitty (Becca Tobin) did come across as a carbon copy of Quinn, even down to the ponytail. However, if Murphy and company can keep her a bitch, she might be the better for it. I quite liked Jake (Jacob Artist) and his version of Never Say Never trumped the Marley/Rachel take on New York State Of Mind in my opinion but I really don't want him to be another Puck, though I did like his scenes with Will. As for Rory, wasn't bothered by his absence, Unique was okay but I can only take the character in small doses, Sue's baby Robin is cute, Sugar and Joe were just there and Marley, I really like her. Yes, she's like Rachel but she doesn't have the ruthless streak, she's enjoyable and her backstory while a little too similar to Sam's still worked for me. Overall, the balance between Ohio and New York worked well and if the show can retain this throughout the fourth season, then it will be a good thing. Also, ending the episode with Chasing Pavements - works for me.
Glee Season 4 airs Thursdays at 9pm on FOX and will air on Sky1 from January 2013.