Why I Really Dig The New Newbies On Glee

Photo: Instagram/billythefnkid
Credit: Instagram/billythefnkid

So I was going to originally do a post about why in hell I’m still watching Glee. It was going to be full of criticism and me being angry a lot. Actually all of my fangirl rage was going to be directed into that piece.

I was going to do that.

And I decided not to.

Mainly because it’s the show’s last season and I’m a bit tired of being critical all the damn time of it. Sometimes, and this is shocking I know, you reach a point where you don’t want to analyze every single frame and talk about what is so wrong. Let me tell you, six seasons in and I feel pretty spent about it.

So I’m going to talk about the unsung heroes of the season: New Directions 3.0 (or so I have dubbed them).

Like them or hate them, we can all admit that the newbies in season four probably weren’t the most developed characters in the whole damn world. Marley was a nicer version of Rachel. Jake was Puck. Ryder was Finn mixed with a hint of Sam. Unique is Mercedes with a hint of Kurt for flavor. Kitty remains the love child of Santana and Quinn.

Now, let’s be fair, all the characters started off as stereotypes and grew into the roles. And the actors aren’t bad at all, it’s just hard coming in with fan favorites graduating and trying to balance growing up with those left behind. It’s hard going to square one again.

Now saying this as someone who liked the season four newbies, but outside of Unique and Kitty, no one really was given an opportunity to break from these stereotypes. Unique and Kitty grew over time and became more settled as their own characters. The other actors tried, but the plots and the overcrowding didn’t really let the characters grow. There was a definite Generation Xerox kind of vibe going down.

So when I heard that the show was moving a) back to Lima and b) be about New Directions coming back, I can admit to cringing a little bit. Mainly because I knew how poorly the second round of New Directions were received and because well new characters in the last thirteen episodes really guys?

But they’ve been in a few episodes, and while the more established characters have been given a greater spotlight, I find that I really dig the New Directions 3.0. I kind of wished that they were introduced earlier.

They don’t really feel like anyone I’ve seen before on the show. And that’s a breath of fresh air because while I can trace the roots to previous new members of New Directions, I can’t for the new batch. There’s only one Roderick. There’s only one Jane. There’s only one Spencer. And there’s only one matched set of Madison and Mason. Sure Kitty makes her return, but it’s a welcome one. She brings back some pathos of having witnessed this club breaking up and now having to get it back together. She wasn’t the nicest character in the beginning, but eventually she softened and Becca Tobin brought forth some genuine niceness to Kitty. (Plus snaps for calling Artie out on being such an asshole to her.)

And they’re the kind of unsung heroes of the season because the story is about them, but not really. They have come in a shortened season of show that’s ratings aren’t the best. But they bring with them a bright and optimistic energy and uniqueness. You know who the character is after a few minutes.

Roderick is the shy, overweight kid who has been bullied his whole life because of it. He’s awkward and lonely and in a new place with no one. Noah Guthrie does a lot of great little choices and line delivery. I love that immediately after his robust performance of “Mustang Sally,” Roderick immediately puts his headphones back on. It’s such a great little move and I love how uncomfortable he is when confronted with the crazed drama of the old members of New Directions.

Also I agree with my colleague, Noah needs a soul album out like immediately. Because daaaamn can that boy sing!

Correction, Noah HAS an album out.

Jane is the overachiever, a fighter, and smart enough to know when to fight. She gets into Dalton because of pride in her family’s legacy, yet she refuses to be forced on anyone. More importantly, Jane takes agency in her own story. When she realizes that the Warblers are never going to accept her, she doesn’t let Blaine save her. Jane figures out a solution to where she is wanted and makes the move there. Samantha Ware plays her as dorkily enthusiastic, someone aware of the show choir world, and polite to a fault. But then there’s this brassy and bold voice inside of her. She will make you hear her. “Tightrope” is my favorite solo of this season because her voice is luscious.

Madison and Mason are a revolutionary concept for this show. First, they are twins. Second, Mason is an established male Cheerio (rather then a half ass tacked on plot for one of the guys). Third, they are cheereleaders who are, and stay with me here folks, ACTUALLY CHEERFUL! I love that! None of the Cheerios are cheerful. I was in a weird position in high school where I was good friends with half of the cheerleading squad because they were on the honor roll and so was I. But see, all my cheerleading friends were genuinely cheerful people. So when all we get is a slew of kinda bitchy cheerleaders on Glee, I longed to see one that reminded me of my friends during those years. Now I have two. Granted my friends weren’t like creepily cheerful, but I like that Madison and Mason are positive and happy. I like that they weren’t sent there to spy on the glee club or destroy them, but because they like singing. I also dig the hell out Billy Lewis Jr and Laura Dreyfuss, who do have a very sibling chemistry. They have these great little mannerisms like Madison correcting Mason’s body language in “Jagged Little Tapestry” or speaking together in stereo.

Spencer is an openly gay asshole jock, but he’s not openly cruel. Sure he’s jerk, but he doesn’t do anything mean – he doesn’t join glee club because he thinks it’s kind of lame. However, he doesn’t go out of his way to torture the members. Yeah Spencer brings his concerns about Coach Beiste to Sue because he knows that Sam is more likely to let him try being quarterback, but he doesn’t want Coach Beiste to lose his job over this. Spencer just wants what he feels like is a fair shot to prove himself. Also Spencer out and out refuses to be Sue’s spy in the glee club and to destroy it. Like I said, he thinks it’s kind of lame and though he’s inevitably ended up joining, he’ll still have that inner jerk tempered by a decent heart. And that’s not a bad thing. Marshall Williams is great playing Spencer. I like his confident swagger and certainty in his identity as a gay guy. I also like that he’s kind of asshole without being like a major over the top one.

So while I’m glad that Glee is ending because it is time for the show to end. I’m also a little bit sad that we only get these characters for a short time. All of the actors work well off of each other and they’re talented performers. I suppose that ultimately we’ll see them in future projects. Hopefully maybe see them together again?

To the new cast members, my hat is off to you. You are the unsung heroes of this season.

Bec Heim