Glee is back for its sixth and final season. And if the two-hour premiere is anything to go by, then it’s going to be a fun ride as we head towards the series finale.

A lot has changed for our favorite characters since we last saw them back in May 2014. Many of them are back in Lima, Ohio, including Rachel and Kurt, who are determined to revive the New Directions glee club at McKinley; the Warblers have a new leader in Blaine; and Will Schuester is now coaching Vocal Adrenaline.

And overall, the premiere delivered quite an improvement over what we last season. Pretty much my only criticism is the whole ‘Karofsky is Blaine’s boyfriend’ thing. I don’t get it. Because it’s so out there and doesn’t make sense, I’m wondering if Blaine is doing this on purpose to get back at Kurt.

But anyway, aside from the storylines, we also saw some fantastic performances. And because this was a two-hour opener, there were a lot of them! It didn’t feel like an overabundance, though; there was a great balance between the plot and the music.

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Let’s delve into each of the 10 performances and see what stood out, if there were any forgettable numbers and if there were any that were just plain bad — starting with the first hour, “Loser Like Me.”

As the episode opened, Rachel’s TV show was cancelled and she had to pack up her things and leave the studio. She’s feeling very dejected at this moment, and of course that means it’s the perfect time to sing a song about how you feel, and she starts in on Alanis Morisette’s “Uninvited” as the sets are being town down and she departs for home. This is the kind of song that fits Lea Michele/Rachel really well; she sounded beautiful on it. And those big notes in the middle were great. This was a great song to start off the premiere, though I will admit that by the end of the two hours, it became more forgettable since there were some other performances that really made their mark even more.

The next performance is a duet between Rachel and Blaine on “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors. Whether you’re familiar with this song and musical or not, there’s no denying the power these two brought to the performance. Blaine’s at the piano to start it off, with Rachel looking a little sad, then she joined in (it was a whole new dynamic once she began). The song builds over the course of the three-plus minutes, and they’re very forceful and powerful during the big notes. Their voices blend really well together.

Blaine being back at Dalton Academy means we’ll be getting more performances by the Warblers. For the opener, we got Ed Sheeran’s “Sing.” And I’m sure I’m not the only one who got flashbacks to their early seasons of Glee and how great those moments were. Part of that magic was in the song selection. I love this song anyway, and then you add the Warblers (and Blaine) and you can’t go wrong with it.

And then with Mr. Schue over at Carmel High, we saw Vocal Adrenaline rehearsing Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away” with Will observing and jamming out — he seemed into it. Me? They’re as precise and crisp as always, but this was the weakest performance of the first hour, possibly of the entire premiere. That’s not a surprise considering we don’t know anybody in the group and they didn’t focus on any one person.

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That leaves us with the final song from “Loser Like Me,” which is Rachel singing “Let It Go” from Frozen — one of the best of the night, for sure.

There are many things to like about this performance. First of all, it’s Lea Michele singing what’s probably the most popular song of the last year. We know she can kill it on a ballad, and she truly shines here. “Let It Go” has gotten stuck in my head so much in recent weeks, but at least it’s a great song. And there were times during this number that I swear I was hearing Idina Menzel sing. That’s very fitting considering Lea’s on-screen mother is played by Menzel. Also, I found myself laughing at Sue’s brief appearance. Let’s watch it again…

Having gone through the first hour now, what stood out? To me, “Let It Go,” “Suddenly Seymour” and “Sing” were at the top, with “Uninvited: in fourth and “Dance the Night Away” last. “Loser Like Me” was very heavy on Rachel and Blaine, which I enjoyed; it felt more intimate before expanding in the second hour with the rest of the alumni and newbies.

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Speaking of which, here are my thoughts on all of the performances from episode two, “Homecoming”:

With most of the alumni back, they banded together to perform A-ha’s “Take On Me” throughout McKinley High to try to recruit members for New Directions. At first, the black and white animation seemed a tad distracting, but as it was going along, I realized how cool this looked, being inspired by the original music video. But it’s not all about the visuals, and when you take the song into consideration as well, I don’t think it stood out on that front (it’s only when you focus on the creativity that it does).

It’s in “Homecoming” that we get to hear the newbies for the first time, in particular Jane and Roderick. I know Dalton is all about being a boys club, but I don’t think I could have rejected Jane from joining after Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” — do they want to win or not? Rachel was super smart to bring her over to New Directions.

Jane worked the room with the Warblers joining in; the choreography was great. Some people liked the last batch of newbies, many didn’t. I liked most of them, but wow — Jane’s talent blows them out of the water. This was such a fun song for her to choose. I can’t wait to see what other songs she takes on this season.

As I start talking about the next performance, I have to say first that “Problem” is one of my favorite songs from 2014 (along with “Bang Bang”). And this Glee version sounded essentially just like the original by Ariana Grande; Artie, Brittany, Quinn and Santana didn’t put their own stamp on it. But because the song is so much fun, I can’t really critique it all that much.

When they were singing out on the football field, it was cool seeing the marching band and cheerleaders getting involved in the performance. And seeing the originals back in cheerleading uniforms out there brings back some nostalgia from the early days of Glee when the focus was exclusively at McKinley.

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Aside from Jane, the other newbie heavily featured in the episode was Roderick. He auditioned for New Directions with Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” with Brittany, Quinn and Santana helping him out as backup singers — I could’ve done without them since this was his audition after all, but having background vocals added a nice touch.

And while I wouldn’t consider the song a standout, his voice definitely is. He’s this introvert and you wouldn’t expect that sound to come out of his mouth. So much soul and depth. I don’t think we’ve ever heard a voice like that on Glee before, so I’m excited for what’s to come.

The final performance of the night was Edward Sharpe’s “Home,” the all-encompassing number that brought together the alumni, New Directions (including twins Mason and Madison) and Spencer Porter, another newbie, into the mix.

I’m not sure if this was the best song choice to close out the episode. It doesn’t make as much of an impact as some of the other songs. It’s an enjoyable, laidback tune, but nothing special. Also, we didn’t hear enough of the twins or Spencer for me to get a sense of how good they are.

Looking back on the two-hour premiere, the first part had better and more memorable songs overall, like “Suddenly Seymour,” “Sing” and “Let It Go.” “Tightrope” was at the top of the list for the second hour, with “Problem” right behind it. (It’s hard to pick the very best performance, but it might just be “Let It Go,” though one or two others are definitely contenders as well.) And to answer the question in the headline, newbies Jane and Roderick are fantastic, but the jury is still out on the others until we hear more from them.

What did you think of the performances from the season 6 premiere? Which ones stood out to you? (Take the poll below to let us know.) Are you going to watch or listen to any of them again? And what did you think of the newbies?

Glee airs Fridays at 9pm on FOX.

(Image and videos courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.