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July 09, 2013 at 08:00 PM EDT

Here at EW, we’re starting a new weekly series in which we — and readers — weigh in on ways to rehab much-maligned characters on some of our favorite shows.

Even Glee’s biggest fans would likely agree that season 4 of the show was fairly up and down: For every stellar moment — like the breakup episode or Rachel’s beautiful callback audition — there were parts that were painfully unrealistic or, even worse, boring. And many of the moments that made us groan came back to McKinley’s new mean girl: Kitty Wilde. But Kitty’s not going anywhere anytime soon (the actress, Becca Tobin, along with the actors who portray Marley, Jake, Ryder, and Unique were all recently promoted to series regulars for the new season).

At the risk of being the girl clinging to the past like the lady who’s still hoping Drake will return to Degrassi, let me preface this by saying I understand the show clearly isn’t going to refocus solely on “The Olds,” however much many viewers were hoping for an all-NYC show. We’re going to keep getting McKinley High stories, so my intention here is to think under what circumstances those plotlines — that for me personally were the weakest spot in Glee’s fourth season — can get better and more entertaining in season 5 (not to mention an already-confirmed season 6). While all the new characters have some moments that could be improved, an intervention is most necessary for Kitty, a.k.a. “A young Quinn Fabray.”

Kitty was clearly brought in to be the new sassy, popular cheerleader when she joined the show at the beginning of this season, but right now, the role is too cartoonish-ly overblown. As viewers, there has to be something that we can either relate to or (barring that) at least understand about a character’s motivation. For most of season 4, Kitty didn’t have that background; she was just a pile of racist, hateful remarks with a side of teen girl jealousy. It got a bit better when she confessed to Ryder she was molested a few years back (Side note: Boom! The show went there!), but that storyline was instantly dropped. Tobin is clearly talented — just check out her performance with Jake during  “Everybody Talks” — but her character needs some work for more viewers to be engaged with her on the next season of the musical dramedy. Here’s how to make the girl who once declared, “I am like a bad Carrie Underwood song once I get going” more compelling … and maybe even downright likable (or, at least, like-to-hate-able).

1.) Keep things ended with Puck (and Jake and Ryder). Kitty should be boyfriend-free for a little while. Her ridiculous relationships (both of the Puckerman brothers?!) weren’t ever believable, and her barely legal, out-of-nowhere relationship with Puck rubbed many viewers the wrong way. Toward the end of the season, the show looked to be positioning her to be with Ryder eventually. That sounds fine in the distant future, but for now it would just send her back into the same mean-girl triangle she’s stuck in with Marley … and that’s getting old fast.

Instead, Kitty’s character could be a great way into a storyline on assault and consent — one of the only “After School Special” topics the show hasn’t covered. While Glee has no problem devoting an episode to a school shooting (an issue that fortunately comparatively few viewers have personally experienced) they’ve stayed away from exploring a dicey, buzzy issue that has plenty of real-world implications and, unfortunately, is quite relatable.

2.) Give her a concrete after-high school goal. To keep it interesting, it would be great if said dream wasn’t performance-based (viewers already have Marley the Songwriter). As mentioned earlier, fans know she was molested when she was younger. I wouldn’t mind her teaming up with Emma and looking to maybe becoming a counselor of some kind. If that’s too heavy, just pick something. She’s a cheerleader right now — perhaps she’ll want to open up some kind of fitness center in the future. Anything that gives her something else to talk about/be excited for would be an improvement.

3.) Tone down the mean/attitude. Props to the show’s writers: They have already started doing this. I’d have no problem if she was a great evil character, but right now her High School Mean Girl act is too over the top — she needs to be more Sharpay Evans-esque: The antagonist that is still basically good. If the whole point of glee club — as has been repeated over and over again — is that it’s an accepting place, let Kitty grow out of her bullying phase; suggestions 1 or 2 above should help with that. She doesn’t need to become BFFs with Marley, and she can still be a one-liner machine (necessary now that Brittany won’t be a regular), but leave acts like attempting to give Marley an eating disorder behind.

Your turn.

Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.
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