I was worried about the season finale of Glee after last week’s penultimate episode bombed. Although to be fair, saying an episode of Glee bombed is like saying “This cupcake sucks”. I’m still going to eat the whole thing and lick the icing off my fingers, y’know? Glee has become so immensely popular that people (like me, at times) pick apart each episode, instead of just enjoying it for what it is. And no one can agree on what makes a good episode. That said, I thought the season finale was the perfect way to end the first season of this crazy, lovable show. Let’s get into it.
The show opened with Mr. Schuester proudly posting a sign about New Directions performing at Regionals. Sue swooped in and gave him her good news (and his bad news) – she was going to be a judge at Regionals! Finally, Sue was getting her chance to crush the glee club like an empty beer can. Sue was a celebrity judge along with Josh Grobin, Olivia Newton-John and some other dude. “Face it,” she told Will. “I’m legend. It’s happened.”
One of my favorite early moments was a flashback to, oh, I’d say about nine months ago with Puck and Quinn. Quinn’s character has gone through quite the redemption over the course of the first season, and the flashback helped to put that even more in perspective. She was making out with Puck on a bed, but had reservations. After all, she was president of the celibacy club (she took a vow!) and Finn was their best friend. Puck acted like a jerk, because back then he was one. “Do you think either one of us is going to give a damn about Finn in three years?” he asked her. When she said “I can’t do this” he replied “Yes you can. Have another wine cooler.” And, when she asked about protection he said “I got it, trust me.”
Then we came back to the present day, with a very pregnant Quinn at the glummest pizza party in history. With Sue Sylvester as a celebrity judge, the New Directions kids knew they were toast. They had to place or win at Regionals for Figgins to keep glee club alive, and Sue would make sure that didn’t happen.
Will turned to Emma for advice, who we hadn’t seen since that epic “You’re a slut, Will!” rant and slap several episodes ago. I’ve missed Emma. She dresses adorably, makes Will more likable and individual polishes her grapes before eating them. She reminded Will about how he’d almost quit teaching to go be an accountant, but didn’t because glee club had made him so happy. And then she told him she was dating her dentist. (And it’s going to be John Stamos! Cannot. Wait.) Will was crushed, even though he’s barely made an effort to be with Emma since his divorce, and fled to his beat-up car where he turned on “Don’t Stop Believin'” and sobbed. Did anyone else find that kind of annoying? Man up, Schuester! You’re not on The Bachelor! There’s no crying in glee club! At least not by the instructor, anyway.
But the breakdown gave Schue and idea: they’d do Journey medley for Regionals. I would have loved this idea more if there had been more than one performance at Regionals. I mean, didn’t they have two or three performances at Sectionals? And then all they get is one measly song at the way-more-important Regionals? What gives, Show Choir Governing Board?
Meanwhile, Finn had been doing some inspiring of his own. He wasn’t ready to see New Directions give up and confronted Rachel in the hallway. “You’re a leader, Rachel! The way you’re on everyone all the time is annoying, but it’s also what keeps us going!” There’s one way to Rachel Berry’s heart, and it’s flattery. Bam! She kissed him.
Schue gave the kids one last uplifting speech for the season and told them that life was just a beginning, an end and a whole lot of middle – so they’d be doing a Journey medley.
The kids went to Regionals, and by the way looked amazing in their cute gold outfits and 60s hair. Though, the fab outfits might have made more sense if they were singing a medley of 60s tunes. First up was Aural Intensity, who must have known about the celebrity judges in advance because they did a Josh Grobin and Olivia Newton-John mash-up. I’d love to know how they managed to combine “You Raise Me Up” and “Let’s Get Physical”. Schue told the kids to forget what everyone else was doing and just focus on themselves – how could they lose with Finn’s dancing? I love that the show owns the fact that Finn’s not a good dancer, instead of it just being something viewers notice about Cory Monteith.
I was worried that I wouldn’t like the Journey medley that New Directions did because I really only know “Don’t Stop Believin'”, but it was fantastic. They knocked it out of the park. Opening with “Faithfully” performed just by Rachel and Finn was beautiful, and reminded me of the early days when just those two sang. Then the whole group sang a mash-up of “Any Way You Want It” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin” which was super fun. Puck got a solo – and I love Puck. Quinn’s mom was in the audience. The red piano. And they finished with an even more epic, even more amazing version of “Don’t Stop Believin'”. Seriously guys, how good was that? It still opened with Rachel and Finn, but there were more solos and the energy was higher.
The kids were ecstatic after their performance and knew they’d killed it. Then the emotional part of the show kicked in – Quinn’s mom came backstage and apologized for missing all of her other glee performances. She told her she’d left Quinn’s father. “Kicked him out, actually. He was having an affair with some tattooed freak.” Was Quinn’s dad Jesse James? Quinn didn’t respond at first – if I were her I wouldn’t have accepted such a weak apology – but she was silent because her water had just broken.
The performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” intercut with Quinn going through labor was brilliant, weird, exciting and painful. “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been my favorite song since I was a kid, and I was a little bitter that Vocal Adrenaline got to sing it instead of New Directions. And it was a fantastic performance, it really was. The whole production with the costumes and the dancing was outstanding. And it was supposed to show that despite all of the New Directions kids’ hard work, Vocal Adrenaline was still technically better. While I liked the harsh realism of the message, I had one teensy problem – I didn’t really like Vocal Adrenaline’s version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. In fact, I’m not sure I like Vocal Adrenaline. Because once again, we only heard Jesse St. James sing. Jonathan Groff is a great actor and singer, but the idea that one kid in the whole glee club carries every single song bugs me. Can any of those other people even sing? I didn’t dig the one-man show that Vocal Adrenaline put on.
Everything with Quinn was brilliant. Dianna Agron acted the hell out of that scene. Every touch, from the way she said “Wait! I want Mercedes to come with me too”, to the way she screamed “Puck! You suck! You suck! You suck!”, to the way the song lyrics occasionally met what she was screaming, was pure genius. And at the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, little Beth was born.
Rachel went to congratulate Shelby and make one last-ditch effort to keep her mother in her life. She wanted Shelby to leave Vocal Adrenaline and come co-direct New Directions at McKinley High. Shelby, of course, turned her down. She didn’t want to coach show choir anymore. She wanted a house, a garden, a dog and a family. I hope this episode wasn’t the last we’ll see of Idina Menzel on Glee, because I really enjoyed her. I didn’t always love Shelby, but she played her well.
The scene where Quinn and Puck stood in front of their baby daughter was beautiful. Puck told Quinn that the baby looked at her and asked if she wanted to keep her. Quinn said no. I’m glad that Glee didn’t have Quinn backtrack and keep the baby in the end. It would have felt too easy. When Shelby came by to visit, I was worried it would result in a speech about how terrible she felt about missing out on raising Rachel and that Quinn and Puck would end up raising the baby. And you know that wouldn’t have gone well. Instead, they wrapped up the story in a slightly cheesy, but totally heartwarming way: Shelby adopted baby Beth. I don’t think Quinn and Puck knew, because it happened after they’d left. But it was perfect.
Although I loved loved loved everything about the Regionals performances and Quinn having the baby, the scene in the judges’ deliberation room and the subsequent results were the best part of the show. It turned out that Sue Sylvester was not New Directions’ biggest problem on the judges’ panel – it was everyone else. The first problem was that no one really cared who won. It’s funny to watch people speak so carelessly about something you so care about (Glee, obvs.). The judge who’s name I can never remember was more interested in reminiscing about partying with Freddie Mercury back in the 70s. Josh Grobin liked New Directions’ heart, but was more interested in flirting with Sue Sylvester. Olivia Newton-John was annoyed that only one group chose to cover her music, and bashed New Directions saying “Talk about blatant tokenism. That whole ragtag bunch of misfits thing is so 2009.” Worse, she said Vocal Adrenaline had better production value and asked of McKinley High “Are they a poor person’s school?”
If we’ve learned one thing about Sue Sylvester this year, we’ve learned that she actually does have a heart. All the little moments – they scenes between her and her sister, the reactions of the cheerleaders when she almost bailed on the championship – were all, in a way, leading up to this. Sue Sylvester stood up for New Directions. “Not all kids are afforded the same things as others,” she said. Then the judges turned on Sue, telling her she wasn’t a real celebrity and they didn’t even know why she was there. “Some people just simply don’t have talent,” Newton-John told her. ”You have a lot in common with those kids. Underachievers with delusions of grandeur.”
As painful as it was to watch the idiotic Aural Intensity nab second place in Regionals, and the machine-like Vocal Adrenaline take the title, it felt real. Nice guys don’t always finish first. New Directions was definitely better than Aural Intensity, but Aural Intensity got points for brown-nosing. I’d argue that New Directions showed more talent than Vocal Adrenaline, but Vocal Adrenaline’s polish and visual artistry won out. It wasn’t fair, but it was something that would happen.
I also loved Emma really giving it to Figgins in his office over shutting down the glee club. He’d already given the choir room to the Mock UN! Will was so inspired by her passion that he kissed her, right there in the hallway (can you imagine being a high school student and seeing that!?) and declared that dentist or no dentist, they weren’t finished. I know some viewers really hate on Will Schuester, and he definitely has his unlikable moments – like inappropriately almost-asking Emma if she’d slept with the dentist yet, and declaring that their romance wasn’t over despite the fact that he’d treated her like crap and she was now dating someone else – but I like him and Emma together so much that I’m willing to overlook all that.
Rachel interrupted the kiss to bring Mr. Schue to the auditorium, where all the glee kids had gathered. For me, this was the most emotional part of the show. “To Sir With Love” was the perfect song choice and brought tears to my eyes. Everyone told Schue what kind of people they’d been before they joined the glee club. Tina stuttered. Puck threw people into dumpsters. Santana and Brittany hated everyone. Kurt didn’t know who he was. Mike (“Other Asian”) was afraid to dance anywhere but in his room. I wished they’d given Matt something other than “I was just another football player” for his one line though. Had he ever spoken on the show before? I wanted something more shocking, like, “Before glee club, I was white”. Finn said he’d never had a father, someone to look up to and show him how to be a man. (Unfortunately for Finn, I don’t think Schue has been much of a role model, what with the terrible marriage and the way he treated Emma). The performance was simple, elegant and touching. And I loved seeing Sue up in the shadows of the auditorium with tears in her eyes.
As Schue was packing up the choir room, Sue came in. “It’s as barren as me in here, Will.” What I loved about the scene was that Sue’s character didn’t completely change. She was still mean. She still doesn’t like Will or his hair. She convinced Figgins to give them another year because she cares about kids, but she played it like she was more excited about having another year to berate Will Schuester. I loved that she told Will she “voted exactly how I felt in my heart about which team should win,” in a tone that suggested she put New Directions last when she really placed them first. She allowed for one tender moment and told Will “You’re a good teacher, Will. I admire you, and the work you’re doing with your kids,” and then was back to being the Sue Sylvester we know and love. She refused a handshake from Will because “I’ve seen the car you drive. I don’t want to catch poor,” and told him “I relish the thought of another full year of constantly besting you.” And you know what? I relish the thought of another year too.
I kind of liked the idea of closing out the finale with “To Sir With Love”, but I still really enjoyed Schuester’s performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for the kids. The ukulele could have been cheesy, but since that’s how the song actually goes I accepted it. I also loved that Puck accompanied him. As all the glee kids rested their heads on each other’s shoulders, held hands (and pinkies) and exchanged meaningful glances, I was reminded that this is what the show was always about. To quote Oliva Newton-John, it’s about a “ragtag bunch of misfits”. It’s about a bunch of kids who didn’t fit in finding a place where they do fit in. The characters have always been great, even when the story lines weren’t. And that’s why I love Glee.
Other great Sue Sylvester moments from “Journey”:
- “Your hair looks like a briar patch. I keep expecting racist animated Disney characters to pop up and sing about livin’ on the Bayou.”
- “Kiss my ass, Josh Groban! I’m an internationally-ranked cheerleading coach!”
- “But what kind of a world would that be, Will? A world where I couldn’t constantly ridicule your hair? A world where I couldn’t make fun of you for tearing up more than Michael Landon in a sweeps week episode of Little House on the Prairie?”
- Sue Sylvester’s memoir will be titled “I’m a Winner and You’re Fat”.
- Will: “Inside, you’re a really good person. I appreciate what you’re doing for these kids. I won’t forget it.” Sue: “I’m seriously gonna puke in your mouth.”
- “I spend large segments of each day picturing you choking on food, and I recently contacted an exotic animal dealer because I had a very satisfying dream that I once shoved your face into one of those pink-inflamed monkey butts.