(Spoilers lurk below.)
There are a lot of parallels between “New York” and season one’s finale, “Journey to Regionals.” Finn and Rachel get back together. There’s the looming threat of Will leaving. Quinn, a year after having her child, is facing another personal crisis. And, of course, the kids lost. While there wasn’t as much at stake this time, there was a lot more hope because of how much they’ve grown.
“Journey to Regionals” felt like a finale because it wrapped up season plotlines and gave hope for the future without leaving cliffhangers. “New York,” unfortunately, left a lot of season two’s strongest plot arcs unresolved. Santana and Karofsky are still in the closet. Santana and Brittany have not made complete peace with their feelings for one another. Quinn’s crisis was kinda resolved, but it didn’t feel really dealt with (seriously, a haircut?). Will’s threat of leaving the school was dealt with, but I never felt that as a real threat anyway. The one real plotline resolved well in “New York” was Rachel and Finn’s relationship, something that has almost become the core of Glee. There are many more interesting characters on this show now, and this is the third time we’ve had to buy Finn and Rachel getting together as a satisfying plotline resolution. In season three, set them aside for a while, please. Let them be happy and tell some other stories.
All that said, Rachel and Finn’s plotline was not badly done. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of their “romantic comedy” style New York date, but it went on just long enough for me to enjoy the parody, and then went on its way, so I won’t complain too much. While I don’t buy the idea that Rachel has to “make a choice” between her career and love (she’s in high school, for God’s sake), I can buy the idea that she and Kurt believe it (drama queens, come on), and her scene with Kurt on the empty Wicked stage was amazing. Their very fun performance of “For Good” also made a lovely contrast to season one’s “Defying Gravity” (also from Wicked) in “Wheels,” when they were in bitter competition. What the writers did with the relationship of those two this season was great. Finn and Rachel’s onstage kiss, while corny as hell, was about as satisfying a climax as they could have made for this plotline. The fact that it also may have cost them the competition also gave us the great character moment when Rachel admitted that it was worth it (implying that the choice between fame and love is not as clear-cut to her as she thinks).
Meanwhile, the competition plotline was much weaker, while it should have taken center stage. It didn’t really make any sense that they got all the way to New York before writing their songs. That should have been taken care of weeks before. Will spent a lot of time ignoring the kids to focus on the Broadway thing only to eventually brush it aside without a hint of emotion. The kids themselves spent the majority of the time goofing off. They made it pretty difficult to root for them. Rachel and Finn’s kiss was an easy scapegoat for their loss, but it’s hard to look at the way they acted in New York and think that this was a team of destiny. However, the way that they acted was actually completely believable. They’re kids, they’re excited, and this is their first time in New York. Will was really the one who dropped the ball by leaving them unsupervised for so long (and not getting the songs written), and should really take the brunt of the blame for their loss.
The turning point, when the kids found out that Will was planning on leaving, failed on a couple of levels. First, the truth should have come from Will. Second, his motivation for staying should not have been revenge. I will say, however, that as corny as it was, I loved the group hug.
Sunshine reappears once more in this episode, and I have to wonder if there was a lot more with her this season that ended up cut out for whatever reason. I barely remembered her when she showed up in “A Night of Neglect,” and in her third appearance of the season I still don’t really know who she is or what she’s doing. I also don’t really see the point in Rachel finally facing what she did to Sunshine 21 episodes later, especially since she hasn’t exactly seemed troubled over it. And her way of helping Sunshine was a thumbs up? I’m glad she went to so much effort.
As I said above, Quinn’s having to face reality still didn’t come across as the major reality check she needs. It was nice seeing that moment among the three former cheerleaders, though. Santana and Brittany started out essentially as nothing more than Quinn’s posse before breaking into their own, but the three of them do share a history together and do care about each other. We also got this exchange: “I think I know how to make you feel better.” “I’m flattered, Santana, but I’m really not that into that.” It was funny, and it even showed Santana that she’s getting acceptance for who she is even before officially coming out. However, their solution was to give Quinn a haircut? I’m sure it was a lovely bonding moment for all of them, but Quinn still has problems that scissors can’t solve.
This episode kinda fizzled out for me in the second half, as it became obvious that we weren’t going to get a lot of satisfying resolutions. However, the last act did offer up a few moments of redemption. I liked seeing the rest of the night, after the results being posted, told as a flashback by Kurt to Blaine, especially since it spared us hearing Jesse’s speech (instead giving us Kurt saying that Jesse “went on and on”). We also got to see how little Kurt was upset by the loss, allowing him to contrast himself with the hysterical Santana (who saw this as her last shot as getting back an iota of her popularity). That led into Blaine’s spontaneous “I love you,” which was a lovely way to end the season for Kurt (who really has had “a pretty good year” all things considered).
Seeing Mercedes and Sam together was nice, but I have to wonder why they feel the need to keep it a secret.
Brittany and Santana had a very nice scene together that actually introduced us to the moral of the story. They get to spend one more year together with the people they love. As corny as that is, sometimes that’s the best you can hope for out of life. Brittany’s amazing ability to calm Santana and make her feel better was also nice to see. I wanted to see these two get together this season (instead we got almost everyone else getting together), but meanwhile they’ll still be friends next season.
All the music was good, though none of the pieces had the sheer epicness that you expect from a competition of this magnitude. The Journey medley from “Journey to Regionals” was much better than either of the original songs the club offered up at nationals. I bought into the idea of original songs once, but Glee was built on covers and mash-ups, and I think that they should stick to that. With that in mind, the musical highlight for me was “I Love New York/New York, New York.” I’m willing to forgive the inorganic nature of its inclusion because it was an amazing arrangement with beautiful on-location shooting.
This episode had its moments, but was overall fairly disappointing. I’m glad that Rachel and Finn are together (for the third time), but come on, let’s move on. How about a third season in which they actually don’t break up? There are lots of other stories to be told in Glee. They even started to tell some of them in season two, but didn’t finish. Let’s see the old and tired plotlines of the first two seasons left behind, and new ground broken in season three. Am I confident that that will happen? Not really, but I also thought that season two would be terrible, and it turned out being very strong compared to season one. So what do I know? I’ll be back for season three.