(Spoilers lurk below.)
This is it, the final farewell to the high school half of the show. And a truly good riddance it is, right? Despite the fact that they have done some good things with it in latter days, it’s mostly been a monkey on their back since season four began, struggling as it did with half-baked carbon-copy characters that no one cared about and the far more interesting goings-on with our better-loved friends in New York. We’re well-rid of it, really. And yet… it’s still sad to see it go. Glee was built on this. The thing that fascinated me most about this show, way back in “Pilot” and beyond, was that it allowed for ambiguity in the social status of high school students. Going against the grain, it suggested that maybe you could be captain of the football team and a member of a show choir, that the head cheerleader could be friends with a nobody who just showed her a little kindness, while still fighting to maintain her social status, that, overall, people were complex enough to serve more than one master. And now high school, that handy analogy for life as a whole, is exiting the show. We’re saying goodbye to where we began, and moving into the unknown future. It’s a graduation, in a way: something that the writers do not miss.
Things are changing all over the show. At long last, our fourth/fifth season seniors are graduating. Santana breaks away from her old life, quitting the musical, making up with Rachel, and deciding to run away with Brittany (because Dani was far too underdeveloped a character to make a good girlfriend anyway). And Will faces the end of his career at WMHS, as Sue tells him that he was a “terrible history teacher and a worse Spanish teacher.” On the one had, this is odd because we hadn’t seen any prior evidence that Will was being fired from his regular job, but on the other hand, he probably really did suck at it, so fuck him.
My Podcast co-host, J. (who does not watch Glee but enjoys reading these reviews for some reason), retweeted a comment about this show, which I saw before watching it, that said something along the lines of “A tribute to Will Schuester, history’s greatest monster.” I thought that that was pretty funny, and I started a series of tweets celebrating #SchueFacts, things our hero had done that don’t seem particularly heroic, like suspending a bulimic girl for refusing to wear revealing clothing and belittling his mentally-ill girlfriend’s attempts to get better. As I’ve mentioned on several other occasions, Will is kind of a dick. But I honestly don’t think that that fact demeans the power of the tribute the kids put on for him, or the magical performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” that saw Will finally get a chance to join in. The fact is that Will is a deeply flawed man, but that he has also managed to accomplish amazing things. That Will has built a national powerhouse show choir out of nothing, inspired so many of his students, and did it all fairly and honestly (mostly) despite being, in many ways, a self-centered douchebag, is actually testament to the ability to overcome one’s handicaps. He may not be the saint that he’s sometimes portrayed as, but neither is he literally “history’s greatest monster.” He’s simply a flawed man who has managed to accomplish a lot despite his shortcomings.
In the end, Sue tells Will that she got him an interview to be the coach of Vocal Adrenaline, the New Directions’ former arch-nemesis that has apparently fallen on hard times ever since Shelby left them. As Sue points out, it would give him the chance to head a real program with support and a budget, and one could see him thrive there. He may have been a bad Spanish and history teacher, but when it comes to music, he often does amazing things.
It was good to see Rachel being the one to extend the olive branch to Santana as, despite Santana’s recent foray back into evilness, Rachel was originally the one in the wrong in their feud. Her offer of 10 shows to Santana was a remarkable peace offering, and a good sign that Rachel has finally remembered how to share the spotlight, something that she has been learning over and over again since way back in the third episode of season one (“Acafellas”). That Santana refuses it, and, in fact, quits the show entirely and runs away with Brittany is… weird. Santana’s arc since she dropped out of college in season four has been one of trying to find herself, and, since she went back to serious dancing in “Lights Out,” she has seemed pretty satisfied with the goal of becoming a star on Broadway. It would be one thing if she had finally discovered her passion, but she seems as directionless as ever. Again, I won’t say I didn’t like it… Brittany and Santana are probably Glee‘s most entertaining couple, and they have a lot of competition. But the storyline didn’t seem that well thought out.
Tina’s plotline, in which she agonizes over whether or not to go to New York without a plan up until the decision is made for her when she finds out she got into Brown, was pretty much a waste except for the spot-on Friends parody. Didn’t I make that joke already? I do wish they’d gotten the rights to the actual theme song. That would have sold it so much better. But it was still pretty funny.
But anyway, Tina has finally been written off the show. I’d miss her, except she never did anything.
Holly and April’s ridiculous plan to save the glee club by integrating with some unrelated club was just dumb, and not all that funny either. They could have at least made it look like they were trying to make some kind of real connection with these other clubs. What exactly did the song “Party all the Time” have to do with animal husbandry? It also sure exited reality quickly, what with the imaginary dance club. Anyway, their plans fail miserably, and Will has to tell Holly that he’s ready to let the glee club die. Lesson learned: give up.
Enough with the plot, since it wasn’t really the point. Let’s talk about the music. As with every other episode to feature the number, first there’s Don’t Stop Believin’,” and then there’s everything else. This is the third time that Glee has reprised this iconic number, and the second time in two seasons, but would you believe that this is the first time that Will has actually participated? That added a new wrinkle to the emotionality, as Will took part in the number that originally pulled him into the glee club. As he says goodbye to the club and goodbye to one important phase of his career, there’s still a lot of hope. This is still essentially an optimistic show. The way this number was directed and choreographed was brilliant. Starting with Rachel, the star and the one who began in “Pilot,” moving on to Kurt, honoring but not mimicking Finn’s performance, allowing the rest of the original five to come in, turning then to the rest of the crew from season one, then the season two crew and newbies walking in… and then Will takes it. The performance is full of visual references to the original number, other performances of it, and even a few other numbers. It’s an amazing tribute to the end of an era, and by far the highlight of the episode. I don’t think, by a longshot, that this is the last we’ve seen of this number. I continue to believe that it will be present at the end of the series, just as it was here at the end of the series’s childhood.
“I am Changing” was a decent number, and a nice reminder that Mercedes and Kurt were, like, best friends way back in season one, but I don’t think that it had the emotion that Rachel seemed to imbue it with. Party all the Time” was disappointing: generic and devoid of context. “Loser Like Me,” the only other reprise in the episode, was so good it almost made me feel an emotion for Tina. And hey, since it’s an original song, Glee finally can’t be accused of stealing the slower, sadder arrangement… right? “Be Okay” was nice, and a decent way to mend fences between Santana and Rachel. “Just Give Me a Reason” was 100% worth it if only because it allowed Quinn to sing the lyric “I let you see the parts of me that weren’t all that pretty,” because damn… she’s been through hell, and it’s nice to see that she’s okay now. Seeing as how she has a propensity to backslide, hopefully Puck can keep an eye on her.
This was a good episode, and I look forward to seeing what they can accomplish with this part of the show excised.
So much for the newbies, I guess.
Blaine got into NYADA. We never saw his audition, nor saw him agonizing or even talking about waiting for a response to his application. Drama, that’s how it works.
I just want to reiterate how fantastic that Friends parody was. Check it out here starting about 3:20.
According to Brittany, lilies are the “lesbian of flowers.”
Quinn and Puck establish in this episode that they never actually officially dated before. Well, that answers the biggest question I had regarding the Glee relationship master list that I attempted to maintain once… You can try to find that if you want. I’m not linking to it, since I stopped updating it in season two.
What is the portmanteau couple name for Quinn and Puck anyway? Quuck?
The nicest thing said about Will during the tribute, by Sue: “No matter how talentless, misshapen, ugly, miserable, or sexually ambiguous you are, he will still love you unconditionally.”
Close second: “Sand dollar.”