The story of the plucky bunch of misfits who somehow manage to win the World Series, blow up the Death Star, or win the glee club regionals are legion. Glee‘s chief villain Sue Sylvester schemed her way onto the judging panel and swore to crush the club. New Directions was going up against the juggernaut of Vocal Adrenaline. Quinn’s water broke. The fates were seemingly bent on the club’s destruction. And we still knew they couldn’t lose; after all, how can there be Glee without a glee club?
But the course of this show rarely runs in expected directions. New Directions didn’t just lose, they were dead last. My confounded expectations had me anxious. Throughout Glee‘s first season, it was drilled into viewers’ heads that a loss at regionals meant the end of the glee club. How would the writers save the club for a second year without a plot twist that M. Night Shyamalan would reject as too gimmicky?
I shouldn’t have worried. They didn’t need to cheat the ending with a twist because they’d cleverly set the viewers up from the first episode. The only reason that the glee club had to win or face extinction was Sue Sylvester. All it took for glee club–and therefore Glee–to get a second year of life was one of Sue’s brief moments of humanity. Thanks to Jane Lynch’s consistently great work as Sue Sylvester and a lovely cameo from Olivia Newton-John as a bratty celebrity judge, Sue’s giving new life to New Directions felt organic instead of like a facile push of the reset button. In the end, all was right both in McKinley High and on my couch.
The episode’s title is “Journey,” but the theme for the finale was love: Will’s love for his glee club, the kids’ love for him, Sue’s reluctant love for all the kids in the school (even the misfits). Quinn’s mom even appeared to tell her daughter how proud she was of her, but it’s a sign of how unwieldy such a large cast can be even in talented hands that when I first saw Mrs. Fabray on the screen, I wondered who that pretty blonde lady was and why she looked so moved by Journey songs. Still, the overall effect of all that love was genuinely touching. Sweet songs like “To Sir, With Love” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” can easily veer into mawkishness, but the cast didn’t let it happen. These aren’t good singers who happen to act well, they’re talented actors who happen to sing well.
We also got two romantic “I love you”s in this episode, Finn’s to Rachel and Will’s to Emma, but only one struck a chord. Will’s been with Terri, Emma, Shelby, and April during the course of the season; at what point did he decide that Emma was The One? Was it before or after he found that she was moving on with her life and dating a nice young man who appreciates her meticulous dental hygiene? Can’t help but cheer for Finn and Rachel, though; they’re adorable together, especially with Jesse out of the picture.
There are two ways to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”: a jubilantly over-the-top performance complete with headbanging and air guitars as in Wayne’s World, and a fairly straightforward cover which will inevitably invite comparisons. Jonathan Groff has an outstanding voice, but because it isn’t Freddie Mercury’s voice, the song fell a little flat and left me wondering why Vocal Adrenaline took the trophy especially after New Directions’ lively Journey medley. The rapid-fire interleaving of Vocal Adrenaline’s version of the song with Beth’s birth was genius, though.
Many female viewers were undoubtedly amused at how quickly it happened. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a long song, but it’s not that long. It also seemed a bit strange that Quinn was back at school on (presumably) the Monday morning following regionals and childbirth. And did we see Rachel at the hospital and at the auditorium talking to Shelby simultaneously?
But that’s just Glee and I’m just nitpicking. Neat timelines and inexorable logic aren’t Glee‘s strong points; if I want those, I can watch some sober-sided drama in which no one sings a line, let alone gives birth in time to a Queen song. As long as the show keeps its heart, its wit, and its plucky misfits front and center, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next season.