Talk about going out on a high note! GLEE managed to save the very best for last, wrapping its inaugural season with an extraordinary episode filled with fantastic musical performances, suspense, and a really moving story. Oh, and grace notes in all the right places.
GLEE usually saves the sentimental stuff for the last act, but the finale started tugging at the heartstrings right away. And it also went for the heartbreak, too. While the kids were demoralized about their prospects at Regionals, Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) talked about the importance of living the experience to its fullest, and he said something that really froze me. Looking ahead to the future, Will talked about how the kids will look back on this experience. “It’ll take you a second to remember everybody’s name,” he said. And that’s what got to me. That was the voice of experience talking about the tragedy and pain of nostalgia. Right now, these kids constitute are each others’ world, but someday everything will inevitably become hazy memories. And everyone who has ever dusted off an old yearbook or peered at a grainy scanned photo on Facebook knows how selective (and cruel) memory can be. Indeed, this was their time…
And, thus inspired, the kids went into the competition armed with a Journey medley and dream. In the moments before the performance began, Finn (Cory Monteith) and Rachel (Lea Michele) were charged up and viewers could feel the excitement and anticipation of waiting to take the stage. The fact that he told her he loved her really jump-started the energy. And the rest of the team picked it up and ran with it. The sheer exuberance of performing onstage came through – the joy and passion. The medley rocked, capped with a new version of their signature song, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” that actually took it up a notch or three.
Surely, everyone in the viewing audience expected Quinn (Dianna Agron) to give birth right in the middle of Regionals, and the-powers-that-be did not disappoint; they gave us what we wanted, but not quite the way we expected it. Quinn’s labor was intercut with Vocal Adrenaline performing a powerhouse interpretation of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Jonathan Groff really cut loose as Jesse, in one of his best performances yet.
The peek inside the judges’ chamber was very funny, as guest stars Olivia Newton-John and Josh Groban played hilarious caricatures of themselves as fame-obsessed attention whores who actually managed to make Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) look like a sympathetic human being. Why, Sue was even driven to defend the performing kids from the hectoring of the celebrities! And Sue’s pesky heart also made a return, when it was revealed that she actually secretly voted for New Directions. Oh, Sue…
Of course, the competition ended the only way it could – at least for storytelling purposes. The kids need a goal for next season, don’t they? But the story did not end there. The glee club had to abide by the terms of Will’s wager with Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) and vacate their rehearsal space. Which led to a nice little scene in which Emma (Jayma Mays) absolutely freaked out with rage over the injustice. Her passion inspired Will to express his true feelings for her: “Dentist or no, this isn’t over between us,” he vowed. (We will see Emma’s boyfriend/dentist, played by former GENERAL HOSPITAL heartthrob John Stamos, next season.) Quinn’s rapprochement with her mother (Charlotte Ross) felt a bit rushed, but Rachel’s parting with Shelby (Idina Menzel) felt right for the characters – as did Shelby adopting Quinn and Puck’s (Mark Salling) baby.
Just when all seemed lost, the glee club rallied to boost Mr. Schue’s spirits with a touching version of the ode to teachers, “To Sir, With Love.” It was perhaps the club’s most heartfelt performance ever, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. After Sue gave in to that
non-existent barely-beating heart of hers and allowed the glee club to keep its space, Will repaid the kids with spirited interpretation of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Could there be a more fitting song for this terrific show about pursuing your dreams, no matter where they lead you?