After a sophomore season of highs and lows and asking "Are they just high?" I really wanted to like the season finale. I really, really did. Let's just say that it was a fitting end for a tumultuous season.
When New Directions failed to place in the Top 10 at the Big Fancy National Show Choir Jamboree and Hoedown (spoiler alert!), I wasn't surprised. I also wasn't sad, like I was when they lost Regionals at the end of season one. I was actually a little glad. I know I said it last week, but I'll say it again, since both Finn and Mr. Schue busted out the "We've worked so hard" card. No you did not! Seriously this team wrote and choreographed their two numbers the day before the competition and, know what, it looked it! Yes, they looked shoddy and unrehearsed. They didn't deserve a spot in the top 10. Know why? It's because they didn't earn it.
I realized that is the problem with Glee this season in general and this episode specifically. They skip erratically from plot point to plot point expecting our emotions to go with them on the roller coaster. This is show I fell head over heels in love with and that used to routinely make me cry. But it doesn't anymore, because they don't spend enough time developing anything, making sure that actions have consequences, and paying attention to character continuity. They never, ever earn it.
OK, so all the kids arrive in New York, but there's a problem: there's only one chaperon for twelve 16-year-olds in New York! Oh, that's not it. They don't have enough money for another set of brand new costumes! Oh, nope, not that either. OH! They still don't know what the hell they're singing at the competition tomorrow! Yeah, that's quite a problem. Mr. Schuester does what any responsible caretaker of a band of raging hormonal teenagers would do: he leaves them alone in a room to work while he goes gallivanting around the town.
While left to their own devices, here is the song that the team comes up with: "My Cup." Now, it's not the masterpiece that is "My Headband," but as far as shitty songs that start with the word "My" goes, it's pretty damn good. And it's one of the many instances that make us love Brittany this episode.
This song, obviously isn't cutting it, so Quinn knows one of the great universal truths of our time: New York shall abide. It's true. If you need anything anytime of day, it is available in New York City, usually at a price. That includes inspiration, so the kids do what any teens would do if left unsupervised in the city. They go out terrorizing every tourist trap they can find. I'm sure after all this singing and running around, they crashed the Abercrombie store on Fifth Avenue and feasted their eyes on some abs. At least Kurt, Mercedes, and Zizes did.
Here is the group's song about how awesome it is to be in New York. Sadly, it is a mashup (vomit) of Madonna's "New York" and "New York, New York" from the musical On the Town. That is three New Yorks. That is a whole lot of New York. That is both a good thing—because the shots of the gang frolicking around the city are some of the best and most exciting of the series to date—and a bad thing—because there is so much going on in this damn song that your ear can't figure out what is happening from one moment to the next. Still, this was my favorite part of the whole show. PS—Was Santana flirting with a cop? A male cop? Remember when you made her a lesbian, Glee writers? Yeah, we didn't think so.
After a quick jaunt around the city, the kids return to their room (really?) and start writing. Well, the boys are sitting around talking about girls and the girls are having a pillow fight
in their underwear
. Then Rachel gets a text—She's supposed to meet Finn at the Bow Bridge in Central Park, because two kids who have never left Lima, Ohio know exactly what that is and where it is. And Rachel has a bedazzled clam shell phone from like 1998, so she can't even Google Map that shit on her smart phone.
Meanwhile Mr. Schue steps onto the stage at the April Rhodes musical he helped to write and sings "Still Got Tonight." I can't even talk about this Matthew Morrison original for so many reason. First of all, how did he write this thing? With a Trite Lyrics Magnetic Poetry set? Secondly, is this supposed to be Mr. Schue singing a song he wrote for the April Rhodes musical? So it's Mr. Schue singing a Matthew Morrison song that Mr. Schue supposedly wrote? Or is it Mr. Schue doing a Matthew Morrison cover? Or is it Matthew Morrison singing as himself? Who knows!
Anyway, after tearing up a Broadway stage, Will goes back to the hotel and makes out with Cheyenne Jackson and stripped him down to his powder blue briefs. OK, that only happened in my fantasy after I watched the show, but Will and Cheyenne talk about the big competition and Will comes to the conclusion that he loves his kids too much and they make him too happy, so he can't give them up for his big Broadway dreams in New York. Like we didn't see that coming. Then he goes upstairs to the kids and they think he wants to stay in NY because Dustin Ghouslby told them off camera that Will was leaving them to be a big star on the Great White Way. Then he's all, "No, I love you guys too much. I'm not leaving!" and they all hug.
This was the biggest "they didn't earn it" moment of the whole show. None of it. Will didn't earn realizing he loved his kids, the kids didn't earn being upset that Will was leaving, and Will didn't earn their forgiveness for staying, because it all happened so god damned fast in one fell swoop of exposition. The first thing you learn in any writing class is show don't tell. If we were shown how this all went down and how it affected everyone, it might have had some emotional impact. Instead it was just another meaningless complication.
Somewhere amid all this, Finn and Rachel go on a perfect date to Sardis (and meet Patti Lupone, SQUEE!!) and then they amble all the way down to Greenwich Village and the boys of Glee serenade them with "Belle Notte" from Lady and the Tramp. Are they really supposed to be there or are they some sort of mirage? Whatever, a sweet moment.
But Rachel won't kiss Finn. She realizes more than ever that she wants to be in New York and be a big Broadway star and she doesn't see Finn in that future. I think the most interesting dynamic on the whole show is between Quinn, the powerfully beautiful cheerleader who feels destined to a boring life trapped in Lima, and Rachel, the nerdy outcast who knows she's going to make it in the big city, and how they're both attracted to the same man. I wish they would explore this a bit more, or at least make it a bit more interesting than the constant back and forth between Finn and Rachel and Quinn. So, Rachel won't kiss Finn and runs of into the night, because 16-year-old girls who have never been to New York and don't have smart phones know exactly how to get home through the windy streets of downtown New York.
The next morning, when Rachel finally hobbles into their Midtown apartment after wandering all the way down to Battery Park and back trying to figure out which way is uptown, Babygay Kurt meets her and they get all dolled up to go have breakfast at Tiffany's and then break into Wicked. This was so great and so true, because there are totally theater kids who do this sort of shit in New York all the time. Just when you think Glee is all about crazy plots and unrealistic developments, they drop in a shattering truth like this to bring it all home again.
Of course Rachel and BG Kurt duet on "For Good," the closing number of Wicked (which I still haven't seen, but really need to) and this was instantly added into the rotation of videos they play at Musical Monday at Splash. This was the most emotional part of the show for me, these two misfit dreamers talking about how their lives have changed by meeting each other and being in Glee club. This is the kind of moment that the show really earns!
More than anything it teaches Rachel that she needs to put her ambition before her romance, but I think it also sort of convinces her that she can have her career and Finn, but he needs to be OK with her coming to be a big famous Broadway star. That Rachel Barry wants it all, and she's not even 18 yet!
Alright, now it's time for the big competition. Here is the Bristol Central High School Footlights singing Usher's "Yeah." It's good! And they're singing a song everyone knows and dancing in unison. You know, what a show choir does!
After seeing them, Rachel goes to vomit in the bathroom, but she can't because Sunshine Corazon, the star vocalist of Vocal Adrenaline is in there puking. Sunshine hates her group, because they're so mean to her and she just wanted to be in New Directions with all the other losers, but Rachel chased her out by sending her to a crack house. Rachel, finally finds that bit of kindness insider her and tells Sunshine it was because she was so jealous. Way to finally man up, Rachel.
So with Rachel's support Sunshine gets up there and kills it with this original number "As Long as You're There." I figured it was from an obscure Broadway musical I don't know the score to (like Aspects of Love or Brigadoon) so that is high praise indeed.
However, the show has not earned Sunshine Corazon at all! She was on the like the second episode of the season, came back to belt out one song five episodes ago, and now she's taking up a solo spot on the finale and we're supposed to care about her and what happens to her. The only thing that she's good for is to teach Rachel a lesson about herself. The rest of it is just meaningless. We don't care about Sunshine or what happens to her because her character and story have not been developed.
So, the New Directions are about to go on next and Finn is all like, "Yo, Rachel, what exactly is your deal? Why don't you want me back automatically when I dumped you and went back with Quinn and now want you back again. I know you have another boyfriend, but you should totally get with me. That's just what should happen." And Rachel is like, "I love you, but I want to be famous. Get hip to that, and you can have me." Then they sing this song.
It is called "Pretending" and it is a totally fine if completely forgettable love song. Blah, whatever. At the end, Finn is so moved that he kisses Rachel right there in the competition like the overly sexual, PDA-loving band geek that he really is. It as gross and everyone claps awkwardly.
OK, I am officially a fan of "Light Up the World." It's catchy, memorable, and the perfect upbeat song for a show choir to sing. But the show didn't earn this either. No, they make such a big deal that they're writing original music and they need inspiration and blah blah blah, and then we have no idea how they came up with the song. It just fell out of the sky and telepathically taught everyone the choreography in an hour before they went on. I was grousing about the original songs at Regionals, but at least the plot fleshed out where they came from and really earned those tunes. They might as well just have sung another P!nk or Katy Perry song at this point, because having an original song really added nothing to the moment.
As I said above, the crew didn't place and they were all very disappointed—especially Santana, who provided one of the best laugh out loud moments of the episode with her Spanish cussing. But the way everyone else handled defeat was admirable. BG Kurt says that it was the best time of his life, even though they lost, and that, over all, he's had a pretty good year. Then Blaine said he loved him and my roommate let out his high pitched gay wail and pulled his legs into himself and turned into a goddamned sequin all over again. He did this for the first time after their gay kiss and now this. I wonder what's going to happen to him when they finally have sex. He'll probably scream and miraculously turn into a Bob Mackie original that will spontaneously combust.
Then, Sam and Mercedes show up at the coffee shop together and they're holding hands and now we know they're totally a couple. Before you get all OMG, remember that the show has not earned this! Just because you slam the only two characters who don't have a storyline together does not mean we're going to get all excited about it. It happened out of the blue! Why not take a bit to set the damn thing up and really make us root for them?
The best scene of the night belongs to Brittany who tells Santana that she finally feels accepted with the Glee club. She may not be as popular, but at least she knows there are people who have her back and will love her no matter what, and that the drama of breakups and makeups and people threatening to quit every week was just the drama that goes along with being in a family. The show has earned this, this moment of love between the girls and the petty celebration for coming in 12th for the New Directions. So the episode ends on a positive note, with a little bit of uplift in my heart.
Still, I wish it could have been better. Why did the whole episode have to be so damn rushed? We didn't need last week's Sue Sister Dies episode. Why not make the New York finale two parts? Have the kids have a real New York adventure with lots of those gorgeous shots of the city and really earn this finale. Earn them writing their own songs. Earn Rachel and Kurt dreaming of the big city as Finn and Quinn are haunted by their small town. Earn Dustin and Will squaring off and Will disappointing the kids and then winning their trust again. Earn the triumph of Sunshine's return and the sadness of their defeat. As Rachel and Kurt sang, this show has changed us for good, but it's time it learned some of its own lessons and changed itself. Next year, they really need to slow it down and bring back the biting, hilarious, heartfelt show we fell in love with. With the tour and the fame and the iTunes downloads, Glee is certainly cashing in, but we're going to be checking out if they don't get it together and start, yes, earning it.