The “Glee” Season Finale: Illuminate Your Own Banality
by Halle Kiefer
I’m just going to go ahead and tell you up front that I wept during last night’s season finale of “Glee.” Images appeared on my television screen, my eye perceived them and certain parts of my brain were stimulated, thus causing my tear ducts to activate, OKAY? So, if you need to read a well-thought out and mature critique by someone who didn’t cry like a dumb stupid baby at multiple points during this show last night, well, this is not a thing for you to read.
I really liked the finale! Which is not to say that it was some paragon of excellence; it was just very effective, given largely to the fact that like many humans, I cannot see other people cry without starting to cry myself. And DAMN, was there a lot of crying last night. Good lord! There was crying like 10 minutes in, then on and off until the very end. 48 minutes of shiny tired eyes leaking onto puffy lips and sallow cheeks. And that was just in my living room (L)!
Just as the Mayans predicted 2012, we the audience used the sun and the moon and common sense and logic to foresee that beautiful disaster Sue Sylvester would be one of the celebrity guest judges for the glee club’s Regional competition, at which the club needs to at least place to keep their funding. Which presents the question: can Wardrobe please just order color-coordinated tear-away capes for Sue to throw over her shoulder while cackling for next season? At this point she has all but tied Principal Figgins to the railroad track.
The gleebians are appropriately bummed by this news, as they have all picked up on the subtle hints hidden in the past 21 episodes that Sue is the gangly iceberg to their RMS Fab-tanic. I appreciated the cute little scene showing us exactly how Quinn and Puck ended up parents-to-be. How many teenage girls grown adult women are at this moment fantasizing about being wrapped in Puck’s arms, sipping on a wine cooler as he whispers in their ear, “You aren’t fat”? I’ll tell you: at least one.
Fast forward 8 months and Quinn is as big as Mercedes’ house (seriously, could we not had one second of Mama-cedes, or, praise be to our Lady Diva, even a Grama-cedes?). Schue throws a pizza party for the kids to nominate picks for Regionals, but they all just stare blankly at the quickly concealed pies. There is nothing sadder than an unenthusiastic pizza party. Not one thing. Tina talks about how her only friends were her parents, but now thanks to Glee she is banging Artie like 24/7 (I’m extrapolating here); Mercedes points out that her ex Puck and Santana will pretty much pretend she doesn’t exist if the club disbands (“She has a point,” Puck agrees thoughtfully). Distracted by her long-lost biological mother and the whereabouts of her dads, last seen 9 months ago traveling west, Rachel wants to go around and have everyone say what they liked about glee club, and then I’m like WAAAAAAAAAAH! The kids pretty much IMMEDIATELY throw in the towel, and Schue is close behind. Finding out that Emma is dating her dentist (while asking her if they have had sex yet, which, hello, GROSS and INAPPROPRIATE!) (Also, no, of course not! She has to get a new ascot from a fresh hermetically-sealed pouch every morning; do you really think she can go past second-base without going all Small Wonder and have smoke start billowing out of her ears?) and just generally lifting his head up and looking around and realizing his life is in complete shambles after the end of the school year, Schue drives home defeated, only to have to pull his POS car over to the side of the road across from the waste treatment center or where have you because he is sobbing so hard, and I had to loudly announce to no one that I must have gotten something in my eye and my contacts were bothering me and did someone have a cat in here earlier?
Luckily Schue is inspired by Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” playing on the radio and, after a terrifically underplayed smooch, Finn and Rachel are back together and on board to do a Journey medley at Regionals. I’m honestly not sure how show choir works, but maybe they should have been working on this routine for longer than 4 days? Is that crazy? Seriously, did someone have a cat in here earlier? They must have, because all this water is streaming out of my ocular cavities AND IT CAN’T POSSIBLY HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS SHOW.
Wisely we cut to competition, where we learn our four celebrity judges are singer Josh Groban; diva Olivia Newton-John; anchor, ass-clown and former object of Sue’s desire Rod Remington; and of course author of the upcoming best-seller “I’m a Winner and You’re Fat,” Ms. Sue Sylvester! New Directions is soon called to the stage, by an announcer who carefully, specifically pronounces the team name as “Nude. Erections.” So, is the joke at this point that the name is so clearly a dirty pun that no one needs to directly address it? Because if so, loooooooool.
So the stage fills with Nude Erections, who belt out “Faithfully,” a medley of “Any Way You Want It” and “Touchin’, Lovin’, Squeezin”-and of course, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” This whole number is excellent, as Journey is a Tremendously Great American Band. What is Steve Perry up to? Let’s get him on Glee; he almost certainly needs the money! Besides the intrinsic goodness of the songs, we get to see the entirety of the performance, which is so perfectly cheesy and choreographed and Bump-Its your mom bought you at the mall spot-on. As soon as they leave the stage, Quinn OF COURSE goes into labor. O women, you can’t take them anywhere without their water breaking! Babies be crownin’! Quinn’s mom shows up as her daughter’s amniotic fluid is hitting the floor, apparently realizing that she actually does love Quinn and doesn’t want to be a horrible sack of waste after seeing that her daughter can perform a superior jazz square.
The glee kids all run to the hospital with Quinn, except for Rachel who stays behind to see Vocal Adrenaline perform “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with white baby grand and spats. I personally didn’t care for the parallel drawn between Quinn pushing out a baby and Jesse pushing out high B flat AT ALL. “Bohemian” is an incredibly long song and after awhile it was like, okay, we get it: “mama,” “sometimes wished I’d never been born at all,” etc. O, BUT QUINN’S LITTLE BABY’S FATTY FAT CHEEKS! That little widget could not have been more adorable. Gentlemen, start your Kleenex!
Meanwhile, back where my heart is, who knew Olivia Newton-John was the demon bitch of my dreams? She really turns out to be Sue of the Midwest Regional Show Choir Championship! We are through the looking glass, people. And I hate to be like, o, I don’t know really know who Josh Groban is because I don’t listen to radio music, but in complete honesty, I do not know who Josh Groban is. I’m looking up his songs right now, and it is not clearing things up for me.
He is hot though! He also has his priorities straight when it comes to Sue: “I have two questions. One, are you single? Two, how about those Nude Erections?” Sue busts into the voting room (“Right this way to the voting room, Mr. Groban! You won’t be needing any pants in there!”) declaring “Newton-John, you are dead to me.” Sue is filled with sinew and vinegar, ready to crush Will Schuester’s dream like the destroyer of worlds that she is, only to have Olivia, Josh Groban and Rod (by the way, Freddie Mercury is ROLLING in his grave at the suggestion that he would sleep with that guy. Seriously. Ew!) gang up on her and her small-town Ohio school, all of them deemed “underachievers with delusions of grandeur”. Yipes! The truth hurts, especially when you are an insane megalomaniac working as a high school cheerleading coach. “Kiss my ass, Josh Groban,” Sue rages ON MY NEW RING TONE, but it seems that in this episode, like in real life, famous people’s decisions count more than ours, and Vocal Adreneline takes Regionals.
I would just like to say, when this episode started I was about 9,000% sure that 1) Quinn and Puck would keep the baby and 2) New Directions would win the competition. And neither of those things happened! Well played, writers! The only downside is that lady creep and Vocal Adrenaline coach Shelby gets to adopt cutie baby Beth! I mean, you know she only swooped into the hospital to grab that baby in her talons after her other daughter Rachel told her Quinn was giving birth. When Rachel suggests the two coaches combined to lead New Directions as a means to get close to bio-mom, Shelby says, “I can’t do this anymore.” DO WHAT ANYMORE? Nothing? You can’t do any more of that? But that’s your forte! She was like, “Uh huh, Uh huh, what now about a baby? CAW CAW! *swoop!*”
Super-bowed and uber-broken, our glee kids slink home after placing a dismal third, and prepare to just lay down and DIE now that glee club is over. Klassi Bratz doll Emma isn’t taking this lying down, however, and as she lets the redhead in her OUT, Will grabs her and tells her he loves her. And I felt nothing, below the neck or above. Because we haven’t seen them together in a Glee-ennium! The kids gather up bundle of damp sticks Schue and serenade him with a lovely rendition of “To Sir, with Love,” tears streaming down all of their faces into their brave little smiles. As a precautionary measure I put my goggles on, so my shirt wouldn’t get bleached from the salt in my tears. Then I just put cut a hole in a tarp to put over my head when the goggles filled up and tears started squirt out the side all over the place.
Which is exactly what happened when Sue’s monster heart grows 3 sizes and she courteously blackmailed Principal Figgins to not shut the glee club down. LOL! Like, you guys, THE DRAMATIC TENSION OF THE SHOW, IT RESTS ALMOST ENTIRELY ON SUE’S UNLIMITED BLACKMAILING ABILITY. “Do you know how this sexual blackmail works?” Sue inquires as Figgs In A Blanket warns her that he’s not going to take any more of her monkeyshines. Ah yes, the sexual blackmail. Wouldn’t be a “Glee” finale without a call back to a simulated date-rape! No, it would be some other show’s finale entirely! Maybe “Friends.” Sue begrudgingly admits that she admires Schue’s insanely personal investment in the New Direction’s success, and finally puts into words what I had been feeling on and off this entire season: “I am seriously going to puke in your mouth.”
The audience sees that in a fit of rage-love, Sue had voted for New Directions as the winners of Regionals. But they will never find out about her kind soul because that woman is like a stone castle filled entirely with Peeps! Schue finishes out the season with a poor man’s (poor in every sense of the word!) version of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which, hmm, was a little semi-climactic after we got the mental image of Sue vomiting into Schue’s mouth, which is now on a forever loop in my head.
So dang, that was a long season, right?! This season had like 8 seasons worth of storylines in it (remember when Kurt was on the football team?!?) (barely!). To me the finale offers a good microcosm of when “Glee” works and when you want to cover your face because it is so forced and embarrassing. Given that I have psychic abilities and/or have watched a television show before, I was assuming Rachel and Finn’s inevitable reunion was going to be like watching two good-looking puppets experiencing violent mood-swings at each other, like a more fabulous Miss Piggy and less expressive Kermit (which I mean as a joke, because I am actually very invested in that particular Muppet relationship). But refreshingly, they really brought the emotion. And so subtle! When Rachel kisses Finn on the stairs, there is no flowery exposition or declaration like I was dreading there would be. It was just a sudden, most likely Lipsmackers-flavored kiss, followed by lots of awkward smiling. JUST LIKE IN ACTUAL HIGH SCHOOL!
And then when they followed it up with “Faithfully,” which is now on my short list for my walk down the aisle, it wasn’t painfully over the top. It was dramatic and fun and sure, cheesy as hell, but cheesy in a sweet way, not a sarcastic or unreal way. (And I know from sarcastic; I have to have the bile pumped out of me biweekly or else I’ll explode.)
Now, I’m not saying that “Glee” is anything more than essentially a soap opera with dance numbers. Nor am I saying that it has to be! But it’s clear the show can and does give us these little, shiny moments of pure entertainment. They are sprinkled throughout the entire season, and typically happen when the writers and director let their characters express real frustration or anger or lust or whatever they might be feeling through bombastic, show-stopping musical numbers. These are the kinds of spectacular emotional outbursts that we unfortunately just aren’t allowed to have in real life. Fantasy Kurt might be tap-dancing under a giant lighted sign of his name, but Real-Life Kurt is probably just angrily shoving things in his book bag before hiding in a bathroom stall until he can stop crying. HOWEVER, when the show tries to have real emotion intermixed with snide jokes and cartoony characters and THEN attempts transcend reality with musical numbers… ERROR. DOES NOT COMPUTERER.
So I guess what I’m trying to say to the writers is, as a professional seasoned critic of this season of one show, STOP TRYING SO DAMN HARD. Take a knee! Draw in a deep breath and back away from the sailor cap. You have set up soooo many storylines and characters this year; now imagine next season if you let those characters grow and change. If Mercedes is going to develop an eating disorder, let her just have that eating disorder! If there’s a gay character, you don’t have to be like, “And now he has a little tiny hat and an all-white room and he loves Barbra and now he has multiple books of fabric swatches and a sassy big girl as a friend and then…” on and on and layer upon layer upon layer ON TOP OF his actual plotlines and relationships.
The moments that work (Quinn giving up her child, New Directions losing Regionals hard-core) did so because they seemed real. I don’t know; maybe it’s just where I am in MY LIFE, but I just want to see these characters explore reality a little more. Trust me, I can handle a plot that lasts more than two episodes, or learn a lesson that doesn’t end with a 15-minute morality speech. The fact is that right now Sue, who is literally a manipulative sociopath, is by far our strongest constant. I don’t really have a problem with having a hell spawn as our narrative anchor, but maybe next season we can find out what happens when everyone else is allowed to explore their character/world too, rather than just make everyone put on a scarlet latex nun habit to make a plot point.
So overall, I am satisfied. I’m sated. I’m excited to spend the summer not having my eyeballs dry out ever Tuesday night trying to put my fear and pleasure into words. I would like Dunkin’ Donuts to sponsor me to this write this review, as they make everything I do after midnight possible. But more importantly, what do you all feel about it? Am I over-thinking everything? Is Glee really just a hollow shell of a show filled to the brim with tweezed eyebrows hairs and empty bottles of Proactiv? Am I just mad with Dunkacchino fumes? Are you going to watch it next year? Does it change your decision either way to know that one Mr. John Stamos will be guest starring as Emma’s dentist boyfriend? You guys? I’m going to miss you over the summer. You and Jane Lynch. Mostly Jane Lynch, but also you. “But I should’ve been gone/ Long ago, far away/And you should’ve been gone/Now I know just why you stay” See you in the fall!
Halle Kiefer is going away to have her “exhaustion” treated.