“Glee” Finale Recap: And They Lived

Everyone take a deep calming breath. It’s time. It may be the nostalgia speaking, but what is to follow is an extremely positive recap of Glee’s finale. There is one huge unjust con to both of these episodes which I’m going to go ahead and get out of the way, there are main cast members missing. Santana, Brittany, Quinn, and Puck (among many others who are worthy) were not even slightly featured in the episode, so if you’re reading this for any of them, you have been warned. Now let’s do this.

6×12: 2009

In the immortally heart breaking words of Chris Martin, we’re going back to the start. Part 1 of the finale “2009” starts on Kurt, young, tiny figuring himself out Kurt. Sophomore year Puck and Karofsky torture young Kurt in the hallways and all is as it was 6 years ago. Over the course of the show we had a lot of hints before that Kurt was depressed and very possibly suicidal before he joined the New Directions, but this episode focuses very heavily on that.

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Burt is still struggling with his ideas of what his son should be and the person he knows his son is, it’s good to be reminded that Burt, such a fantastic father, had to fight his own notions to be there for his son.

I love that this episode shows not only the characters first impressions of each other but their first feelings about each other too. Kurt tells Rachel that he’s seen her videos on MySpace (God, remember MySpace?) and that she was talented. After years of watching Kurt and Rachel bicker, hate each other, and love each other it’s great to see that at the core of their relationship there’s admiration.

Younger Rachel is terrifying. I don’t think there’s been a moment in the history of this show when she hasn’t been consumed by ambition and drive, but there’s nothing quite like the intensity of adolescence and that’s exactly where younger Rachel is.

She’s also only slightly prophetic when she tells Kurt, “The minute I graduate I’m going straight to Broadway and I’m never looking back.” We know Rachel looked back, went back, and tried to dig her heels at home a while, but straight to Broadway she went anyhow.

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I didn’t make a wish list for this episode, I had no reason to get my hopes up after the season we had, but if I had I would have definitely included Kurt and Rachel singing “Popular” from Wicked. It was a beautiful performance and everything the pair of friends have always been.

But Kurt doesn’t just admire Rachel, he is also in complete awe of Miss Mercedes Jones (as he well should be). I think the way this episode shows just how low and what a dangerous place Kurt was in works perfectly with the contrast of where he is now. For the moment, we see Kurt who knows he can be more but feels invisible – like he’s no one. But just the idea of being in Glee club with two talented amazing girls is enough to have him skipping into his dad’s garage. Kurt used to be terrified that his dad would stop loving him if he came out and here Burt is still struggling, but he’s still the amazing Burt Hummel worried out of his mind for the love of his life, his son.

Now, Mercedes also feels ignored at McKinley, a place over run by white people (except for that one guy Season 1’s Matt Rutherford!), but she knows she’s amazing and gets to show that and be respected in her church. Rachel can apparently smell the coming stardom on her and decides to swoop down. Mercedes, being no fool, immediately realizes she’s being sized up.

Next we get to see good old Goth-chic stuttering Tina. Angry has been Tina’s defining characteristic since day one and her Katy Perry audition number is no exception. Artie seems just a little bit turned on by Tina’s aggressive audition before it’s his turn.

One of the things I always loved about Artie that was really highlighted in his reintroduction was that as much as he had the natural frustrations of being in a wheelchair, he owned that wheelchair, used it to his benefit.

Can I just say after experiencing Jessalyn Gilsig as Siggy in Vikings it’s so easy to love her antagonism as the first Mrs. Schuester? “How could anything bad come out a glee club?” Oh Will Schuster you innocent lamb, if we counted the ways we’d have to watch this show all over again. But it’s all behind us now.

Rachel is unapologetic about getting to be the star of glee and though that need for the spotlight never quite dimmed in her character, maybe Rachel has been a lot more controlled recently than we gave her credit for, considering her younger self.

I found it so important that they show that Mercedes’s anger comes from real frustration and from honest pain. Even when everyone is promised fair and equal treatment, the white girl always goes first. Rachel will drive you to better yourself, Mercedes, but feel free to hate her guts for now.

Apparently, back in Sue’s glory days when she was at the top of the school and the Cheerios were stars, she and Will used to play basketball once a week. She talks to Will about “fostering unrealistic dreams”, which sounds like good advice except, this is Glee. Glee is a fairy tale about art, but fairy tales happen to some people, not everyone. If you crush EVERYONE’S dreams then the fairy tale dies

Rachel’s drive is impressive, terrifying and intense in the way only an adolescent or an absolute megalomaniac can be – but it’s unadulterated. I remember watching the Glee pilot (barely, but I do) seeing Rachel’s pure uncomplicated ambition and thinking, this is an excellent way to go. This episode reminds me that those are exactly Glee’s roots. The struggle of reality and dreams.

Now we go to every Klainers’ favorite coffee shop, THE LIMA BEAN! The way that we work around Finn is sadly necessary, because it wouldn’t make sense for the other characters to exalt who he will become when he hasn’t yet. It’s tough hearing Kurt talk about him, and to see him struggling with his crush on Finn. Meanwhile, I SPOT A BLAINE!!!! SURPRISE BLAINE IS GREAT.

We do get a sweet moment of the original Glee club talking about all the sweet things Finn had done for them so far, if anyone is keeping track, this is when I started tearing up.

I can’t say that I didn’t expect to see the first episode’s Don’t Stop Believing in its original glory at the end of this episode, but that didn’t make it any easier to be reminded of the humble beginnings of the show before everything grew so tremendously. For those of you keeping track, this is when I started openly weeping.

I know my recaps this past season must have you all thinking I loathe this show from the bottom of my dark soul, and you are not wrong, but I also love it – life is messy that way. At this point of the night I am unapologetically sobbing for the show I’ve hated to love for six years, for Cory Monteith, for the high school kid I used to be who looked up to watching this thing every week. I’m going to actually miss you, you campy problematic thing, time for part 2.

 

Next page… Part 2

6×13: Dreams Come True

“Glee is about opening yourself up to joy.”

I have always hated the awards portion of every Sectionals/Regionals/Nationals competition Glee has ever aired, but I was actually really pleased that they did it one last time, giving the New New Directions their own National win.

Suddenly, the superintendent sees the errors in the ways of the education system and declares that McKinley is now a full-fledged Arts School. THE WILLIAM MCKINLEY HIGH SCHOOL OF PERFORMING ARTS. Not only that, but Will has been promoted to Principal Schuester. There is nothing unexpected at any point in this finale, but there are a whole lot of satisfying wildly happy endings.

We skip to three months later and the amount of kids sitting (and standing) in the choir room made me even more emotional, and if you consider that this was the last scene that the cast filmed it’s easy to see how their reactions to Schuester’s “Teach Your Children” are so genuine. Emotions must have been raw during filming.

After that Blaine offers Sam the spare room at his and Kurt’s New York home because apparently everyone is back in New York and Sam needs to come too.  Sam points out how much Blaine’s sports opinions sound like Kurt and well, to quote lovely ex-Warbler Blaine himself, “THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GET MARRIED!”

But Sam wants to be in the wild and he has a perfect new job now that sports seem to be completely eliminated from McKinley. What’s Sam’s new job? You guessed it! Sam is staying behind to take over the Glee club (and impersonate a different celebrity every single week). Sam is fantastic at making life lessons out of genres, leaving us with the beautiful impression that the New New New Directions are going to do just great.

Meanwhile Mercedes is taking over the world, opening for Beyoncé on tour and with an album lined up. This whole episode is walking on sunshine and I enjoy every bit of good news from each of the characters. She decides to say goodbye in song without speaking a word outside of the lyrics. “Someday We’ll Be Together” is the absolute perfect choice for her goodbye moment. And just like that, Mercedes Jones has left the building. If anyone is taking notes at home, my calm was shattered at this point and I started sniffling again.

Kurt and Blaine (a.k.a. Mr. and Mrs. Porcelain) sit down for a talk with Sue, to thank her for getting them back together (with no mention at all of her horrifying way of going about it).

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I really really love this chance for Sue to express how much she loves Kurt. What she says to him is something that a lot of us have observed, an effect that Glee has had on many people of different generations. She tells Kurt, “I never knew I had thoughts and feelings about those things until I watched you go through them. You opened my mind.”

Becky and Sue make up! The reunion is perfect, with Becky and Sue shoving people needlessly aside. I love them so much. But Becky is only a pit stop on Sue’s mission. Where is she headed? To the auditorium for a passionate duet of “The Winner Takes it All” with Will.

Okay, at this point I have to ask if the writers have been shackled to a basement for the entirety of the last three seasons and have recently been released out onto the world for these two hours of television.

Sue doesn’t want to say a word, she told us this in song! So she just storms away, injuring Brad on the way out for good measure.

Five years later, things are wild and apparently Sue is now Jeb Bush’s Vice President. Back at McKinely Kurt has made a time capsule out of his locker, starring his Gaga Heels and his favorite picture of Finn. (Small time jump back to the present?) Blaine is over come with his love for his husband and it is heart-explosive levels of adorable. Then we jump right back up to the year 2020 where Kurt and Blaine are undefined celebrities with fabulous suits and gorgeous futuristic hair, singing with adorable babies in a rainbow themed room. Did I cry? Friends, I hadn’t quite stopped, but I certainly started sobbing kind of hysterically as Kurt and Blaine sang “Daydream Believer” for their last ever duet. The chorus of little children did me in.

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The next number is performed by Rachel in complete isolation, “This Time” was written by Darren Criss (just like “Rise” a couple of episodes ago) and I am never going to get over how gorgeous that song is. I hope it’s topping charts, I really really hope we get to hear it on the radio – I love it that much. It encompasses everything about saying goodbye to an era of your life and heading to the next one. The shot of Finn’s memorial plaque during the song was the last thing I needed to steel myself for the final act of the final episode of the final season of this show.

Here is the rundown of all the rapid fire information we got:  Artie is a successful filmmaker and Tina stars in his films, they’re together now! Sam is a serial dater but he’s still texting Mercedes, so there’s still hope for them! The final kicker of course is that Rachel is heavily pregnant with Klaine’s child – pause for celebratory screaming – and she’s married to Jesse St. James who is ready for them to have some talented babies of their own. Not to plagiarize wildly from the Lego Movie, but everything is awesome, especially considering that heavily pregnant with Klaine’s child is heading to the Tony’s where she – you guessed it! – wins the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical.

She gives a proper speech, of course, like only Rachel can – and Schuester’s face when she dedicates her win to all his efforts and teaching honestly got to me. Jesse’s little “wrap it up, babe” gesture at the end of her speech got me even more though.

I deem the final scene very worthy of being the final scene, Sue (Vice President of the United States, Sue) re-dedicating the famed auditorium as the Finn Hudson Auditorium is the perfect way to keep the memory of Finn and of Cory Monteith at the heart and center of the show. Whatever the many many flaws that we’ve all loved to detest about Glee, it does have a beautiful message at its core: the world is a scary unfair place, but that shouldn’t keep us from envisioning as the kind of place it should be.

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For its swan song, every person who has ever been considered part of the New Directions christened the new Finn Hudson Auditorium with OneRepublic’s “I Lived”, which is all around a fantastic choice. If you weren’t crying at this point, everyone on stage did the soaring hand motion reminiscent of the original cast during “Don’t Stop Believing”.

So here’s my final thought as some who has legitimately seen every episode that Glee ever aired, and I’ll take freely from Rachel’s acceptance speech. “Being a part of something special does not make you special, something is special because you are a part of it.” Glee has been acclaimed to be many things from boundary pushing to ground breaking and iconic, but it was only all of those things because of the millions of people who – either loving it unconditionally or keeping a critical eye on it – tuned in every time. So here’s to the last six years of all our lives, to the show’s amazing cast, and to a show that I don’t think we’ll ever quite be rid of. Thank goodness for that.

And that’s what you missed on Glee.