The highlight to last night’s season finale of “Glee” came in the first minute of the episode when Sue Sylvester remarked to Will: “I’m having a difficult time hearing anything you have to say today because your hair looks like a brier patch. I keep expecting racist animated Disney characters to pop up and start singing songs about living on the bayou.”
It was mostly downhill from there.
It wasn’t that the finale was an atrocious episode. It was just so … lackluster. After a batshit season where Ryan Murphy was manically and maniacally throwing everything up against the wall in the hopes that it would stick (and it did at least half the time), it felt like — in the finale — Murphy over-corrected. When the plane landed on the season, we expected an engine to blow out, for the passengers to be screaming showtunes and pulling out their hair while the jet careened on one wing and slid in safely after shattering the windows in the B terminal. Instead, he landed it gently and without much drama, tying up loose ends and putting a too tidy bow on the season.
And the songs were terrible.
For all the fanfare leading up to the finale, last night’s episode felt overly anticlimactic. Sue Sylvester was anointed one of the judge’s of the regional competition and all the air escaped out of New Directions’ enthusiasm. A loss seemed inevitable. But after Emma (where’s she been? And wow! I haven’t missed her at all) delivered a speech to Will about living in the moment, it’s not about losing and winning, it’s about singing, the Gleekers bandied together and offered up … a Journey medley.
Given the scores of musical numbers we’ve been subjected to this season (some great, some awful), a very routine Journey medley was conservative. It wasn’t bad — and it’s hard to screw up “Don’t Stop Believin’ — it just wasn’t the sort of performance that would blow your sock strings out. What happened to the big numbers? The Madonna and Gaga and the “funk” and the showtunes? We got “Any Way You Want It?” And all three numbers of the Journey medley were completely dominated by Rachel and Finn — they couldn’t give Kurt or Mercedes a solo? Or Brittany and Santana? After preaching inclusion all season long, it still came down to Rachel and Finn. No wonder they lost. Vocal Adrenaline clearly kicked their ass. The Queen number really was epic. Jesse St. James blew the lid off the dump, while Quinn gave birth during the seven-minute song in a hospital labor montage that kept interrupting an otherwise great Vocal Adrenaline performance.
The finale was not the time for Murphy to reveal restraint — the 20 or so episodes leading up to the finale could’ve used a little more restraint, but last night? Not so much.
But losing, I suppose, was the point. Because you can’t win every year. You gotta save something for next season. And to see Sue Sylvester come to the defense of New Directions was sweet, if not a little unexpected (I’d assumed she’d ultimately vote for New Directions, but not out of sympathy for them, but because she’d been won over). New Directions came in third. Out of three. And then Murphy tried to pull out the moral victory card, he tried to pull at our heartstrings and he layered the sentiment with two fairly awful numbers — two of the worst of the season — in “To Sir, With Love” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Add to that the ridiculously pat notion that Rachel’s biological mom would adopt Quinn’s child in an effort to too easily bookend the second-half of the season and you have yourself a maudlin cap to an outrageous and sometimes absurd season of “Glee.”
I know it’s not fair to compare the finale to a show few of you watch, but “Glee” failed spectacularly in every way that “Friday Night Lights” does not. “FNL” knows how to mix the victories (moral or otherwise) with a heavy, heavy bittersweetness. “Glee” just offers Quinn’s doe eyes, a lot of silly grins, and a few big kisses that wash over an entire season of relationship difficulties and make everything OK in time for the summer promos. “Glee” couldn’t even leave us with a cliffhanger?
If it weren’t for Sue Sylvester and Vocal Adrenaline, last night’s finale would’ve been a complete bust.
And yet, for all the failures of last night’s episode — and of the season as a whole — I’ve really enjoyed this season of “Glee” over all. It dealt with a lot of issues, mostly superficially, but it hinted at the unexplored depths. In some cases, it’s those unexplored depths that we ended up discussing the next day. In the last few weeks, I’ve accused the show of being the gayest show in the history of television, suggested it was ruining gay cred, and even implied that it was heterophobic. There aren’t a lot of shows on television that bring up the issues that “Glee” has brought up even superficially. It’s been an easy show to discuss, and maybe its failures are even part of its charm. I dunno. I won’t say I’m incredibly enthusiastic about next season — we’ve seen how Ryan Murphy can tank a show overnight (“Nip/Tuck”) — but I’m certainly willing to tune in and see where it goes. To see if they can dig deeper, flesh out the characters and their relationships, and continue — for the most part — providing entertaining musical numbers. It’s nice to know, in any respect, that there’s a show out there that a grandmother can watch with her gay grandson. But maybe next season, it can aspire to be something more.