Glee finale – New York

So, Glee reaches the end of its second season as the Glee club makes it to New York City for the National finals, but things don’t quite go according to plan! Most unbelievably, they arrive not even having written the songs they are to perform and therefore unsurprisingly, a National title is not on the cards – spoiler alert!

This episode focussed pretty heavily on the reuniting of Rachel and Finn after a pretty tedious season of Finn/Quinn/Rachel swapsies. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, my favourite character is Rachel Berry. I just adore Lea Michele and her singing and acting talent, but this has not been a great season for the character. Finally here, we seemed to see her rediscover her first love – musical theatre but sadly by episodes end, she was back smooching with the nice but dim Finn. Hey, just where she was a year ago! No progress there then..

This season has seen big changes and developments for Kurt – from over used victim for far too long, to him finally finding a boyfriend in the adorable Blaine. We also had lots of development for Santana – probably the real star of the season – and Brittany. The elevation of Naya Rivera and Heather Morris to series regulars was one of the big successes, although their prominence has led to very little in the way of storylines for Tina, Mercedes and Puck. Quinn is a total mystery right now. She has actually been sort of reverse developed! By seasons end she appears to be more shallow and whiny! Poor Dianna Agron! Although she did at least get a few songs near the end of the season. Mike Chang speaks, Sam is the good guy but really only had the one singing episode – his Justin Beiber tribute, and the one episode about his family’s economic hardships. Artie dated Brittany but was just as bad a boyfriend as he was to Tina, but Kevin McHale has had a pretty good number of featured songs at least. Meanwhile Finn has been incredibly annoying! His dithering over who he wanted to date and resulting cheating, his early season lack of support for step brother Kurt. I do think Cory Monteith’s singing has improved, but the character has been short changed in terms of his portrayal. Only really in Funeral did we see his good heartedness, most of the rest of the season you just wanted to slap him for dumping Rachel. Then there is Sue Sylvester, the funniest character last year has been poorly served this year. It seems they have run out of ideas of how to use Jane Lynch, her shenanigans often just truly bizarre. Emma’s ill fated marriage to the hunky Carl was scuppered by her OCD and lingering affection for Will. Talking of Will Shuester, he has been incredibly irritating for much of the year, the writers often giving him little to do buy make preachy speeches and write the theme of the week on the whiteboard.

However, I still have enjoyed this second season a lot, and I think it is very easy to be critical. In the first season, everything was new, the format, the tone, the music. We were constantly wowed by Lea Michele’s vocal talents, Jane Lynch’s comic timing and the irreverent humour of the show. It is easy to forget though how much people hated the Terri’s pregnancy storyline or the stupid hairography episode. I still find it hard to think of the late season 1 episode Funk with anything but horror – although season 2’s A Night of Neglect was almost equally as poor.

We have and probably never will have again the pure joy at hearing the New Directions version of Don’t Stop Believing, still the best all round number in terms of arrangement and performance and that was in episode 1! They really hit the jackpot there, a song defining and setting the tone for the series. However, season 1 musical highlights like Somebody to Love, Keep Holding On, Like a Prayer, Don’t Rain on my Parade and You Can’t Always Get What You Want have not really been matched. One reason for that is the decision to go for original songs – something that was ok for one episode but in my opinion really didn’t work in this finale. Perhaps it wasn’t MEANT to work, but this finale was missing a big magical number. The original songs here – Pretending, Light up the World and Vocal Adrenaline’s As Long as You’re There – were all perfectly acceptable but just terribly bland and anodyne. Compare these to Bohemian Rhapsody, Don’t Stop Believing or Faithfully. I am not sure if we were supposed to see that they were badly prepared, writing the songs just days before, but I think the writers need to take a break from the original songs as they are just not good enough in my opinion. Classic tunes performed well, that’s what we want.

This episode opened with Rachel in Times Square and generally the show shot New York pretty well, making it look amazing (shame they didn’t perform Empire State of Mind, one of the best songs of the season and perfect for a trip to New York).  Instead we had a fun mash up of New York, New York and Madonna’s I Love New York. Now I love old Madge, but I wasn’t familiar with this song and was frankly appalled at the incredibly poor lyrics! (Rhyming New York with dork, ‘other cities make me sad/mad/bad’.. weak!) However, the number was huge fun as the kids raced around the city like the Von Trapp kids. They looked like they were having a ball! We also had another original song – Brittany sings again after a while. Her My Cup owed a bit to Rachel’s classic  My Headband. A giggle.

Less fun, Matthew Morrison gets to plug his very dull and generic album with one of his songs as he visits April Rhodes’ theatre (Kristen Chenoweth conveniently not present). I hated this as I have disliked most of the Mr Shue stuff this year. Morrison is a broadway actor so he has to perform but I wish he wouldn’t! This song made me miss his rapping!

By far my favourite part of the episode was Kurt and Rachel sneaking off to the Wicked theatre to sing For Good together. I’m not familiar with the music from Wicked, but this was a lovely song. The actors looked pretty happy singing on that stage too. I love that pairing and the two of them are kindred spirits in their love of performing.

Less enjoyable was Finn asking Rachel out and the ensuing super boring will they/ won’t they. I just so so so wanted Rachel to stick to her guns and realise that Finn might be a nice guy but she can do much better. I would also love the show to focus on something other than her love life! Rachel began Glee as pretty much the lead character. How CAN they not know what to do with her? Interestingly, there were a few references to the future and maybe Kurt, Rachel and Blaine in New York. The kids are just one year away from graduation – will the end of the third season see the core cast leave for pastures new? I can’t see a New York spin off with Rachel and Kurt working unless it was an entirely new support cast – the students at Julliard. Hmm, sounds like the kids from Fame!

Meanwhile back in the episode, the competition approached. Rachel met Sunshine in the bathroom and finally apologised for sending her to a crack house way back in episode one. Sadly, Charice is a fine singer but a horrible actress and she looked very odd. High heels put her closer to Lea Michele’s modest 5’2″ but her dress and hair were horrid – perhaps intentionally mind you. One consistent thing this year – I’ve hated ALL her songs! They have all been Mariah Carey/Celine type power ballads and Vocal Adrenaline’s performance was no where near the standard of Mercy or Bohemian Rhapsody. Very generic, unadventurous and plain dull.

However, New Directions weren’t much better! Rachel and Finn’s Pretending duet was ok but not terribly memorable or stand out. Light Up the World was pretty much Loser Like Me part 2. As I said earlier, it is time to dump the original songs.

The Wrath of Quinn was one of the big disappointments of the episode. I was hoping for a bit of drama but all we had was some whining (although a rather hilarious line from Quinn when she thinks Santana is propositioning her!) and a haircut, which no one seemed to notice! Producer Brad Fulcek has acknowledged the first cut of this episode ran 20 minutes long and it felt like it. Something like NINE songs meant there was hardly any time for plot or scenes of any length. Perhaps Quinn had a real storyline once upon a time.

I did quite enjoy the coda to the episode with Kurt telling Blaine all about it, Sam and Mercedes revealed as seeing each other, another Rachel/Finn scene with her saying she WILL go to New York, but Finn reminding her that that gives them a year. I particularly liked the Brittany/Santana scene that had Brit try to explain how the Glee club are her family. Santana’s anger over the loss at Nationals was the only extreme one. She has risen in the ranks to pretty much second female lead, the days of singing backup to Quinn long forgotten. In some ways I miss the surreal Brittany one liners – few and far between lately unfortunately. Refreshingly, they didn’t rush into Santana coming out. I like that her situation is very different to Kurt’s or even Dave Karovsky.  They have been pretty consistent in making Santana very aware of her image and what people will say. I’m intrigued to what they do with her and Brittany next year.

This rambling review might give the impression I am unhappy with the show – not the case at all. I’ve still eagerly awaited new episodes and watched them all at least twice often 3 or 4 times. My car has the Glee soundtrack on permentantly. Each week I have used Audacity to make mp3s from the You Tube releases and burn the songs to cd. The Gleeful Podcast is essential listening! I’m going to do a review of the season soon rating the episodes and the songs. There is a poll over at Perez Hilton’s site about the best of the season 2 music (Happy to see I Feel Pretty/Unpretty riding high, one of my very favourites of the season) although I don’t agree with all of the picks. (Jar of Hearts was one of Rachel’s most standard solos. Only Exception, My Man, What I Did For Love, Go Your Own Way – all better. Of course, better songs too!)

I am eagerly awaiting June 25th when I am off to see the Glee Tour in London, hopefully my Gleeful podcast T shirt will arrive in time for it. Yes, I am a true Gleek and wish I had more Gleeky pals to talk Glee with. There have been weaker episode this year, yes I got a bit fed up with ‘Saint’ Kurt, but I still adore the show and it will be a long summer waiting for season 3. This finale was ok. Lots of energy but I’m bored with Rachel/Finn and the songs simply weren’t good enough. Not one of the nine would make my top picks for the season or would rank above ANY of the five songs from last week. Glee always depends on the audience being into the music. You love the songs, you love the show. The songs disappoint, the episode disappoints.

However, it was still Glee, there was still the lovely Kurt/Rachel stuff, they all looked adorable running around in their wacky clothes, Brittany danced, Quinn hit Rachel with a pillow. Not perfect and a tad disappointing as a finale, but an appropriate ending.