Glee "City of Angels" Review: The Healing Factor

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Mar 12, 2014

Glee S05E11: "City of Angels" 

For all of its fumbles, every once in a while, Glee manages to turn in an episode that's weirdly "real" within its safe fantasy land where everyone always gets what they want and there's no such thing as repercussions for anything. Ever. Finn's death was initially addressed in the wonderfully reserved "The Quarterback" and then not really mentioned again except for the occasional passing comment—which, not gonna lie, I've been a little grumpy about because a loss like that tends to have a long reach with a lasting impact. Look at the real-life effect that Cory Monteith's death has had on Glee, on his castmates. The period of relative silence following "The Quarterback" may've initially felt like a deliberate effort to keep the sugary sweet magic of Glee front and center, to maintain TV's little musical happy place, but "City of Angels" served as a mostly-eloquent-but-messy-in-some-spots reminder that you don't have to spend your every waking moment weeping to be in mourning, and just because the show goes on doesn't mean that everyone is okay, that there isn't ample baggage hiding just off stage. 

The idea of turning New Directions' entire Nationals performance into a tribute to Finn was expected, though a little uncomfortable, if only for the undue pressure that it put on the club to win—not even to just do their best, but to win. I wasn't a show choir geek in high school (marching band geeks represent!), but we were in a very similar situation one year, to the point that this episode maaay have freaked me out just a smidge. We'd won our version of Nationals the year before and over the summer, lost a student in a car accident; she was a senior, a section leader, someone who was considered a lynch pin that held the band together. Long story short: The entire season was dedicated to her memory, and when we returned to Nationals we were going to win it, for her, aaaand we came in second place. We earned the highest score in the history of our school's band progam at the time, but we went home with what Sue referred to in "City of Angels" as "a loser trophy." It was the longest, saddest, and quietest bus ride back home in my life... and we didn't even have the added bonus of inadvertently getting our program cut from the budget like New Directions' did.  

About that program cutting: That's so not going to stand. "City of Angels"—despite the emo-kid ending that saw New Directions take a respectable second place to Throat Explosion but lose their line item in McKinley's budget—was as much about healing as "The Quarterback" was about mourning. While "The Quarterback" was an episode that paused to reflect on Finn Hudson's loss, "City of Angels" looked toward the future. Carole and Burt chaperoned the trip, and while Carole initially struggled with being around so many of Finn's friends who were laughing and loving L.A. and, first and foremost, living, she eventually came to see Finn in each of them, continuing to live and thrive in some small way. For the New Directions, the show went on, and while they "lost," honestly, I don't know if I would've wanted it any other way. Glee, in all of its dealings with Finn's death (and by extension, Cory's), has shown remarkable restraint and respect. It's avoided falling prey to overwrought displays of emotion or "milking" the real tragedy for fictional drama. In many ways, Glee still perpetuates its own fantasy, but the loss of Finn Hudson symbolizes the end of that fantasy.

With that said: The one-two punch of losing both Nationals and the program in its entirety is a little too dark and dismal, even for this more mature GleeI think New Directions has enough moderately famous alumni that a super-fundraiser is probably in the works (especially given all the sweet, sweet guest-spots coming up in next week's 100th episode bonanza).

Meanwhile, Glee's plans to move to New York City on a full-time basis by the end of the season further illustrate that we are indeed in the "life goes on" portion of our mourning. To remain at McKinley would mean to stagnate. Audiences have struggled to embrace the new New Direction-ers since they were first introduced, and part of that difficulty, I wholeheartedly believe, precedes the death of Finn and just plain hinges on the fact that Marley made her entrance in an episode called "The New Rachel" and she's not. We've got a new Puck and a new Rachel and a new Quinn in Jake, Marley, and Kitty, but we haven't had the chance to get to know Jake, Marley, and Kitty the way we knew their predecessors. "Heirs" exist in artsy school clubs, sure. There's always at least one bright, shining talent in every class who everyone knows will get all the solos as soon as the bright, shining talent in the class ahead of them graduates, but those things aren't set in stone (look at Tina), and no one is ever the "new" anyone. (Which is why I was a little uncomfortable with the implication that Sam is the "new" Finn.)

High school is repetitive and cyclical. There's a prom every year. A senior class graduates and a freshmen class arrives. Some things stay the same, but people aren't things. As soon as Glee asked us to embrace the new class at McKinley as replacements for the departed characters who we were already emotionally invested in after several seasons, they were doomed. 

Finn's mom struggled with the notion that when the current students graduate from McKinley, Finn's living memory would be gone from the school—a school that is saturated with so much of who Finn was. She wasn't wrong and yes, that's sad, but it's also healthy. McKinley was wholly Finn's realm and Glee was obviously taking the steps in his storyline to make him a permanent fixture in the school as a teacher. Without Finn, there's really very little reason to keep dwelling on McKinley. To keep returning there, episode after aimless episode, would be to constantly highlight "what could have been," both in the fictional world of New Directions and here in the real world, where Ryan Murphy alluded to a larger presence for Cory Monteith in Glee's final seasons. 

By moving forward with plans to shift Glee's focus for its final season and a half, the show itself is acknowledging that while there will always be some level of sadness in these final episodes, there is also hope. It's okay to carry your grief with you—you just can't let it consume you, or halt you in your tracks. 


– Glee playlist shenanigans: I really liked "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

– I wasn't crazy about the stolen Finn plaque story, but I was pleased by the revelation that Jean-Baptiste found out who in his group took it and punished them accordingly. 

– Is it just me, or does New Directions' choreography for big competitions never seem all that impressive? The performances rely so much on close-ups and camera work, but if you look at the folks in the background, all anyone else seems to be doing is swaying to the rhythm. 

– It's been so long since it was last mentioned that I totally forgot about the Will vs. Roz budget battle storyline. Oops. 

– What did you think of the Nationals outcome? Did the best glee club win? 

– Thoughts on the impending move to NYC? 

  • Comments (64)
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  • mikemcgavin90 Aug 21, 2014

    I was surprised by Will's lukewarm "Hello" to Mercedes. Sue and Santana are the most excruciating parts of the show. I was surprised Sue didn't ridicule and mock Will, though she still showed no sincerity. I hope she does gets fired. I haven't forgiven Santana for that,"Because I was popular and you weren't...." speech to Rachel either. Jean Baptiste just came across as another Jesse and Sebastian. I skipped through that set.
    Still, this was the best episode of Glee I've seen in awhile. I like that Marley, Jake, and Ryder actually had lines-they've been non-speaking extras for at least a few episodes. I loved Marley and Mercedes' conversation. The Finn tribute and flashbacks were good and I liked the ND's set. It was nice to see Tina in the forefront. I love seeing Burt and Carol even if on an occasionally basis.

  • irehawk20 Mar 15, 2014

    There will be somebody to frame Sue for setting up the gun situation, so hang on, and from the way the Throat Explosion were performing, they were also hyperactive, just like the Warblers. Drugs can make anyone hyperactive, IMO.

  • delldell56 Mar 14, 2014

    Among the many things that don't make sense in Glee, and there are Oh, so many!, one thing I don't understand is why Unique was so misused or underused by ND. I mean, I would shoot the character dead if I could to get rid of him/her mercilessly for being so annoying, but considering Unique was last year's MVP over Rachel, one would at least think of using Unique better in a singing competition. I don't care about the character, as its plots and arcs were so poorly written and overly complicated, but if someone is introduced as a better performer than your biggest, main star, then use them for something other than illustrating diversity (and weirdness). Also, I remember they gave him a pretty hectic choreography in last Nationals, so that was another thing ND could have exploited in their favor.

  • irehawk20 Mar 14, 2014

    Here's the problem:

    What if somebody very strict approaches to Rachel and Kurt and asks them where did they get their singing experience and they want a straightforward answer from them before it gets too late?

  • celes_es_river Mar 14, 2014

    I do not think disqualify throat ex, and also agree that the new direction choreography was not very good, it was very boring as well the songs, marley is also the best vocalist and dont sing any song, the worse all performance ever

  • irehawk20 Mar 14, 2014

    The throat Explosion's moves are like the Warblers! They may have drugs in it, especially on that Jean Baptiste! Secondly, they stole Finn's pic! The New Directions were acting clean and alright, but they not too dependable on each other during the performance and least most of their songs are good. I think the High school glee club needs to be put into a private hiatus rather than just getting disbanded. Sue will be expelled from McKinley High School because of the gun use setup situation! The gun may not be in the school building, but it will be found in her home and that's when she will get arrested and thrown in jail!

  • ark1317 Mar 13, 2014

    It's true that the ND have stopped dancing at all, compared to Throat Exposion too, but I'm convinced theri playlist was better. I mean the feeling was not like the first regionals: you just heard Jesse singing, with that coreography and knew that ND couldn't win, I really didn't find Jean-Baptiste that much interesting: his voice reminded me of Starchild's and his sync wasn't realistic...

    Really happy to hear Tina singing so much, even if they lost! She's amazing and so underrated!

  • irehawk20 Mar 13, 2014

    The McKinley High School glee club might get disbanded, but it won't last because we know that the Throat Explosion might get disqualified and Sue will officially get removed completely from McKinley High school in the next three episode. I know the next episodes will focus in New York, but the high school glee club will return and be put into a private hiatus. Just to make sure someone very strict asks Rachel and Kurt where did they get their singing experience.

  • jajsmiles Mar 17, 2014

    What does "private hiatus" mean?

  • irehawk20 Mar 17, 2014

    Hiatus is a length of a break, but since private is involved, then that means it was exposed to too much bad attention, it is needs to be put out of public for a break.

  • ark1317 Mar 13, 2014

    I know you think that, but winning the competition again because the other party cheated seems unrealistic, even for Glee. And Sue has never paid for the things she did, I don't see how she would start now!

  • irehawk20 Mar 14, 2014

    You weren't paying attention, ark1317. Throat Explosion is dependent than flexible and they may taking drugs, just like the Warblers, and I can tell from the way they move just like the Warblers. Sue will get removed from the principal's office and thrown in jail because first she will get framed for bringing a gun in the high school and sent an illegal gossip letter to LA about the New Directions' weaknesses. The high school glee club will get disbanded, but it won't last long. I would say put the high school glee club in a private hiatus until everything's solved rather than just getting disbanded.

  • ark1317 Mar 15, 2014

    I really can't agree with you. How were TE moving exaclty? It's not like the Warblers were particularly weird, it's Sam that started saying "they're all buffed and weren't before"
    And who do you think is going to frame Sue?
    I don't think any of this is a sign of everything because that would mean almost consistence from this show, and this is not the case. But I respect your opinion!

  • MrsFlanigan Mar 13, 2014

    I don't necessarily like or dislike Glee, i just usually enjoy watching it, but I cannot stand how they portray Becky! I work with people with a disability, many of them with down-syndrome, and yes, sometimes they have emotional outbursts, usually anger or frustration, but 95% of the time they are the most wonderful, caring, gentle and the happiest people i have ever met...

    Shame on you Glee!

  • JorgeMejia1 Mar 13, 2014

    I agree with you 100%. She is mean, has no values and is a complete jerk. Bad way to represent people with that kind of dissability.

  • wardsworldmrw Mar 13, 2014

    Wooohoooo MARCHING BAND!!!!

  • JohnCouto Mar 12, 2014

    Throat explosion in first place??? Get the heck out of here!

  • irehawk20 Mar 13, 2014

    There could be a chance that Throat Explosion will get disqualified, just like what happened to the Warblers.

  • safibwana Mar 12, 2014

    Crap, I forgot they were moving to NYC. I was starting to get happy it was over. Can't we just follow Quinn and Britney now instead? They can use the plot of Laverne and Shirley. No one will notice.

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