Glee Season 5 Finale Review: The Hot Mess Express
Not all that long ago, Glee experienced a creative resurgence after severing ties with McKinley in "New Directions," an episode that was so good that I thought the whole thing was a fever dream in which Glee hadn't grown increasingly awful as the seasons went by. In comparison to the never-ending WTF parade of Season 4, Season 5 ultimately delivered an exciting turnaround for those of us who remember the days when we actually looked forward to watching this show and still want to believe that Glee has the capacity to be great again. My bitterness: Let me show you it.
While "The Untitled Rachel Berry Project" had its moments—Sam's return to McKinley, everything Brittany said, did, or thought, and even Rachel's realization that Fanny Brice isn't her destiny and that it's okay to develop new dreams and want new things—as a whole, the episode was an unfocused mess that threw back to some of Glee's worst television sins. As usual, everybody got what they wanted, no matter how ridiculous. Guest star Kristen Schaal's awesomeness was wasted on a cynical Lena Dunham rip-off. Despite the stronger writing and performances that resulted from the series' full-time move to New York City, the writers have decided once again to scatter Glee's characters across the country because that worked so well for them the first time around.
While the episode itself was a hot mess of predictability—of course Rachel sang a schmaltzy pop ballad and it warmed the heart of the meanie writer who disagreed with her and of course Kurt threw a man-tantrum over Blaine's Shirley MacLane thing but got over it in like two seconds because... because—there's still some potentially interesting set-up in place for Glee's currently unscheduled but probably midseason swan song. After four seasons of avoiding real change in Glee-land, once Glee tried it, it couldn't get enough. Still, Rachel's move to LA doesn't sit entirely well with me for two reasons:
1. The whole point of Glee, since the very beginning, was to get Rachel (and as many other McKinleyites as possible) to Broadway. It was the ultimate dream. It was the dangling carrot, season after season. I was concerned that the series took Rachel to the top too early, and while I applaud the decision to let the character evolve and seek out a new dream, the fact that she needs to (because otherwise she'll stagnate for the rest of the series' run) betrays the fact that Glee jumped the gun with her Broadway stuff.
2a. Glee is already a parody of itself, and the show is entirely too self-aware for its own good (it's the Skynet of TV, basically). Rachel is moving out to LA to star in a pilot for a series about her life that will also feature singing? Glee. It's basically going to be Glee. Not only did I not love the Glee-parodying we saw in Ryan Murphy's dearly departed The New Normal, but Glee has been mocking itself for a few seasons now, and I'm just nervous that another layer of winking irony is going to be too much.
2b. OMG, what if the writers take a serious approach to the Glee-within-a-Glee idea? It kind of sounded like the Rachel series was going to be a serious semi-biographical TV musical-or-something. Rachel was really into it and Rachel doesn't have a sense of humor and Rachel also thinks Rachel is really interesting and deep, and I can't really see her getting involved with something that is openly poking fun at everything she holds dear.
So yeah, I'm nervous about Rachel's westward move. But I'm also reminding myself that I wasn't so sure about the NYC migration either, and then I ended up really liking it. We really won't know how well it works or doesn't work until Glee eventually returns.
Whatever the show decides to do, I sincerely hope it works. When Glee is at its best, it's a bright, quirky, positive hour of television that's completely different from anything else that has aired or is airing beside it—it's exactly the show Rachel described to Mary Halloran, though let me go on the record as saying there's absolutely nothing wrong with TV shows about "chubby girls who can't keep men and men who kill people," either. Glee's passive-aggressive criticism of TV-shows-that-aren't-Glee never fails to fall on its face, even when, at it's core, the show is making a valid point. There's also nothing wrong with ooey-gooey, teeth-rotting sweetness on a TV series... unless your Season 5 finale is as aimless and weirdly insubstantial as "The Untitled Rachel Berry Project" was.
When we return to Glee whenever we return to Glee, regardless of where its core characters are in both the country and their careers, a return to the focused writing we saw in "New Directions," "Frenemies," "Trio," and "The Quarterback" would go a long way toward sending the series out on a high note.
– All of the musical performances were pretty great (though I question the need for two pop ballads in the same episode), but "Pompeii" was a great ensemble song to wrap up the season, and I'm also biased because that's my current jam and it could have been a kazoo cover and I'd still probably be into it. IDK.
– I'd watch a show about two gay NASA dads. Just sayin'.
– I wanted to like Mary Halloran's original pilot script if only to spite Rachel, but yeah, that was abysmal.
What'd you think of the finale? What are your predictions/wants/needs for Season 6?
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