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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. 



MUSICAL NOTES

– 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? 


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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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
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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!
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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!
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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.
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What does "private hiatus" mean?
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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Wooohoooo MARCHING BAND!!!!
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Throat explosion in first place??? Get the heck out of here!
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There could be a chance that Throat Explosion will get disqualified, just like what happened to the Warblers.
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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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Horrible episode.
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First of all, actress Heather Morris got pregnant in the middle of the series, which is precariously in the wrong time and her absence in this show currently really hurts.

Second of all, The Throat Explosion performed better, but unfortunately they may have cheated:

1.) All members of that group were too dependent on Jean Baptist, who was leading the singing alone during their performance. The New Directions were not completely dependable to each other during their own performance.

2.) They stole Finn's pic from the New Directions illegally and we may never know if they download his info for some reason or not.

3.) Their moves are like the The Warblers and we all know what happened to the Warblers. They were tested for drug substance on the last minute of the Sectionals and then got disqualified. The new Directions performed alright in the Nationals and they were tested in clean health. Now we should right away get involved about testing the Throat Explosion if they were taking drugs also.

Thirdly, we need to know where Throat Explosion came from immediately. I know this group and the Warblers are not as worse as the New Directions' former nemesis Vocal Adrenaline.

Finally, Sue Sylvester was about to disband the Glee club and form new sports and computer rooms like a terrorist, but I'm afraid that she will lose her principal's job, be removed from the principal's office, be expelled from McKinley High School, get arrested by the police and get thrown into jail, plain and simple, for these reasons:

1.) She sent an illegal gossip letter to L.A. about the New Directions' strong weaknesses.

2.) She brought a gun and setup a situation to turn down the New Directions.

The Glee Club will get disbanded, but not for long. It will be put into a privacy and return from a medium-length hiatus, IMO.

I know this is absurd, but unfortunately, this is reasonable. But we need to analyze deeper when we watch the next three episodes of this show immediately!


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"I still haven't found what I'm looking for" - when I heard that, my first thought was "No, the writers had 'found' what, I suppose, they were looking for - a good show. With the beginning of season four they lost that."

Seriously. This Episode was good. It was another tribute to Finn and Cory and that was really good.
I liked the songs, I liked Skylar Astin, I liked that Burt and Carol showed up again. The scene between Marley and Mercedes was sweet (felt like a good bye actually). And the scenes were they lost and Burt and Carol's speech afterwards was good.

This felt like a good bye (and it probably was - I don't know when they finally move). And I feel a bit sorry because I would have liked to get to know the new guys better. The writers messed up big time and that makes me furious.

Out of curiosity: does it really work like that in high schools? If you win, your club stays, if not it's gone?
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"Out of curiosity: does it really work like that in high schools? If you win, your club stays, if not it's gone?"
It could work that way due to budget crisis at many school. Typically "art" type of clubs are the first to go, however if they are doing well (such as winning competitions) then they are less likely to be let go. Is this an extreme case? Yes. But it is possible.
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Thank you for answering!
That's interesting. I can understand that a school needs to look after its budget but it seems very cruel. And, yes of course, art is always the first one to go. :/
Although a second place still is very near winning... But well, yes, Glee tends to be extreme - and it's Sue we're talking about.
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couldn't have said it better
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Loved the episode but totally agree with your review. I don't know what will happen to the Glee club, all the rumours seem to point to it disbanding for good but I agree with you that the idea that this club is gone forever because of such a spiritual win for them is pretty bleak and very un-Glee. I don't know if I'll be able to accept the idea that the Glee club is over, even if we don't get to see it.
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The show got depressing at the end.
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Spot on on the review Maryann; I wholeheartedly agree.
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You know what annoys me most about Glee?! The voice-over guy at the beginning mentioning something (this week, how the Glee club didn't have enough members), and the producers then just going "haha DON'T CARE" and moving on without a second thought.
WHERE DID THOSE TWO GIRLS MAGICALLY COME FROM?!

Other than that, good episode in regards to Finn, bla as ever in regards to the triangle (Blake & Jake are apparently friends again now?!), and kind of dismal in regards to music. Hands down, the right Glee club won nationals, Skylar Astin killed it!
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Early in the episode, Sam had a throwaway line about recruiting three Cheerios to fill out the Glee clubs numbers. That was the only mention of it.
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I usually fast forward over anything Sam says, so that may be why I missed that.. thanks!
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--&WHERE; DID THOSE TWO GIRLS MAGICALLY COME FROM?!

Yep, exactly my thought, too. Why not bring Joe and Sugar back? Noo, just take some random girls without names who will be never seen again...it's not like the glee club is always portrayed as a big family, where the members know each other and have a story why they are in glee club...
And yes, the voice-over guy kills me everytime..."And where did Rory, the Irish kid go?" Yeah, well, where did he go!?
Gosh, is it so hard to keep up at least some continuity?
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The episode started well, but it quickly bored me. None of the songs stroke my interest. I also find Becky very annoying. She's just plain disrespectful to a teacher. I can't wait for the show to get rid of McKinley.
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To be fair, it was obvious to anyone that read any slight spoilers, that new directions were not going to win. I think once Cory passed away they needed a few episodes to fill the gap in between the permanent move to NYC.. I've read comments on here where people are going on about the limited involvement that the new kids had in the performances, when all you people have done for the last year and abit is slate the majority of the new characters and beg for more Kurt/Rachel/Santana scenes.

This episode was shockingly beautiful, yeah the performances weren't 1st place worthy but they were so meaningful and deep! performing all of Finns favorite songs was such an amazing way to commemorate such a big part of the new directions. I cried like a little bitch when his first clip started playing, man i miss him :(

I can imagine the cast and crew putting in so much effort to make this episode worthy of remembering Cory/Finn and you people jumping up so easily to insult it is actually quite disrespectful and you should consider the feelings of the people who worked to create this episode, can you imagine how hard even working on glee is for them now, without Cory?

Over all I loved this episode, it felt like old glee, just missing a piece.
I can't wait to watch episode 100 next week, no doubt it'll have me in fits of tears all over again!

-Rest in peace Cory &3
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Bad acting, bad songs. Bad dialogue. Story lines dropped months ago resurrected. Waste of time. Glad new directions failed with their lame song choices
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Loved this episode! The tribute to Finn was heartbreaking. I loved everything with Carol and Burt. It's sad that Melissa Benoist and Becca Tobin have been so completely wasted in their final season.
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okay, now that Nationals is over, can we get over with anything Blaine, Sam, and let Kurt and Rachel step upfront with more songs and heavy storyline?
Especially Kurt. he's got too much talent to waste.
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Really? I'm do totally fed up with Kurt and his cry-face. I love the addition of Adam Lambert, he's the one with the talent. Kurt should stay out of the spotlight.
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I liked that they adressed Finn. Past episode seemed as if he was alive but just not cast at all...
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GLEEE. WHY????
U BECAME SO PREDICTIBLE, SO EXCPECTED.
FEELS LIKE FORCE FESTIVE TO ME .
AND THE THING THAT U DO WHEN EVERYONE OUT OF THE BLUE get up off of their seat IS SOOO LAST LAST LAST YEAR!!

PLS DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

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Oh Glee, what to do with you? The Nationals episodes have never been any good. This one was at least saved by some soul-crushing Finn flashbacks.

Time for some hard truths, I'm not sure New Directions has EVER looked good enough to win Nationals. Occasionally they give a performance that is maybe good enough to earn them a spot at Nationals but no more than that. The show compensates for this by sabotaging the quality of the opposition, usually making them caricatures. A strange alternative in recent seasons has been to create a choir solely around one soloist who may or may not be talented, e.g. Unique, Sebastian and now Jean-Baptiste (who apparently isn't Gordon Ramsay's maitre d). Sorry but there is no way a Nationals-level choir would be one soloist with glorified backup singers/dancers. New Directions stand apart from that kind of act because of their collaborative spirit and the genuine feeling in their performances but the writers think that alone is enough for them to be the best, the fail to show them performing at an outstanding level.

Anyway the LA song was just as bad as the NY song a couple of seasons ago (they should've done LA Deli instead). Throat Explosion seemed good when they had the masks on but quickly regressed to the mean and their second song was weak. Then New Directions performed some of their better songs in recent memory but nowhere near a Nationals standard. For starters the songs were seriously lacking variety. Remember how these things always used had one song with Rachel and Finn walking down the aisles? What happened to that sentiment? They needed some sort of change of pace/ballad/solo/duet thing to keep it interesting. Also the seniors got way too many lead parts. Hate to break it to you Glee but at the moment the non-seniors are far more talented en masse than the seniors. Ignoring Marley, Jake & Unique was laughable, and out of everyone why did they give Kitty a big part? Sam and Kitty are good also rans but they are not stars. And all that came out of Mr Schue's pep talk to Sam was that Sam tried to become a leader? Great way to miss the point.

Where to from here? The show used to be structured around Nationals and yet here it was rushed through with half a season to go. Whatever they do with the rest of the season, be it New York shenanigans or not, how's it going to feel true to the Glee spirit, if there's any left.
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They really phoned that in.
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I actually didn't really like any of the performances, but I thought the last song by the New Directions was the best.

That was actually a nice little speech by Sue at the end.
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oh my gosh. that episode was hands-down the best of the season. I LOVE the way that they honored Finn, their performance at Nationals was perfection... but that U2 song... wow. that right there had me in tears. his mother's acting was spot-on, and I think that they did an amazing job of wrapping-up the whole Jake-Marley-Ryder love triangle (which was already tired, but a resolution to that storyline was definitely needed.) I'm literally heartbroken for everyone, and I honestly don't know how I'm going to get through these next 6 days without them... I will be watching next week's 100th episode with a BIG bucket of popcorn - and an even bigger box of Kleenex.
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Well, it happened. We knew they weren't going to win; it was a very good performance, but not on par from the one from last year when they won Nationals; but that was the whole point; they weren't going to win and Glee Club got disbanded by Sue, as she had said she would; this sets everything up for the permanent move to NYC.
On the episode itself:
- Ryder, Jake and Marley finally got to speak; Hallelujah!?!?
- I loved the appearance of Burt and Carole
- Mercedes got a song writing and recording contract, again.
- Loved Sam
- Loved Roz
- Loved most of the musical numbers; didn't care much for the ones from Throat Explosion; I wonder why...
- Jean Baptiste is the French/Canadian Blaine... go figure.
I really liked the segments where they showed Finn; I think we all still miss Finn/Cory quite a lot, same as they do... 4 years are not easily forgotten.
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There could be a chance that Throat Explosion might be get disqualifed, because they acted like The Warblers and Sue will lose her principal's job due to gossip letter sending and gun setup situation.

We need to know where Throat Explosion come from.
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This entire season was Marley's talent being wasted, but Nationals, wow, they really had to nail it in. So much for the next Rachel. She could have made this season so much better, but they tucked her in the back and put her on mute. Smart.
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Part of Glee's "mythology" is that if you're a senior, you have to sing all the time. It's weird that they let Kitty sing at all...
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I loved the way they honored Finn through his favorite songs but it was so sad to see flashbacks of him & I'm sad that Glee club will be no more.
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I gasped when they showed that first clip of Cory. I did not expect it. Maybe they finally got permission from his estate to show the clips - Fox has to pay to use them. I don't think this episode was very well written - even Sue wasn't funny. Becky was though - dead man walking was really funny.
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That doesn't make sense to me. Those clips are the property of Fox not the actors involved.
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Cory's clips saved the "performance" but of course the judges don't see that (which means they still didn't deserve to win). I personally find it odd that Fox has to pay to use their own clips. I would think that they would already own the footage since it was theirs to begin with.
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I'm not sure I can make it another season.
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It was disappointing that they didn't make it. What was a bigger disappointment is that it didn't feel like they deserved to go. I do not feel like they were robbed, and I think I am supposed to feel that way. But I thought there performances was simply "okay" and didn't deserve the first place prize, and that sucks.
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They didn't deserve to win. It almost looked like an American Idol group song with sloppy choreography. I was disappointed. Plus, Kitty and not Marley. No dancing from Jake? They were apparently honoring the Seniors, but it did not work. I felt bad for them, but they didn't deserve it, especially when you look at the performance the original group did to win Nationals. That was an epic performance.
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I completely agree with you. In comparison to previous performances, this one was really bad. I don't want to say horrible, but it really was. I thought that Tina really did very well, same for Sam. The rest were average.
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Tina finally showed some "Rachelness" performing and I loved her! I liked Sam too! But true, if I think back to Paradise on the dashboard light I must admit they didn't deserve to win this time...
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Very much agree. I still think the whole performance which included Paradise by the dashboard light was by far their very best performance. Many other were great, but that one, in my opinion, was their best.
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