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Glee S05E13: "New Directions"


Highs and lows abounded in Glee's last official Lima engagement, and I'm still a little bit in shock that the show's writers killed New Directions—they actually did it. Glee club at McKinley High School is no more. I'm still not entirely convinced that it won't make a triumphant return by the time Glee airs its swan song, but I'm also not entirely convinced that it willOur little Glee has grown up, and I'm so proud. 

I'm going to restrain myself from assuming that everyone has seen that saccharine mid-'90s affirmation of the important (albeit reluctant) teachers who save the world one crappy midwestern high school at a time, Mr. Holland's Opus, so here's the Sparknotes version:

– Hip young musician dreams of changing the world with his music.

– Hip young musician knocks up his Bohemian artist wife and has to take a crappy teaching job to keep the lights on. 

– Hip young musician grows to love his teaching job and is devastated when the music program is cut 30 years later. 

There's also a subplot about an almost-affair with a student played by the crabby older sister from Uncle Buck—which really brings the whole Mr. Holland/Mr. Schue comparison together—but basically, Mr. Holland feels like an unappreciated bucket of trombone spit when his department is given the shaft. That is, until his former students get together to make him feel better. In the end, the program is still cut, so that sucks, but Holland gets to feel momentarily better about it. I guess. 

Anyway, Will Schuester, this is your life.


Oh the plus side, unlike geriatric Mr. Holland, Schue saw his life's work destroyed while he was still in a position to do something about it. In fact, with a little help from none other than Sue Sylvester, he walked out of that choir room with an interview already lined up with Vocal Adrenaline. Boo. Hiss. The enemy! Yeah yeah, shut up. This is what grown-ups do when faced with disappointments in their careers: They look for newer, better opportunities. New Directions regularly cast itself as  downtrodden underdog, which was certainly true and gave their every competition a Cinderella angle that made it easy to cheer for them—even when their routines weren't as good, their song choices weren't as engaging, and their members were so mind-numbingly self-absorbed that watching them lose was almost more enjoyable than watching them win. During their history with New Directions, Vocal Adrenaline were often villains in their own right, but the only time their funding status had anything to do with their villainy was in the context of the two teams' rivalry.

It was nice to see Glee itself make that distinction. It came via Sue, and frankly, the whole conversation between Sue and Schue—including Sue's concession that Schue had been a worthy adversary and an asset—was great, as was Schue's final bow to the empty choir room. While the end of the New Directions era is hard to accept, we can console ourselves with the knowledge that, unlike the 20-year-old Mr. Holland's Opus (wow, I feel old), Schue's story ended on a relatively hopeful note. Even the freshmen—who I'm assuming we'll rarely, if ever, see again, and who are now left without their show choir and their teacher—took the loss rather well and rather maturely. Marley and her fellow underclassmen wisely decided to focus on the good that came out the experience, rather than the gaping hole left in its wake (even if the sudden blanket forgiveness of their various wrongs against each other felt like a rushed ending for the sake of tying up those loose ends without giving them too much screen time).

What wasn't so great about "New Directions" was the entire resolution of the Rachel vs. Santana story, complete with Rachel once again being handed the world on a platter when Santana decided to drop out of Funny Girl and run away with Brittany. At least we got a Brittana reunion out of it. I just get sick of everyone bowing to Rachel and deferring to Rachel; I'm over the idea that Rachel is just so gosh-darned nice and never does anything awful to anyone ever, while Santana (or literally anyone who's ever given Rachel the side-eye in the history of Glee) is just a big bully. It's tiresome and juvenile, and it's the same stunted reasoning that gets any potential naysayer of New Directions (or, you know, any rational thinker) labeled a monster. Take, for example, Sue's role in the end of the glee club. Yes, she's the bad guy who made the final decision to cut the program, but she was fair the entire time. She gave Schue a goal, and the successful achievement of that goal would've ensured the New Directions' survival, but in the end, they didn't meet it. In the real world, that's kind of how things go sometimes. Sue's "cartoonish villain" routine has been noticeably toned down since the potential cutting of the glee club was announced, and with good reason: It was a serious decision with lasting impact, and she wasn't kidding around. Sue gave Holly, Schue, and April several opportunities to find a solution, and they weren't able to. And in the end, she presented Schue with an incredible opportunity to do what he loves in an environment that will welcome him wholeheartedly. Sometimes, someone has to be the bad guy, but only because someone has to be the bad guy. So even the New Directions history book will remember Sue as the devil that destroyed the glee club, I'll be darned if she didn't handle this difficult situation as well as she possibly could have.

Glee has come so far in embracing the shades of gray that are present in every well-told story, and all told, "New Directions" did a decent job of addressing them. It's just that the reconciliation of Santana and Rachel was too much of a throwback to the days of St. Rachel the Flawless for my tastes. 



MUSICAL NOTES

– Fave performance of the night? IDK. "Be Okay," just because I'm currently kind of obsessed with the song. 

– Wait, so Tina got into Brown but she couldn't get into OSU? Okay.

– Yeah, I'm pretty sure Santana's contract would've given her a few guaranteed performances with or without Rachel's blessing. 

– I would watch an entire episode of Chums

 STFU Kurt, tater tots are so veggies. 

– Glee's terrible life advice for the day: You don't need a plan, Tina! Just move to New York and get an apartment! They grow on everlasting apartment trees and you never need a way to pay for them or anything like a job or at the very least, an established residency so you can file for like, heat assistance or something. 

– Puck and Quinn are official. Cracks about another accidental baby were welcomed. Rachel's face when they were singing was upsetting, though. The echoes of Finn's loss through this half of the season have been well-played. 

– Okay, fine, I teared up a little during "Don't Stop Believing." 


What'd you think of the episode? How are you feeling about Glee's, uh, new direction? 


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/13/2014

Season 5 : Episode 20

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