It’s with both relief and sadness that the summer of season one Glee reviews reaches its end. The finale of the FOX hit, “Journey to Regionals,” sometimes wrongly listed as “Journey,” is just about a perfect episode, and thus provides some closure for the first year of one of television’s most original series. In the finale, the New Directions compete in Regionals, and lose. Romance is explored, and a baby finds a loving home. Sue (Jane Lynch) even grows a heart. In the tradition of Glee, it’s all about feeling good.
As the episode begins, the New Directions are devastated to learn that Sue has been named to the all-celebrity judging panel for the Midwestern Regional Show Choir competition. Feeling like this means an automatic loss for them, and s Figgins (Iqbal Theba) has vowed to disband the club if they come in last, the whole group spirals into depression. It’s up to Will (Matthew Morrison) to raise their spirits, reminding them that it’s all about the fun of the journey, not the results. Finn (Cory Monteith) separately convinces Rachel (Lea Michele) that they must step up and lead in this dark hour, which brings them back together as a couple. So the New Directions do not lack direction.
Because of the journey theme, Will decides that they will perform only Journey songs for Regionals. This ties into the episode title nicely, and this whole season has been about the “Journey to Regionals” for the kids, anyway. They absolutely slay “Faithfully,” a mash-up of “Anyway You Want It / Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” and, of course, a new version of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which features more soloists. It’s a triumphant performance set, made all the better because the kids finally look and feel like a real show choir group. Their costumes may be cheesy, but they capture the spirit. The audience, made up of Glee fans, roar their approval.
OK, so maybe a show choir audience wouldn’t rise to their feet, or cheer Puck (Mark Salling) just for opening his mouth. So it is kind of obvious that these are fans of the series, and not just extras lined up to fill seats. But that also makes their enthusiasm real, and the young actors feed off of it, delivering a fantastic performance. The authenticity comes through on screen, leading to a more powerful set. So it’s a good decision, even if threatens continuity. The only question left is, how do they possibly come in third place?
That can be explained by the judging panel, and we’re not talking about Sue here. Olivia Newton John and Josh Groban return to play terrible versions of themselves, the former even claiming to be offended that only one group honors her in song. Rod Remington (Bill A. Jones) is back, too, strangely, since that makes two people from McKinley’s area in a regional celebrity judging panel. All three call into question Sue’s status as a celebrity. Never mind that Rod is a local newscaster, and Sue is a nationally known coach, so she is arguably more famous. They also trash the New Directions, Newton John wondering if they come from a “poor school.” And they lump Sue in with the kids as people that try hard, but just don’t have the talent to make it.
Sue is personally offended, but she also feels bad as an educator. No matter what one says about Sue, and there is plenty to bust her on, at the end of the day, she cares about kids. She is generally portrayed as tough because she thinks that is what will help them succeed. As much as she hates Will, even Sue knows how hard the New Directions work. Faced with equally heartless judges, she rebels, and votes for the New Directions for first place. Though her one vote is not enough to keep them from finishing last.