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TV Review: ‘Glee’ – ‘New Directions’

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G2If there’s one thing I can say about the second half of FOX’s Glee‘s 100th episode celebration it’s that it’s way better than the first. The story about how a high school principal stubbornly shuts down a second-in-the-nation ranked show choir still makes absolutely no sense, but at least the music improves, and the ending nails every emotional note better than anything Glee has done yet.

As “New Directions” opens, Holly (Gwyneth Paltrow) and April (Kristin Chenoweth) are still determined to save the club. Sue (Jane Lynch), who happens to be besties with Holly, something that comes out of nowhere, agrees to let the women try to shoehorn the New Directions into another club. They choose the agricultural one, for no discernible reason, and Holly leads all the kids in an energetic, but weird, “Party All the Time.”

This doesn’t work, of course, and Sue forbids them for trying again. So Holly and April take off to engage in illegal activities, as they should, as they do not belong at McKinley.

With them out of the way, “New Directions” proceeds through serving a number of its long-time cast members, continuing to ignore the five newbies, save for a brief scene where they reminisce alone. The quintet doesn’t even get a song, just a few scant lines, which seems a shame, given how they are built up earlier in their season-and-a-half tenure with the show. I’m still holding out hope that they start a covert, unofficial glee club in the school next year and the series ends with them revitalizing the lost organization, but we’ll see.

G4Instead, this episode gives due to older and former students. Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) considers not moving to New York (yay!) when she doesn’t have a reason to. But Artie, (Kevin McHale), Sam (Chord Overstreet), and Blaine (Darren Criss) woo her into agreeing to come with a terrific “Loser Like Me” rendition (boo!) since she didn’t get into her fall back school, Ohio State. But then Tina is accepted by Brown and decides not to head to NY after all, meaning this will be her last episode for the foreseeable future (YAY!!!).

Speaking as someone who lives in the city where OSU is located, I can confidently say that it is definitely not a fall back school and has quite high standards. The fact that it was labeled as such is very offensive. Though, in the end, Brown accepts Tina when OSU doesn’t, so I guess Ohioans get the last laugh.

I’d also like to complain about how only a few dozen students graduate in a school that clearly has a much larger student body than that, but I digress.

Other parts of “New Directions” involve couples getting back together. Quinn (Dianna Agron) and Puck (Mark Salling) announce their renewed relationship with the club’s final song, “Just Give Me a Reason,” which is a good performance, but a strange way to close down the group. Brittany (Heather Morris) and Santana (Naya Rivera) reconnect, with Brit deciding to drop out of MIT and move to the Big Apple. And Santana and Rachel (Lea Michele) make up.

G3I’m a little disappointed at the ending of the Rachel / Santana split. It’s nice that Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) use a fair “I Am Changing” to point out how stupid the feud is. I also enjoy how Brittany helps Santana come around after Santana slaps aside Rachel’s olive branch. But Santana quitting the Broadway show, a huge opportunity, is lame, and the girls don’t exactly feel like friends, even after the heart-warming “Be Okay” reconciliation number. Is there no hope for frenemies to turn into true chums?

All of this is perfunctory, though, as the real showcase starts about two-thirds of the way through. As Will (Matthew Morrison) gives up on trying to save the day, completely out of character, the students put together an inspiring video message to his unborn child, followed by a phenomenal reprise of “Don’t Stop Believin'” This musical number begins with the surviving original members and expands as appropriate, with lots of people sharing the solos. From the video to the song, it’s one big tear-jerking scene that really feels like a series finale, everyone saying goodbye for the final time.

Why isn’t this saved for a series finale? Is it because the glee club will be revived at some point, since disbanding it flies in the face of the tone of the show? Or is it just a convenient excuse to ditch many of the newer cast and double down on the higher quality, more mature New York stuff? On one hand, I want to praise the show for finally sticking a landing, presenting one of, if not the, best sequence of the whole run. On the other hand, I want to scream that Glee should not be so depressing, and this can’t be how it wraps up, even if it’s just the close of one chapter.

The capper of “New Directions” finds Will and Sue sharing a quiet moment alone in the empty choir room. Sue says she respects him, something completely nonsensical given how completely she has destroyed him, and her peace offering of scoring him an interview with Vocal Adrenaline is dumb.  It comes across as insincere and hokey, and while it’s satisfying to have a sweet moment between Sue and Will, the context ruins any friendship that might have existed.

So now, as has long been anticipated, the high school days of Glee are over. Will that fix what’s been wrong with the show, or will the problems merely transfer to the big city? Can the series ever repeat the emotional highs reached this week? Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com