Although Glee already has an end date set for spring 2015, we still have about 25% of the show’s entire run to get through before then, so as much as things are winding down, they aren’t over. This week’s installment, “100,” is the first of two parts in which glee clubbers old and new come together to celebrate the New Directions in its final week of existence, before the series moves almost exclusively to New York, where it has been splitting its time for the past season and a half. It’s a bittersweet party as old feelings are dredged up and a couple of people try desperately to save the sinking ship.
If, and it’s a big if, the New Directions manage to escape Sue’s (Jane Lynch) draconian cuts, this will stand as the triumphant moment when everyone came together to save a beloved institution. If she succeeds, it’s one last happy time together, ending the group in the best of possible ways, everyone coming back and being together. As much as it’s dumb that the glee club is being disbanded, if it is, this really puts a bookend on the high school story for the majority of the cast, and will feel like satisfying closure. If it’s saved, though, it’ll be some last minute deus ex machina bit that will surely be disappointing, even though it’s the right thing to do.
This means Glee has painted itself into a corner. One path makes for a fitting story but comes across as phony, while the other choice doesn’t make sense for the story, but at least feels right. It seems Glee, unlike the unrealistic uber-genius Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris), can never quite make the math add up, continuously falling short of what it could and should be. I’ll miss Glee when it’s gone because television deserves a musical, but it will also be a relief to not have to write weekly columns for a series I’ve come to have such mixed feelings about, frequently frustrated at things so blatantly screwed up in a show I used to love.
As “100” starts, all of the graduated seniors (who are still alive) have dropped whatever was going on in their lives and come back to McKinley to spend the last week of the New Directions’ existence with the choir. Yep, apparently these kids have no lives.
They are joined first by April Rhodes (Kristin Chenoweth), then by Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow), who arrives with a bouncy, yet underwhelming, “Happy.” Their return is great for viewers, but it’s pretty far-fetched, women who encounter the group a couple of times putting their lives on hold for this club, even if they are flighty free-spirits. What’s more, if the glee club is saved, it will come from these two recurring players, not our main heroes. April thinks she has a solution in “100,” until Sue thwarts it. But the episode ends with April and Holly vowing to finish their wine, then work on a plan. How come they care more about the New Directions than those who are part of the group?
To get into the spirit of celebration, April leads them all in a rendition of “Raise Your Glass.” It’s unfortunate, as the Warbler’s version is a classic that will never be matched. This trend of redoing old songs in an inferior manner continues throughout the hour with “Toxic,” “Defying Gravity,” “Valerie,” and “Keep Holding On.” They aren’t bad performances, and “Toxic” has cool staging, but if Glee wants to bring back past numbers, there really needs to be more effort to make it worth the fans’ time.
Rachel (Lea Michele) is the most surprising student attendee of this event, since she works full-time, goes to school full-time, and is starring in a Broadway show, which is pointed out with a wink that does not absolve the series of the glaring ridiculousness of her presence. Rachel is necessary, though, to Mercedes’s (Amber Riley) plot, which reignites their high school feud to be the best.
I disagree with Bowling for Soup about high school never ending, but it’s true for those who still hang around the place, and Mercedes has a valid emotional response when she is torn down by others in her industry, reopening old wounds. Thank goodness Rachel and Mercedes get a chance to work through their negativity, and while their calling off the vote for who sings “Gravity” better is a bit too syrupy sweet, it is touching, and allows them both to show growth and move on.
Random question: why does Kurt (Chris Colfer) have any part in “Gravity” at all? He’s not competing in the contest, and sings far fewer notes than the other two.
Now if only Rachel would make things right with Santana (Naya Rivera). Their ongoing battle is mentioned in “100,” but not featured. Perhaps Santana and Rachel are not friends before and any peace they find in the adult world is temporary, but I don’t think so. There is a real bond between them while living together, and Rachel should take the lesson she learns with Mercedes back home and apply it to her current situation.
Santana has more important things to worry about than Rachel right now. The former Cheerio quickly sees how unhappy her ex-girlfriend, Brittany, is, and tries to correct that, forcing the blonde into a “Valerie” dance number. That and a return of the infamous Fondue For Two web series brightens Brittany’s spirits. But when a grateful Brittany attempts a romantic reconciliation, Santana turns her down.
I was a huge fan of these girls when they were a couple, but Santana has developed quite a bit and is building a life for herself in New York. It’s easy to see why she doesn’t want aimless Brittany to be part of that, and Brittany needs to find her own path. I would still be thrilled at a reunion if Brittany can also be independent, not just Santana’s tag-along, and rejoin the cast full-time. But for now, it looks like they’ll be better apart than together, and Santana is wise to see that. Her distancing herself from Brittany will make Brittany stronger.
Love is more strongly in the air for Puck (Mark Salling) and Quinn (Dianna Agron), though it’s kind of one-sided as Quinn arrives with a new beau in tow. Puck doesn’t let that stop him, exposing what a phony the new guy is by helping Quinn come clean about her past, and then wooing her with an emotional “Keep Holding On.” It works, as Quinn ends the episode in the arms of her baby-daddy.
It does seem very odd that the Glee characters all keep ending up with their high school sweethearts. Yet, there’s something nice about these two finding one another once more, after all they’ve been through. Both face a number of challenges in their lives, and now they’ve worked through those and bettered themselves, finally ready to be in a relationship. It’s a great goodbye for them, should this prove to be their last appearance on the show.
I admit, I am disappointed that Quinn’s guy, Biff McIntosh (Chace Crawford), turns out to be such a stereotypical, stuck up jerk. Given that Biff seems, on the surface, so close to Crawford’s Gossip Girl role, I kept expected a more layered, nice person to emerge. What would have been even better is if Crawford was reprising Nate Archibold. But sadly, he’s just a forgettable, throw away guest star in this capacity.
Of course, besides all the personal drama, “100” also takes time to stage a tribute to Finn (Cory Monteith) again, relocating his plaque to the auditorium before the choir room is converted into a computer lab. It’s completely understandable that the characters are still obsessed with their deceased quarterback, and it’s nice that they continue to pay homage to him, especially in an episode he definitely would have been featured in. I do wonder, though, how much the next season and a half will continue to play this up. Memorializing Finn in a few entries is fine, but the series shouldn’t overdo this.
“100” has great character moments, amid lots of story flaws and inconsistencies, and an overall weak lineup of musical numbers. What should be a celebrated milestone for the show ends up as another disappointing, mediocre let down. This is only part one of a two-parter, but it seems unlikely the next hour will redeem this one. I really hope I’m not writing the same thing about the series finale fifteen months or so from now.
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.