Glee says “Goodbye” to its graduating seniors this week in an hour packed with tears and nostalgia. Right off the bat, Will (Matthew Morrison) approaches the choir room and hears the original members of the glee club singing the very first song they ever sang in the series, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” Images of them doing it horribly three years ago are mixed with this new, much improved performance. With this, “Goodbye” spells out its mission statement.
For three years, things have remained relatively predictable at McKinley High. The kids grew the New Directions into a sizable, respected group. Each year they did better in competition, until finally winning Nationals just before eight of their number graduate. It’s an uplifting, satisfying arc. Now it’s over, and the future is uncertain. Consider this boat rocked!
Where will Glee go from here? Ryan Murphy has said that all of the original cast members will return for season four, though not all as series regulars. And while it has been leaked that Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), and Kurt (Chris Colfer) are all heading for New York, and will likely remain main characters, the rest of the stories are a mystery! So it is with great anticipation that one looks forward to next season, and what it might bring.
The issue with the characters staying behind is that they just don’t have the sheer power the graduating seniors do. All of the powerhouse vocalists, save Blaine (Darren Criss), graduated. Sam (Chord Overstreet) could be promoted to a series regular, and Artie (Kevin McHale) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) might get more screen time, but none of them have the talent that, or are as interesting, as Rachel, Santana (Naya Rivera), or Mercedes (Amber Riley). With that in mind, if Nationals will even be on the line, it’s time to bring in some more new students. Perhaps Unique (Alex Newell)?
If there’s any doubt about the point I make in the previous paragraph, look at the music the two groups sing in “Goodbye” as evidence. The seniors’ “You Get What Your Give” is far, far better than the underclassmen’s “In My Life.” Maybe the younger kids just need time to grow, but they are certainly not at the level of their peers yet. There will need to be a lot of maturation in season four, and members finally coming into their own, if the New Directions are going to go anywhere. Anyone else smell a rebuilding year?
Or, Glee could just skip an entire year and catch up with everyone then, with even more of the characters graduated. It may cheat some of them out of the goodbye given to the eight this year, but those characters aren’t as important, and it would make for an interesting series, pulled in many directions. This also would allow time for some plot twists from the finale to sort themselves out.
Before straying too far into the future, it would be nice to take a look back. Burt (Mike O’Malley) gives Kurt a startling graduation gift: a performance of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” with Tina and Brittany (Heather Morris) serving as back up dancers. This calls to mind one of the earliest episodes of the series, where Burt catches Kurt performing the number in their basement with the two ladies. This number is a testament to how far father and son have come, and how much they care about each other. Showing scenes from that season one episode interpersed is really moving, too.
At the moment, though, Kurt isn’t slated to leave for New York. He, Finn, and Rachel gather in the choir room to open the letters from their chosen schools, and only Rachel is accepted. This is in contrast to what Glee has been touted to be next season, and one wonders how the characters will get from here to there. Still, even with the future all but assured, it’s heartbreaking to see them get rejected.
Finn has another purpose to fulfill. In “Goodbye,” he brings up his father again, and mentions wanting to do something to honor his memory. Combined with the college rejection, this path points to Finn joining the army. Is this really the right journey for him? While personally rewarding, perhaps, it’s hard to see Finn as an army guy. Where is Glee going with this?
Finn says that part of the reason he chooses the army is so that Rachel can’t follow him. As “Goodbye” comes to an end, Finn cancels the wedding and sends Rachel packing to New York. He refuses to not let her follow her dreams, and thinks he is only holding her back. She is in tears, upset at the choice being taken away from her, but goes, bolstered by all of her friends at the train station.
Is it right for Finn to make this decision without consulting Rachel? Yes, he has her best interests in mind, but he’s acting like a parent, not a partner. It seems a little chauvinistic. Not to mention, does he really expect Rachel to be happy by his breaking it off with her? She’s in love with him!
The scene is emotional, but falls flat when considered against the rest of the story, even keeping in mind that Rachel worrying about sacrificing her dream for Finn, something she doesn’t want to do, is a plot point in the season two finale. Now, here she is willing to make that adjustment, and he refuses to let her. This is forced drama.
Luckily, instead of ending “Goodbye” with this, the episode follows Rachel to New York City as she sings “Roots Before Branches.” At least this feels satisfying for her, as she finally makes it to the big city she always dreams of. Rachel is where she belongs, of that, there is no doubt!
The girl most at risk of losing her dreams is Santana. With girlfriend Brittany having flunked senior year, and jealous of her friends, such as Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.) and Mercedes, who are starting performing careers, Santana considers abandoning her college plans. Her mother (Gloria Estefan) tries to talk her out of it, but in the end, gives Santana a large sum of money and leaves the decision up to her.
Yes, Santana is an adult now, and her mom doesn’t want to risk a chasm between them, as Santana is still hurting from her abuela’s disapproval. But that doesn’t mean that mom shouldn’t give daughter some sound advice. This is a college scholarship she is passing up! Free money to get a degree! Degrees may not mean what they used to, but it’s hard to argue against taking one when you don’t have to shell out the ridiculous price they now cost. From almost any perspective, it would be a huge mistake for Santana to give this chance up, no matter what her dreams her. Her mother is right; New York will still be there in four years.
There is no question that Quinn (Dianna Agron) is heading off to college. She finally has her life back on track. Even as wildly unrealistic as her chosen school seems, given her suffering grades at certain points of her high school career, it’s nice to see her achieve this accomplishment. Her goodbye scene with Sue (Jane Lynch) is a touching farewell, and easily one of the best things about “Goodbye.”
It’s a little surprising that Quinn buys a train pass for Rachel, so that they can visit each other. Even with their “friendship,” developed late in the Glee run, the pair do not seem close. Is Rachel really someone Quinn will keep in regular contact with?
Even more weird is Quinn’s rekindled relationship with Puck (Mark Salling). Perhaps she is just trying to boost his confidence so that he will pass his test and graduate, which he does. But it seems like she wants to get back together. Would he accompany her to the East Coast? What would he do there? How would a guy like Puck figure into Quinn’s bright future? These questions could be ignored if a real, deep romance had blossomed between them, but there just isn’t evidence of that, no matter what their past has been.
The music in “Goodbye” is just as uneven as the stories. Will’s “Forever Young” is a good, not great, adieu to the seniors. Kurt’s “I’ll Remember” is also good, but not as terrific as other, much more memorable performances he has given over the past three seasons. But Puck and Finn leading the senior class in “Glory Days,” no matter how hokey the scene itself is, comes across as pure awesome.
Some great moments balance out this mixed bag musical lineup. Will confesses to Finn about the pot in his locker from the “Pilot,” to which Finn responds that Will is cooler than Finn gives him credit for being. James Lipton (himself) watches Finn audition. Sue hugs Will during the graduation. Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) helps Puck study. Brittany says she intends to be a two-term senior class president. These things help where the melody lacks.
One final bit of plot sneaks into “Goodbye.” Roz Washington (NeNe Leakes) enlists Sue’s help in taking down Figgins (Iqbal Theba). While amusing, Figgins is superfluous, as I’ve said before, back when Sue is briefly principal in season two. It could save Glee some time and money to ditch him and put one of the better developed characters in his place. But who?
Roz would suck as principal, and Leakes has a new series next year, anyway, so the character might not even stick around. Sue fails miserably as principal her first go-round, but she’s grown a lot this year. With the baby on the way, and actual affection for Will and the New Directions, she could end up being a great leader, if she doesn’t let the power go to her head. Bieste might also be a candidate. Though she hasn’t been at the school very long, it would be nice to beef up her part any way Glee can. Will is too busy to tackle the responsibility.
Emma (Jayma Mays) might just be the best bet. She is fair, but firm. She isn’t always great at managing people, but like Sue, she has shown a lot of maturation. Plus, giving her the position would open up a story for Sue to accuse her of favoritism, and give Emma some good episodes battling wits with Sue, something we haven’t seen. So my vote is for Emma!
Glee‘s “Goodbye” may not rank among the best episodes of the series, but it is pretty good. Even if the music and plot is, at times, weak, the emotional heartstrings are played by a virtuoso. I look forward very much to season four next fall, and the changes it will bring!