FOX’s Glee ends its season by sending the New Directions to “New York” City to compete in the Nationals for show choirs. The kids are excited, and have a hard time focusing on writing their original songs for competition, instead wanting to explore the city. Finn (Cory Monteith) takes Rachel (Lea Michele) on a romantic date, only to have her reject him because she knows her future is in NYC, and doesn’t think his is. Kurt (Chris Colfer) reaffirms Rachel’s belief by helping her live out some dreams. Will (Matthew Morrison) makes a decision between performing on Broadway and continuing to teach at McKinley. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the New Directions do not place high, but emotions are dwelt upon, and most characters are satisfied with the trip.
The New Directions’s competition performance is exactly what it needs to be. The duet will be discussed later on, but their showpiece is “Light Up the World.” It is not a perfect song, but given that the kids didn’t write it until after their arrival in New York, it is good enough. What’s more, there is never much expectation that they will win. This episode is about getting to the big time, while next season, when most of the star characters are seniors, they will likely take home the 1st place trophy in a triumphant swan song.
“Yeah!” is a little bit of filler, but gives some comparison point for the New Directions. It is well executed, and a pleasure to watch, even though it will not win, either. The costumes and choreography are bizarre, and bring the performance down enough that it is easy to imagine the glee kids beating them. They ultimately do not because of a lack of professionalism, but that’s OK. Showing “Yeah!” gives viewers confidence the New Direction can easily conquer that level of song next year, and proves that not everyone at Nationals is brilliant.
“My Cup” is a goofy little number, reuniting Brittany (Heather Morris) with Artie (Kevin McHale). Far superior to Rachel’s ode to a hair brush, it isn’t especially catchy, but the lyrics are funny. While Brittany works better with one-liners, it’s nice the writers decide to experiment with something a little more lengthy, similar to her Fondue for Two bit a couple of weeks ago.
For two years, Mercedes’s (Amber Riley) lack of love life has been frustrating. Light breaks the horizon as she is revealed to be having a secret fling with Sam (Chord Overstreet). While this development is hinted at in “Prom,” and the two actually make a nice couple, the need to keep things secret is confusing. Sam is a relatively private person, but Mercedes has been complaining about her lack of man for awhile, and all of a sudden, she can’t even tell Kurt? Weird. But forgiven, because of how awesome it is to see Mercedes with a good man.
Kurt and Blaine (Darren Criss) take things to the next level by exchanging “I love you”s over coffee as Kurt enthusiastically recounts his trip to Blaine. This is perfect timing, and as a couple, these two work very, very well together. Obviously, Blaine is moved by Kurt’s passion to express himself, and enjoying seeing someone happy is a hallmark of true love. Yay for them!
In an otherwise excellent episode, two glaring issues stand out. Number one is Will’s quick abandonment of his Broadway dreams after rival coach Dustin Goolsby (Cheyenne Jackson) outs Will’s plans to the New Directions. Will feels totally at home after taking the Crossrhodes stage to sing “Still Got Tonight,” a surprisingly decent song written by American Idol Kris Allen. Although the series chooses to forgo another tasty Kristen Chenoweth guest spot, it is an almost perfect scene, moving in a way Will does not often achieve.
Will has mentioned before that he always wanted to sing on Broadway. He can do April’s show in between glee club seasons, because they are done with Nationals, and he can perform through the summer. Why give up that chance? He can do both. It’s not an either / or type of choice. I expected a phone call with Emma (Jayma Mays), where she convinces him to do Broadway, or at least a show of encouragement from the kids as long as Will promises to return in the fall. Surely, at least Kurt and Rachel understand Will’s urge. Why cop out so easily by having Will decide not to do it as soon as the kids find out?
The second is Quinn’s (Dianna Agron) similarly unexplored strong emotions. She expresses serious anger issues with Finn, wanting to quit the glee club. She says she no longer cares about the whole thing, which is understandable. But then Brittany and Santana (Naya Rivera) cheer her up with a hair cut, which is clearly a deleted scene musical number, and she’s suddenly fine? The episode moves from furious Quinn and team player Quinn in seconds, with no explanation or exploration of how she can begin to heal.
This likely spells the permanent end of Quinn and Finn. They give it two good tries, but the reasons they should be together are shallow and goofy. Finn realizes this, and moves on. It is time for Quinn to do the same. With her baby arc, she becomes a very strong character in season one. In season two, Quinn is losing her edge, reverting back to who she is in the early days of Glee. After so much good character development, this can not be allowed to happen. With graduation for Quinn looming next year, season three should feature a strong, independent Quinn ready to map out a successful future for herself.
Rachel’s apology to Sunshine (Charice) is unnecessary, and not needed. Much like both “unnecessary” and “not needed” in the same sentence. But considering it leads to Sunshine performing “As Long as You’re There,” it can be overlooked. It’s not the strongest song in the episode, but Charice’s talent has been so under utilizied, any chance to see it is welcome.
Glee takes full advantage of location shooting in New York for “New York.” The opening mash up of “I Love New York” and “New York, New York” is spellbinding as the kids run all over the city. The scenery is gorgeous and distinctive to the setting, while the costumes and energy do a great job conveying the characters’ excitement over the trip. It is everything that needs to be in the episode.
Even better is Kurt’s private tour for Rachel. They have breakfast at Tiffany’s, and then break into Wicked‘s theater to perform an amazing rendition of “For Good,” definitely a highlight of the episode. The two enjoy the theater aspect of New York City as no two other characters can, and their enthusiasm is infectious. It is not hard to imagine their lives returning to NYC after graduation, and both being lucky enough to make it there.
Rachel and Finn finally deal with what a real relationship means between them. Rachel has dreams, and while she is content to be with Finn while in high school, she is not willing to give up being a star for him. At least not yet. He does write a heck of a love duet in “Pretending,” which ends in them kissing on stage, likely ruining their chances of a win with such a blatant display of unprofessionalism. But Rachel, uncharacteristically, doesn’t care, because she is falling for him all over again.
Will Rachel’s romantic notions grow stronger, clouding out her life’s desire? Finn’s final play comes on the heels of an overly romantic date on the streets of New York, complete with a chance encounter with Patti LuPone (cameoing as herself) at Sardi’s, and serenading of “Bella Notte” from Lady and the Tramp by the glee guys. As such, Rachel may have been a little more open to him than she otherwise would be.
Perhaps a nice spin-off, post-season three, with Finn deciding to tag along with Rachel, Kurt, and Blaine as the three inevitably travel to New York to become stars?
Also nice is Jesse’s (Jonathan Groff) last ditch play for Rachel. It is probably about as sincere as he can get, and demonstrates once more that he is not good enough for her. It’s slightly disappointing that Will seems to encourage Jesse a bit, but perhaps the director is merely being kind. Having Finn be the one to ultimately tell Jesse off may be chauvinistic, but it solidifies his claim on Rachel, who deserves the attention.
Glee was picked up for a third season long ago, and will return next fall to FOX. In the meantime, check out The Glee Project, premiering June 12th on Oxygen, a reality competition where young performers will compete for a chance to be on Glee next year. This column will review the premiere, but may or (more likely) may not cover it weekly, depending on how good the series is.