FOX’s Glee ties up its fifth season and the New York-centric era with “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project.” It is an emotionally satisfying hour, though artificially so. The characters go their separate ways, but splitting away from the Big Apple isn’t what makes sense for several of their arcs, so it forces a false conclusion, allowing a reset for the sixth and final season. I guess the writers just wanted a clean break.
Obviously, Rachel (Lea Michele) is front and center, though one of only five characters featured this week. FOX sends writing genius Mary Halloran (Kristen Schaal, Bob’s Burgers, The Daily Show) to catch Rachel’s essence and write a pilot around it. The result is an absurdly weird show that feels nothing like Rachel. To correct this, Rachel sings “Glitter in the Air” to Mary, who is moved and writes exactly what Rachel wants. It’s time for Rachel to leave Broadway behind and move to LA!
Except, the whole time we’ve known Rachel, Broadway has been her dream. She gets a fantastic opportunity starring in a stellar role, and she is now burning all of her bridges and leaving it behind for a pilot that may or may not make it on the air. It seems a huge mistake, not only in abandoning her job, but in salting the earth so that she can never return to it. It would be one thing if Rachel’s ego got the better of her and led to this, but she doesn’t even seem to be approaching this from a place of supreme arrogance. What happened to Rachel?
Blaine (Darren Criss) is also faced with a choice between two things he loves: his fiance, Kurt (Chris Colfer), and performing. It’s time for Blaine’s showcase, but June (Shirley MacLaine) won’t even discuss allowing Kurt to participate, insisting she knows best. Kurt is hurt when Blaine breaks the news to him, and they have a big fight. So Blaine defies June and brings Kurt up for his finale, an “American Boy” so great that even June has to admit she is wrong.
I absolutely get Blaine’s emotional arc in “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project.” We see his pain as he laments through “All of Me.” Kurt’s anger is also understandable, as is his apology and their subsequent sweet reconciliation. This feels like something that has needed to happen between them for awhile, and once they get past it, Blaine moves back into the loft and they are happy together.
What I don’t get is June’s forgiveness. Sure, she shoots glaring daggers at Blaine, but once the number proves to be a success, she’s happy for the couple. Shouldn’t she be holding a grudge at Blaine’s defiance? Maybe she would take credit for the song and move forward because it works, but without any animosity? Her explanation, telling Blaine to stay true to himself, ignoring detractors, including herself, feels out of character for her.
Finally, Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) contemplate their future together. Their friends try to convince them to break up, since Mercedes will be on the road and everyone thinks Sam will cheat on her. Yet Sam proves his mettle in “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project” when confronted with a lecherous photographer (Beau Garrett, TRON: Legacy), crying when she kisses him and immediately confessing to Mercedes. Mercedes sees how hard things are for Sam and breaks it off with him, promising to revisit him in the future should it all work out.
Sam is a good guy and it’s a shame his friends keep underestimating him. He is loyal and true, and while he has made mistakes in the past, he’s only gotten more steadfast in their wake. Why is everyone so down on the model? I’d say Mercedes doesn’t deserve him if she can’t see that, but she’s the only one of the cast who does eventually understand Sam, believes in him, then lets him go anyway so they can pursue their own careers.
For Mercedes, this means touring with Santana (an unseen Naya Rivera) and back-up dancer Brittany (Heather Morris, who is great to see again, but seems out of place in this episode), which we see the start of in “Shakin’ My Head.” But for Sam, despite a successful shoot, a good performance of “Girls on Film,” and his naked body on a bus, he opts to go back to McKinley High. Why? Are his goals so short-sighted? What’s waiting for him in Ohio? It makes absolutely no sense at all.
But now all the plots are wrapped up and all the kids mentioned above, along with Artie (Kevin McHale), who’s also in the episode, but is at his most useless, declaring strong bonds of friendship without really contributing to the group, end with an excellent “Pompeii.” It’s the finale fans want, a big send off to the next stage of the characters’ journeys, and it is satisfying. Unfortunately, it’s a glittery cover for a stinky story, not earned.
Glee‘s sixth season, which will likely be cut down to a smaller number of episodes and won’t premiere until at least next January, should be interesting. It has the job of tying up the loose threads and sending each player to their final destination. I expect it will be heavy on feelings, and that’s a good thing. However, if they keep failing to make the story cohesive, it will be as disappointing as most of the run of the series has been, and that’s unfortunate.
Glee will return mid-season next year.
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