FOX’s Glee takes the team to Sectionals in the penultimate episode of the series, “We Built This Glee Club.” Like in the previous week, it mainly ignores the alumni who have been featured prominently for six years and keeps the cast small. The exception to this is Rachel (Lea Michele), who gets a visit from an old friend and finally decides whether to return to school or Broadway.
If Sectionals were a culmination of Rachel’s journey, or Rachel, Kurt (Chris Colfer), and Blaine’s (Darren Criss) journey, or even Will’s (Matthew Morrison) triumphant return, “We Built This Glee Club” would be a great episode. Instead, it’s only a pretty good episode. That’s because this close to the end of the entire series, there are few stakes and little payoff, no matter how enjoyable the hour may be. Yes, technically the glee club might be disbanded if they don’t win, but that’s not a threat brought to the forefront here. It would be so easy to build this installment into something, given where the season starts, and yet Glee stops short of doing so.
My problem is not so much with the Sectionals themselves. The Falconers doing “Broken Wings” is ridiculously silly, as is the judging panel made up of Rod Remington (Bill A. Jones), Butch (stand up comedian Fortune Feimster) and her poodle, and a cranky comptroller (Patricia Forte), and the uneven number of songs that each group performers is stupid, if practical, but that’s par for Glee‘s Sectionals episodes, and it’s fun they bring back the comptroller from their very first competition. Given how over-the-top showy Vocal Adrenaline’s “We Built This City” / “Mickey” piece is, focusing on pizzazz over vocal quality, it’s no wonder that the New Directions win.
I am a little disappointed by the New Directions, not because of their song choices, but because of who is featured. Powerhouse Jane (Samantha Marie Ware) is the lone newbie that doesn’t get a solo, which seems a massive waste, and while I get that the Warblers provide the dance moves, some of them should have gotten to sing out front, too, no? But it’s hard to argue about the effectiveness of the “Take Me to Church” / “Chandelier” / “Come Sail Away” set, which is well executed and delightful. I don’t completely excuse the faults, but it’s a solid enough performance to make the trophy feel earned.
I have no problem with Glee showing a Sectionals win with no promise of following the group to Regionals and Nationals, either. Viewers aren’t emotionally invested enough in this cast yet, and so this basically just lets fans know that the tradition will continue, long after our television screens stop showing it. That’s a nice thought.
Afterwards, Sue (Jane Lynch) tells Will she ensures New Directions will win as payback for him defending her, and her exploits of poisoning the school and sending glitter bombs to the glee club are merely her having fun and motivating them. I sort of buy this. Sue has many times in the past exhibited a tough love strategy. However, it just doesn’t quite add up, given how she blows Will off last week, and her continued persistence in trying to kill the club this year. This is almost a pay-off for Sue, but like the Sectionals themselves, falls a little short of that.
The best plot in the hour finds Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff) returning to McKinley to urge Rachel to say yes to the Broadway show. She would be starring opposite him. She chooses school, but doesn’t close the door on a romance with her ex, and their “Listen to Your Heart” duet is full of sparks. I never really bought into a Rachel / Sam (Chord Overstreet) pairing, and Jesse makes way more sense for her. The song makes up for not seeing them on stage together in New York, and if they can date despite their hectic schedules, they could make for a fitting Glee endgame.
“We Built This Glee Club” isn’t very focused on the conclusion, and that is definitely the reason it fails to meet expectations. As mentioned, it doesn’t concentrate on earned wins, nor does it satisfactorily tie up arcs, despite ample opportunity to do so. Kurt, Blaine, and Rachel’s impending return to the Big Apple without pay-off makes the entire final season feel like a bit of a waste, even if it teases tantalizingly for the spin-off that should have replaced the mother ship a couple of years ago, and that we’re not likely to get at this point. It also makes no use of the alumni contracted full-time this season, both those currently working in the school and those absent. Too bad, as a few tweaks would have made this a very worthy penultimate airing, especially in the touching throw-back involving the trophies and glimpses of deceased Cory Monteith as Finn.
Glee concludes its six-season run with a two-hour episode next Friday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00UMC0KPQ][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00U3LMCKW]