In last night's Glee season finale, we lived vicariously through the New Directions as they finally made it to New York. The episode was full of glitz and glam, quests for acceptance and tons of original Glee music: four songs in all. Here's how it happened:
After arriving in New York, Mr. Schuester places the glee club on lockdown until they write nationals-worthy songs. In another failed New Directions attempt to write original tunes, Puck strums while Brittany and Artie duet over an ode to paper, plastic and styrofoam drinkware. It's plenty pleasant in the vein of acoustic singer-songwriters before them, but the lyrics clearly need work. So Quinn decides the club needs to go out and explore New York to get inspiration: "New York is going to [write the songs] for us."
"I Love New York/ New York, New York"
While they don't get their creative juices flowing on original music, the New Directions sing Madonna's ode to the city from Confessions on a Dance Floor and (naturally) get their Broadway fix in with a cut from On the Town while hitting up some of the city's most famous spots, including Central Park, Lincoln Center, Washington Square Park and the TKTS steps in Times Square. Almost everyone has a solo in the infectious, high-speed mash-up as they recount their glee at being in New York.
"Still Got Tonight":
Schue's trip to the Broadway stage is an excuse for Glee to spotlight a cut from Matthew Morrison's debut LP. Over a generic-sounding pop melody, Schue belts out the tune. It's an awkward choice for the Broadway stage, but we enjoyed hearing Schue sing a solo for the first time in too long. He's told by an intruder, who's been in the business over 25 years, that he has "it," furthering his desire to abandon McKinley for Broadway.
Finn invites Rachel on a "work date" to pen their duet for nationals, and they wind up at famed theater dining spot, Sardi's. Rachel musters the courage to approach her idol, Broadway diva legend Patti Lupone, who advises her to never give up and tells her Finn is cute. On the way back from dinner, Rachel confesses the only thing that could make the night more perfect is being seranaded by street musicians. Cue the glee guys, who peel themselves off from the side of a building to sing "Bella Notte" from Lady and the Tramp. Puck wins MVP musician award, for his continued guitar playing and, now, picking up the accordion. Artie sings the sweet lovers' tune as Finn attempts to bring a romantic comedy to life and kiss Rachel; but she refuses, and yet the glee guys keep on singing (well, Artie sings, Puck plays and Mike and Sam just nod their heads).
Kurt wakes Rachel up to reenact Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the two confess their shared intention to move to New York after graduation (do we smell a spin-off or a resolution to the highly speculated post-graduation plans for Glee?). Kurt helps Rachel work through her Finn conflict by breaking into the Gershwin theater, home of Broadway smash Wicked ("you have to visualize the options"), where a kind usher gives them 15 minutes to realize their Broadway dreams. They choose "For Good," the show's finale, coming full circle from their season one drama around singing "Defying Gravity." It's a fitting song for friendship and Kurt and Rachel nail it. It also reminds a wide-eyed Rachel that she doesn't have to choose between work and love, because, for her, Broadway is love.
First up at nationals, where 50 show choirs compete on day one, to be narrowed to fields of ten, then five and then one, is an all-girl rendition of "Yeah!." Novelty aside, the arrangement feels flat and the dancing is overexaggerated, which are two problems the New Directions will never have to deal with.
"As Long As You're There":
Rachel continues her bathroom confrontations with Vocal Adrenaline's Sunshine Corazon, but this time Rachel Berry gives the tiny Filipina powerhouse a pep talk before Vocal Adrenaline takes the stage at nationals. Sunshine handles the slow, building ballad the same way she did "All By Myself": with masterful skill and unbelievable ease. Score one for Vocal Adrenaline.
Like every major competition before, Finn and Rachel have a pre-show confab behind the curtain. This time they confess their love for one another, but Rachel picks her stage dream over Finn. They sing the Finn-penned original song, which pairs the pop sensibilities of the sesason's other original tunes with lyrics that may or may not reflect the ongoing Finchel saga that reminds us of "No Air" (another season one duet). Jesse St. James shows up, saying he couldn't stay away, and Schue asks whether it's Rachel or the show he's talking about — but it doesn't matter, because the number ends with an unscripted Finchel kiss that silences everyone into a stupor.
"Light Up the World":
In a number remniscent of their regionals tune, "Loser Like Me," the New Directions take the stage for an up tempo, pop/r&b tune that's sure to boost your self-esteem and also reminds us of the New York mash-up from earlier in the episode. Full circle inspiration, perhaps? It's typical glee club performance fare, full of pep and spirit to spare, and lands them a standing ovation. But in spite of the performance and the "Super Man of kisses" (or in because of, if you're Jesse St. James), the New Directions don't make it to the top 10, coming in 12th.
Post-Show Revelations: Kurt gives us some perspective while recounting nationals for Blaine: "It was amazing. I flew on a plane for the first time in my life, I had breakfast at Tiffany's, I sang on a Broadway stage." Heather tells Santana this year was about acceptance and Rachel tells us being an artist is about doing what you feel in the moment, no matter the consequences. Schue decides to stay at McKinley, Kurt and Blaine profess their love for one another, Sam and Mercedes start dating and Finn convinces Rachel to be with him for the year of high school they have left before she realizes her New York dreams.
Bottom Line: Despite a well-rounded episode (overlooking the noticeable absence of Sue Sylvester) and a Big Apple-sized send-off for the show's second season, we feel unfulfilled by "New York." We didn't actually expect the New Directions to win nationals, but the episode just felt like it was going through the motions rather than seizing the opportunity to do something truly spectacular. In a season that had its share of ups and downs, that seems about right. Here's hoping Glee finds — and keeps — its footing in season three.
Previously: Try a Little Tenderness