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Glee, “Journey” (1.22)

“Who cares what happens when we get there, when the getting there has been so much fun.” – Will Schuester.

This is finale round 2 for Glee, whose midseason finale “Sectionals” was also structured and, indeed, scheduled as a season finale. That episode, despite some strong parts, was generally messy, predictable and occasionally offensive, even with a loveable cast and some great numbers.

Since then, though the back nine have also had some problems – particularly, now that it’s trying to service its supporting cast, the show sometimes doesn’t have room for any full stories or arcs – but it’s also learned from its earlier mistakes. The cast, though substantial stories are hard to come by, are sharing the screentime and the vocals much more nowadays.

So how do they do on their second attempt to end the season right? Find out after the jump…

“Journey” may have been messy, as Glee is inevitably bound to be, but it was messy in the way the show likes to be. Fun, breezy, cute, heartwarming, with the occasional twist.  Some plot machinations were awkward (Shelby suddenly adopting Beth), but ultimately it was a fun hour of television.

I’m a sucker for finale callbacks, and as Glee really had two finales, they’ve done some really interesting things between “Sectionals” and “Journey” that even occasionally seem to comment on that rocky first 13.

For example, look at the key performances in “Pilot”, “Sectionals” and “Journey”, and they provide a symbolic timeline of the club’s development through the season. In the first episode, “Don’t Stop Believin'” is the big number, and it’s almost exclusively anchored by Finn and Rachel as the rest were an afterthought. In “Sectionals”, the first song was again anchored solely by Rachel, followed by one where Rachel and Finn led the rest of the crew in a performance of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. It’s only in the finale that the arc completes: A Finn/Rachel number alone (“Faithfully”), a Finn/Rachel-led number with the rest contributing (“”Any Way You Want It” / “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”), and finally a re-do of that opening number with equal contribution from the rest of the club, including Santana (who didn’t get a significant part until episode 15, then began showing up regularly ) and Puck (whose only notable contribution in the front 13 was “Sweet Caroline”, before he was integrated into more numbers). This follows the development of the show, which was early on almost exclusively interested in Will/Emma and Rachel/Finn, but by the end of the season ready to embrace its entire cast.

Things also come full circle from the pilot, as the theme of the show is brought up again: feeling the magic of glee isn’t about, and can actually be damaged by, wanting to win. Though Rachel promoted fame in the opening episode of the series as the one thing to focus on, it’s been repeatedly torn down as pointless (as the ‘famous’ are continuously shown to be vapid or otherwise irritating) and damaging (as Rachel says, Jesse’s an accomplished dancer but has no heart, and that’s not just about his performances). So its fitting that Glee loses, flat out, its first Regionals, but fights to live another day. After all, though they paled to Vocal Adrenaline this year, another year could make them a strong competitor.

Also, this finale doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth like “Sectionals” did with its horrifying treatment of disability and race. Sure, all the active characters here were white: Rachel, Finn, Sue, Will, Quinn, Sue, Shelby. But that’s par for the course, and the show’s allowed folks like Mercedes, Artie and Kurt to anchor stories this season, so I’m hopeful for an improvement. The minor characters only started to make a footprint in the back nine, and trying to service them all almost gave the show a heart attack; with 22 episodes next season, the pacing should be a bit better.

Sure, I could complain about the triteness of three couples saying the l word, or the fact that the Will/Emma relationship was again painted as a good thing when only a few episodes both characters were acknowledging how damaging it was to both, or that the the plot holes really hurt some of the ‘awwww’ moments.

Or I could remember Santana crying during “To Sir, With Love”, and Will stopping his car as “Don’t Stop Believin'” comes up on the radio, and dorkily watching from the sidelines during their final number, or the astonishing “Bohemian Rhapsody”/birth sequence. And I could remember Lea Michele and Idina Menzel breaking my heart with “I Dreamed a Dream”, and Chris Colfer making a name for himself with his amazing “Rose’s Turn” and “A House is Not a Home”; I’ll remember the amazing “Halo/Walking on Sunshine” number, and “Take a Bow” and the jaw-dropping “Rehab”. And even though the show and I have a lot of issues, and I spend each episode I watch alternately grinning and cringing, these are the things I will remember.

Glee is, despite its failings, something I wait for every week with anticipation. A show where I think about what might happen next, read fanfiction, listen to the music. It’s the experience that thrills me, one that may even be more important than the show itself. It’s an odd one.

See you next season. Bon chance.

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  1. Glee, ?Journey? (1.22) « The Signal…

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