Glee‘s Season 2 finale was kind of like a New York City sidewalk: Fast-moving and crowded, with equal bursts of excitement, irritation, surprise, and confusion. Absent from the roll call: Sue Sylvester (reportedly recovering from last week’s sudden case of Characterus Reversalus); April Rhodes (on an extended dinner break from rehearsing her Crossrhodes musical); and Dave Karofsky (whose fascinating struggle with sexual orientation will have to wait till September…Unless Fox wants to create some kind of darkly awesome online summer series starring Max Adler?)
If you somehow got on the wrong Subway train and missed the action, please allow me to catch you up — in the classic “here’s what you missed on Glee” format: The New Directions kids arrived in New York City for Nationals, not having written, let alone rehearsed, two of their numbers. (Um, and these kids thought they were going to win it all?) Mr. Schue took off to the theater where pal April was mounting the musical Crossrhodes, while the glee club disobeyed orders to stay in the rooms to seek songwriting inspiration in the big city. Finn took Rachel on a “totally professional” work date that included dinner at Sardi’s (and a chance encounter with Patti LuPone) but Rachel rejected Finn’s advances in an effort to stay focused on the competition — and her dreams of stardom. Kurt and Rachel snuck onto Broadway’s Wicked stage off-hours and discussed their Manhattan dreams, while Quinn went momentarily ballistic about losing Finn — until Santana and Brittany got her a magical, healing haircut. The kids found out from Dustin Goolsby that Schue was planning to stay in New York to join Crossrhodes, but their show-choir adviser had already decided to pull the plug on his dreams of the Great White Way and focus on New Directions. (Crisis conveniently averted.) At Nationals, Rachel bumped into a demoralized Sunshine Corazon, and decided to “make something right” by building the self-esteem of her Vocal Adrenaline rival. New Directions then took the stage for its two numbers, Rachel rejected Finn backstage, but then the erstwhile lovebirds threw a massive, suck-all-the-air-from-the-room kiss into their choreography, and New Directions missed a Top 10 placing (and a second day of competition) by just two slots. When the kids returned to Ohio, Blaine dropped the L-word on Kurt (and it got returned!), Rachel and Finn revived their relationship, and Mercedes and Sam engaged in some top-secret handholding. Schue debuted a tiny trophy, even Quinn looked happy, and that’s what you missed on Glee.
Now, before we get on to letter grades for the week’s musical numbers, I’ve got to dish the three best and three worst non-musical moments from “New York.”
1) Quinn misinterpreting Santana’s suggestion that she knew what she could do to improve her mood, and politely beginning her rebuff with, “I’m flattered, Santana, but…”
2) Blaine’s spontaneous, casual “I love you” in response to Kurt’s optimistic attitude about New Directions’ performance at Nationals (and Kurt saying it back!).
3) The increasingly close friendship between Kurt and Rachel: Call me a marshmallow, but watching these outsiders face the world together makes me smile.
1) Mercedes and Sam hiding their relationship from their friends. Why in the name of all that’s holy would they do this? And wouldn’t Mercedes go directly to Kurt without passing go or collecting $200 to share her happy news?
2) The sudden and bizarre reversal of Quinn’s rage and sadness. I mean, I always feel great after a haircut, too, but wasn’t girlfriend planning some nefarious plot last week? This just didn’t hold water for me.
3) Mr. Schue’s strange acceptance and borderline encouragement of a romance between high-school grad/show-choir consultant Jesse and McKinley student Rachel. I know, I knowm, dude would only be a college freshman, and they dated last year, so the age difference isn’t all that skeezy. But he’s in the school’s employ, and I felt a little nauseous when Jesse declared, “I couldn’t stay away!” and Schue responded, “From the show or from her?”
And now, onto this week’s musical performances…
“My Cup,” Brittany and Artie | Nice try, Glee writers, but Rachel already covered the “desperately seeking inspiration” songwriter’s dilemma with “My Headband.” Brittany deserved something better (and certainly funnier). Musical grade: C- Relevance to the plot: C+
“I Love New York”/”New York, New York,” New Directions | Here’s an unexpected mashup that actually put the glee in Glee. From the bold, Skittles-y colors of the girls’ jackets to the ebullient vocal delivery to the beautifully filmed location shots, this was a feast for the eyes that made sense in terms of plot development, too. Musical grade: A- Relevance to the plot: A
“Still Got Tonight,” Mr. Schue | I can’t recall seeing Matthew Morrison light up this effervescently on a musical number in many moons. Maybe he was just dreaming of the residuals from so many iTunes downloads, but whatever the inspiration, it was a nice moment for a character who’s been working my last nerve all season. You could feel the fire burning inside his small-town teacher as he took the big Broadway stage and belted a number that was, coincidentally, cowritten by American Idol’s season 8 champ Kris Allen. Things got a little too Auto-Tune-y in a couple spots, but I’m not mad at it. Musical grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: B+
“Bella Notte,” Artie, Puck, Mike, and Sam | I know this song inherently comes with a light sprinkling of parmesan, but it seems like the show has been a little too reliant on having the New Directions guys provide musical accompaniment as one of their own tries to make his move. I’d have preferred they left this one to Lady and the Tramp. Musical grade: C+ Relevance to the plot: B-
“For Good,” Rachel and Kurt | Two out of the last three weeks, Glee has had some parallels to old Ugly Betty plots: Gay kid voted prom queen; major characters engage in hijinks on/near Wicked‘s Broadway stage. That aside, I loved seeing further development of Kurt and Rachel’s friendship, and the bond they share as artsy outsiders hoping their paths will someday take them to Manhattan (or more likely, one of its outer boroughs). Musical grade: A- Relevance to the plot: A
“As Long as You’re There,” Sunshine Corazon | Admittedly, I spent the first 30 seconds of this performance oohing and ahhing over Sunshine’s turquoise sequined shoulder straps and belt. No doubt, Charice has outrageous pipes, and she sold this half-baked power ballad like it was next generation “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Plotwise, though, this seemed less about the development of Sunshine and more about completing the resuscitation of Rachel Berry from her early-season awfulness. Musical grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: B
“Pretending,” Rachel and Finn | I’m not the biggest fan of Rachel burying her self-esteem in a self-dug hole and reuniting with Finn, but their angsty duet was pretty intense, and THAT KISS — and its accompanying silence — had me gasping with surprise and delight. Musical grade: A- Relevance to the plot: A
“Light Up the World,” New Directions | I liked this original ditty, but there was just a nagging sense of having seen it all before: The flowing black dresses, the walk-walk-turn choreography, the various members of the club hitting their various big notes with eerie precision. I’d have thought for Nationals, the kids would close with something out of left field, but then again, they needed to have room for improvement if they’re going to go from twelfth to wealth at the end of Season 3, right? Musical grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: B+
What did you think of the Glee finale? Which story arcs were you loving? Which ones did you have problems with? Sound off in the comments, and for all my TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.