Ryan Murphy not only has a firm grasp of exactly how Glee will end, he also knows which two characters will be in the “powerful and moving” final scene.
That was but one of the revealing takeaways from an intimate, Glee-centric Q&A the show’s exec producer conducted with a few select outlets (TVLine included) on Monday. In addition to previewing this season’s five remaining Big Apple-set episodes (including this week’s highly enjoyable outing, “Tested”), Murphy opened up about the big idea he and co-creators Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan are cooking up for Season 6’s 24-episode farewell, which cast members will be invited to participate, and whether we have seen the last of McKinley High.
Murphy also spoke candidly about the “painful” internal conversations surrounding Rachel’s romantic future — a topic that’s touched on in tonight’s episode.
TVLINE | Can you talk about the decision to end the high school part of the show?
I’ve spoken about it before, but the big plan of what the series was going to be and how it was going to end was radically changed when Cory [Monteith] passed away. Finn was going to sort of take over the glee club and Rachel was going to be off having her New York adventures. When Cory passed away, part of the story as we had imagined it didn’t make sense anymore, really. It felt sad, to be quite honest. We collectively — Brad, Ian and myself — made a decision that the freshest thing to do was a complete, clean start. We accelerated all those New York stories, and I think that was the right choice. I think that gave the show a burst of new energy. It feels like a new show to me in that it’s much more young-adult than it’s ever been.
TVLINE | What happens to the new kids we met at McKinley [like Marley, Kitty, Unique, etc.]?
At some point before the show is concluded, we will definitely catch up with those characters again. We really loved all of those actors, and they did a great service to the show. So I think at some point, before we’re done, we’ll see many of them again and find out where they are and check in with them and see how being a part of that glee club legacy affected their lives, as we do with our original characters.
TVLINE | How do these remaining Season 5 episodes lead into the final season? And do you know who will be a part of Season 6?
Brad and Ian have done such a good job of working on these stories, particularly the New York stories in the past six episodes, from 14 through 20. What we’re sort of zooming in on is what’s going to happen with Rachel’s Funny Girl debut. Is it going to be a huge success? Is it going to be a flop? And if it is any of those things, where will it turn her? Will it make her want to stay and do more New York shows? Will she want to do something else? That’s the main thrust of this New York run. … Because we have fewer characters now, we have more time to tell [other couples'] stories. For example, you’ve seen a lot more of the Kurt and Blaine relationship, and we’re heading towards what’s going to happen to them. They pretty much have had trouble every episode. We’re also going to be dealing with the Sam and Mercedes relationship. All of these things are building to a head in [the finale]. I would say “explosion” is too harsh of a word, but something big happens, and the final season is the aftermath of that.
TVLINE | Are these New York episodes a preview of what the final season will look like?
They’re really not. The final season is its own story in its own location. The final season is not New York-centric at all. It really is a lovely, fitting season that dwells on the original people on the show and what happens to them and how they give back. That really is the last season. We’ll revisit some of the new kids that came and went, there’s a return of the [Sue] and [Will] in a big way. It’s a really interesting, very sweet, satisfying ending to the story.
TVLINE | Is the plan still for the final season to have 22 or 24 episodes?
This year we did 20 episodes, and the reason we did 20 was because we had a three-week delay because of Cory’s passing. There was no way to physically produce those episodes and get them on the air in the month of May. That’s why the order was sort of truncated. So now, what we’re left with is basically 24 episodes. And I can’t speak for other people, but for me, doing a straight run-through of 24 episodes just doesn’t seem to be viable. It doesn’t feel right, so we’re looking at how do we take those 24 ± do we divide them? The main thrust of them will be a final farewell to all of our characters that we’ve known since Season 1.
TVLINE | Do you have an idea for a new final scene of the series?
Yes, we do have a final idea that we’re working on that I think is very powerful and moving. It’s about Rachel and Mr. Schue, and it returns them to their origins, their roots, how they felt about each other when they were much younger and everything was idyllic. I think the ending has to be a reflection and a celebration of how far all those characters have come.
TVLINE | Will there be a time jump between seasons? And which cast members will be back for the final season?
We are going to do a time jump. And my feeling about the last season of Glee is very clear, and that is that we have, or we will be, reaching out to all the regulars on the show — the original group of glee club members and teachers, and anyone who wants to come back. Anyone who wants to be a part of the show, we welcome them. I know people are saying, “Well, why isn’t Heather [Morris] on the show now?” and things like that. The answer for some of these things is, Heather is a new mother. She has a young baby. She came and did four episodes and really loved it. I think she would be willing to come back and do a couple more, but right now, Heather wants to focus on being a mom. The fun thing about the ending of the show is that there’s room for everybody to come back and be a part of it, and I hope they all want to. I think they do. When we just had our big 100th episode celebration, I spoke to many of them, and everybody in the cast seems to look back on the show with such fondness and nostalgia. I think everybody wants to come back and end that story correctly, so that’s our answer. Anybody who wants to be a part of that ending, we’d love to have you.
TVLINE | Are we going to see McKinley again?
You might see it again in some very nostalgic way, yes, but I don’t want to talk about the location [of Season 6] just yet.
TVLINE | In this week’s episode, there’s a nice scene where Rachel tells Mercedes that she isn’t quite ready for a new romance. When is it OK for Rachel to start dating again?
We talk about this in the writers’ room all the time. That’s a really hard, very painful, very difficult thing for the show. I’ve said it before, and it was even in Cory’s eulogy, but that was the ending of the show for me, these two star-crossed lovers having a happy ending and both getting their dreams. So the fact that that can’t be is a big pain in all of our hearts. We have to pause and think, “What are we going to do with Rachel?” This year what we decided to do was to remove the equation of anybody coming in and taking Finn’s place, because I don’t really think that’s possible. And I think that worked out quite well. I really liked dwelling on Rachel’s career again. She’s going to be a star. But as for the future, it’s a lot of discussion, and it’s something that we’ll consult with Lea about. To be quite honest, we just haven’t been able to crack it, because I feel like it’s such a sensitive topic and the fans have such an idea about it. I think half of them feel like, yes, Rachel should go on, and I think half of them probably feel like no, she shouldn’t. We’ll follow Lea’s lead, as we have so many times this year. She’s always been so great and so sensitive and been so wise about how to handle that stuff. So we have to make that decision in the next couple of weeks or months: Is Rachel going to have another romance or does the second half [of Rachel's life], romantically, happen when Glee is over? That’s something we’re debating. It’s hard.