The Moppets Take Manhattan

 Spoilers about the Glee season finale lie ahead… Beware…

   Entertainment Weekly asked writer Brad Falchuk (one of three writers the show has) to share some of his insight on what, to me, was an uneven though ultimately rewarding season finale of Glee. His response highlights the deep-down reality that this show secretly embraces, even though it hides this reality beneath so much fluff and farce and maniacal Sue scheming. Beneath all that incredibly ridiculous fondit (makes cake look pretty, tastes really bad), you have a show about a bunch of Ohio misfits who’ve found an unexpected family within a community they don’t even like all that much. That’s what the dating merry-go-around and the weekly pop songs mask every Tuesday night — a show about a bunch of kids who want to make it really bad, but aren’t ready yet, a sad fact made okay by the fact that, in the end, they have each other. This is the heart of this show. Not Rocky Horror Show pastiche or musical guest stars. It’s about lonely, small town kids, adrift in the world until… they’re not anymore. It’s heart is the look Rachel gives at the beginning of this final episode when she realizes she is finally in New York City — she is excited, eager… and unprepared and overwhelmed. From his comments, Falchuk seems to be aware of this, though the show he writes, the product he’s actually selling, seems to forget this more often than not.

“ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you always think New Directions would lose?
BRAD FALCHUK: Yeah. They’re not ready yet. I think there’s something about them winning that deflates things oddly. We knew what was going to happen. It’s not even that they lost but they didn’t even make that top 10. That’s how unprepared they were. That’s how unfocused they were. I kinda liked that. To me, if they make it to the top 10 after they’re so clearly not focused, they’re clearly not invested because they all have other things going on — it would have been a little disingenuous.

   Well, thanks for making that clear now, Brad! Where’s all that concern about being genuine during, say, the Bieber episode or the Grinch episode? I do love that at the end of every season, this slacker Glee Club is confronted with the reality that writing songs the day before performances means smaller trophies, but I really wish that reality could seep into the emotional core of this show a little more. If it did, Glee would be a much more consistent, enjoyable show. As it stands, Glee is a show of monumental peaks and really depressing valleys. Is it good entertainment? I believe so, absolutely. I love a good song, a good dramatic beat, a good punchline. Is a good story being told here? I’m not so sure anymore, though this episode goes a long way to reassuring me that this show remembers where it began and where it could end. Every five episodes or so, Glee exhibits this ability to suddenly remember its narrative path (high school kids want trophy, also acceptance; their teacher wants the best for them, also love). Unfortunately, on a week to week basis, this show seems incapable of stringing together much coherent thought. Lack of coherent thought does not a good story make.

   Early on, this episode displays that wild erraticism to a tee, though it tries to play this inability to focus off on the cabin fever of the members of New Directions. The kids want to get out! They want to see the city! They want, clearly, to forget that they are there for Nationals, for a music competition, and, y’know, kiss and sing about other random things and yell at each other for various out-of-character reasons, which is frustrating since this is supposed to be a show about music and competition. Yes the Glee Club is distracted from their goal, but so is this show! And guess what? When the show intentionally loses focus to look at the pretty colors and the pretty people and the random explosions of drama, it is at its worst.

   I hated the beginning of this episode, pretty much from the moment after Rachel’s excited visage went straight to the title card up until Mr. Schuster’s totally undramatic announcement that he would stay with the kids and would not be joining “CrossRhodes: The April Rhodes Story.” (Boy was that sure a clunker of a plot… though I loved that the show had its own marquee and that it prominently featured a martini glass.) The story was unintelligible for the first twenty minutes. “You kids stay here while I go make sure I really do love you guys more than Broadway. Oh wait, of course I do!” Mr Schuster said, redundantly. “Okay, of course we’ll stay here and write songs for Nationals, which is tomorrow, beloved teacher,” his kids replied deceptively as they snuck out the back door. Oy!

   The songs were even more atrocious. Simply put, having Matthew Morrison sing one of his own songs from his bust of a pop album was, well… sad. More than that, the New York mashup the kids sang as they ran gleefully around the city’s landmarks was so atrociously “Friday”-like in lyrical content, that I actually felt, sitting before the television ten minutes into this finale, as if I was reading this show its last rites.

   Confession time: I thought this was another original song. I’m not the only one. A lot of people thought this insipid song was written by the producers to, I don’t know, reflect the random musings of a group of teenagers with very limited songwriting craft let loose in the city. Nope, as it turns out, this song is a mashup of two already established songs — one is an obscure and truly horrendous Madonna track (all the bad lyrics, the rhyming of “York” with “dork,” those are from this song) and the other is an obscure but cute song from the old-school movie musical On the Town. See for yourself.

   I’m not sure if finding out this is a mash-up of two already existing songs should make me feel any better about the situation. It makes me think the producers will push together any two songs, even if they’re really bad, really obscure, and sound horrible together, just to suit a week’s given theme. I mean, they’ve proven this many times before. But… in the finale? I was not happy.

   This episode really turned it around though. Rachel and Finn’s date was cute, though I hated her reaction to Finn’s courtship considering she was ordering Finn to love her exactly three episodes ago.

   I get it… Actually being in New York, shaking hands with Patti Lupone, it awakened something in our somewhat dormant diva, but her rationalization?

Rachel: I love Finn, but I love New York more.

Kurt: Bring him along.

Rachel: Nahhhh, Finn won’t come. I’ll just spurn him up until the most inopportune moment, which is when we are on the stage at Nationals, at which point I will make the sensible decision to trade saliva with him in front of thousands of judgy New Yorkers.

   Here’s what should have happened next:

Kurt: No seriously, you should just ask him to come along.

Rachel: Really, you think? Well, okay, I guess. Hey Finn. I love you and New York. Would you come to New York with me after high school?

Finn: Yeah, of course. I hate Ohio, and it’s not like I’ve got anything pressing going on there. And I love you, and would do anything for you. Seriously, annnnythinggg! I was thinking about throwing away our chances at Nationals by making out with you for like five minutes on stage just so I could convince you to love me. Good thing I don’t have to do that anymore. That would have been stupid.

Rachel: Yep, sure would’ve.

    And New Directions wins Nationals unanimously. See what good communication can do, kids?

   “For Good” is when this episode finally locked in for me as classic Glee (kind of uneven plotting, good jokes, great music, with a gooey heart, and a dose of hard luck). That duet was gorgeous. I don’t begrudge Chris Colfer one bit for being the breakout star this season. He truly is a splendid actor and a moving singer. What really brought this episode into truly great territory for me, redeeming it from what had been the lowest of lows, was the final six minutes. Song free, perfectly scripted. You could see the writers pushing to close every open plot line they could grasp, but it worked. For once, the writers seemed absolutely in control of this series and its tone as they gave the ideal send-offs to Blaine and Kurt, Santana and Brittany, and then Finn and Rachel. They understood the reality of disappointment and also the joy of family, and they stated this message, for once, subtly and eloquently! Through Brittany S. Pierce, of all people! If the show follows the threads it set out in this finale even for one or two episodes before it focuses on some shiny new toy (let’s do a Hootie & the Blowfish episode, guys!), then I see genuine hope of this show recapturing that spark — that sad-eyed, mournful spunk of the cast-out Ohioan with a dream — that made every critic swoon two years ago when Glee was first getting its start.

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