Glee Series Finale Recap: The New Directions Don't Stop Believin' for One Minute
The News Directions sing their final goodbye after six seasons
Over its six seasons, Glee has consistently proven that it can stick a landing, and the series finale was the absolute epitome of the scrappy musical dramedy’s ability to obliterate the memory of the bumpy road behind with one revelatory moment of heart-pumping, tear-jerking, can’t-stop-yourself-from-smiling, singing-and-dancing glory.
The series’s two-hour finale appropriately ended with One Republic’s anthemic feel-good tune “I Lived.” Indeed, the show “did it all.” It was, for better or (often) worse just as messy and ridiculous as life – but, in its best moments, also as uplifting and powerful.
Considering how wildly uneven Glee has been for, well, most of its run, the ending turned out to be pretty darn near pitch-perfect.
The first hour jumped back five years to when Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) first got the harebrained idea to recapture his glory days by taking over McKinley High’s glee club.
Each of the New Directions’ charter members – Kurt (Chris Colfer), Rachel (Lea Michele), Mercedes (Amber Riley), Artie (Kevin McHale) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) – narrated a segment spotlighting his or her life pre-glee.
True Gleeks no doubt appreciated this throwback installment primarily for its unexpected trivia:
• A suicidal Kurt tried out for the New Directions by singing Chicago‘s “Mr. Cellophane” (Colfer’s real-life audition number) when his father Burt (Mike O’Malley) insisted he join “a team.”
• Tina and Artie only auditioned for the glee club on a dare from their malcontent friends – she with the super Goth Katy Perry song “I Kissed a Girl” and he with Ginuwine’s "Pony" because Artie has always been OG like that.
• Will & Sue (Jane Lynch) were once basketball buddies; when Sue gave him an ultimatum not to start New Directions, it ended their friendship.
• Blaine was there all along! He appeared briefly in hour one to hand Mercedes a sugar packet at the coffee shop and counsel a fellow Warbler about being out-and-proud.
The episode ended with a flashback that set the tone for the rest of the finale. And by “set the tone,” I mean brought the tears. In the one true flashback, we revisited the performance of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” that started it all.
"Dreams Come True"
Hour two skipped right from the New Directions’ Sectionals win to their Nationals victory. Then, because of Will’s achievements with the club, he was informed that McKinley would become an arts school and he America’s foremost rapping princi-pal.
More than plot points, though, the closing half of the series finale was more about embracing the feel-good spirit that Glee – even at its sassiest – almost always managed to embody.
Even outgoing principal Sue had a touching moment with Kurt and Blaine (Darren Criss), telling “Porcelain,” “You expanded my mind. You taught me things about myself that I would have never discovered on my own. And for that I thank you.” (Granted, it’s still Sue, so she gave Blaine a less-enthusiastic endorsement: “Blaine, I still don’t really get you. I guess I just am not a fan of your thing. But, hey! You’re you, and that’s swell.”)
Also, Sue and Becky (Lauren Potter) had a long-time-coming, rom-com-appropriate slow run into each other’s arms. They really are soulmates.
Elsewhere, Rachel performed a beautiful original called “This Time.” The song was written by Criss, who told Entertainment Weekly, “I wrote ‘This Time’ as a love note to all things Glee. … I wanted Rachel’s words to encapsulate not only her own personal journey, but everyone’s experience of being a part of this show.”
Requisite Five-Year Flash-Forward
• In the year 2020, Kurt and Blaine were still happily living in New York and remained utterly fabulous, including but not limited to performing at Lincoln Center in the first-ever LGBT take on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Their clothes remained hypnotic, and Blaine apparently abandoned the hair gel. People really do change!
• Rachel volunteered to be their surrogate. But that wasn’t her only baby – she was nominated for (and won!) a Tony. While she was encouraged to thank her director by her Tony-winning husband Jessie St. James (Jonathan Groff), who also just happened to be her director, she gave the most touching speech of all to Mr. Schue by echoing his own words from the beginning of the second hour: “Dreams really do come true.”
• Mercedes was still super successful, Sam was happily heading up the New Directions – just one of four glee clubs at the new-and-improved McKinley – and had found another new girlfriend (no doubt wildly amused by his many impressions), and Tina and Artie were happily coupled and adorable as ever.
• Sue was elected for a second term as Jeb Bush’s vice president (naturally she had a full wardrobe of tracksuits with VPOTUS patches and Becky as a Secret Service bodyguard, and her sights were set on the highest office in the land). Sue returned to McKinley to dedicate the Finn Hudson Auditorium (shouldn’t we have run out of tears by now?) and delivered a stirring speech about how she once thought glee club was silly, but “what I finally realized [is] it takes a lot of bravery to look around you and see the world not as it is, but as it should be: A world where the quarterback becomes best friends with the gay kid, and the girl with the big nose ends up on Broadway. Glee is about imagining a world like that and finding the courage to open up your heart and sing about it. That’s what glee club is. And for the longest time I thought that was silly. And now I think it’s just about the bravest thing that anyone can do.”
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And so the finale closed with a buoyant, beautiful rendition of "I Lived": “I, I did it all / I owned every second that this world could give / I saw so many places, the things that I did / With every broken bone, I swear I lived.”
For all its flat notes over the past six seasons, Glee managed to pull off one last undeniable showstopper. And, with its finale, even those of us who stopped believin’ many times during the series’s run couldn’t help but be believers once more. That is, when we weren’t weeping uncontrollably.