‘Glee’ concluded its first season last week with an episode titled ‘Journey’. What a great journey this show has been over the past year. Yes, some of the storylines in the first half of the season were misjudged. (I’m of course referring to the Will and Terri fake pregnancy, and to Finn believing that he impregnated Quinn despite never having sex with her.) Even during those lower ebbs, the show was always terrifically entertaining overall, and a blast of fresh air on the television scene. Since coming back from the mid-season break, the series quickly corrected those mistakes and has been pretty consistently strong. And now it’s capped off the season with a very good finale.
The overriding story arc throughout the entire year was Principal Figgins’ mandate that New Directions must place at regionals or he would disband the club. Now the time has come, and everything is on the line. The episode opens with some nearly devastating news. The Ohio Show Choir Association has named a panel of celebrity judges for the regional competition… and Sue somehow qualifies as a celebrity in their eyes. Obviously, she intends to capsize Will and his class by making sure they lose. This leaves everyone despondent.
Also sitting on the panel are returning guest stars Josh Groban and Olivia Newton-John as narcissistic parodies of themselves. In crippling blow #2, competing team Aural Intensity (that name really just sounds wrong, doesn’t it?) learned the judges’ identities in advance and have prepared a medley of Groban and Newton-John songs.
Will nonetheless manages to rally the team into delivering a rousing medley of Journey hits from “Faithfully” to “Any Way You Want It” to “Don’t Stop Believin’.” (Just before performing, Finn tells Rachel that he loves her.) As soon as they leave the stage, Quinn’s mother appears wanting to reconcile. She says that she’s left Quinn’s father (and slips in a subversive Sandra Bullock joke). At that moment, Quinn’s water breaks.
One entire between-commercials act of the episode cross-cuts from Quinn giving birth to Vocal Adrenaline performing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The events are rather cleverly timed to correspond to the song lyrics. It’s jokey, but somehow works anyway.
In the judges’ chambers, only Josh Groban seems to like New Directions at all. Olivia Newton-John is particularly upset that more groups didn’t honor her by performing her songs. Naturally, she favors Aural Intensity. She especially hates New Directions, and also decides that she hates Sue. Her tirade has the strange effect of making Sue feel sympathy for the New Directions team.
Nevertheless, when the results are announced, Vocal Adrenaline takes the prize, followed by Aural Intensity. The New Directions squad didn’t even place. This means, of course, that they’ve failed to meet Figgins’ goal.
Back at school, Will tells Emma that he loves her. This comes after she’s revealed that she has a new dentist boyfriend. We never get to see the boyfriend, but John Stamos has been announced to play the role next season. (Now, even as a heterosexual male, I’ve got to say that there’s really no competition there. Stamos has got this one wrapped up.)
The kids later serenade Will to the strains of “To Sir, With Love.” Seeing this causes Sue to go all mushy inside. We learn in flashback that she actually voted for New Directions. Of course, she’s not about to admit that to anyone. However, she does convince (read: blackmail) Figgins into extending the New Directions lease on life for one more year. She delivers this news to Will in as back-handed a fashion as she can, but Will sees through the act and tells her that he knows she’s a good person inside. Sue cringes at the thought.
In the final reel, Will sings the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” to the class, and we learn that Rachel’s birth mother Shelby (the Vocal Adrenaline coach) has adopted Quinn’s baby.
That last twist feels a little overdone and unnecessary to me. And I don’t think that the writers should have attempted to soften up Sue. Even so, ‘Journey’ is a very emotionally satisfying finale. Let’s hope that the show can keep things going for another year without losing its focus or jumping its shark.