Tuesday night saw the fifth season of Glee go out not quite with a bang, but not with a whimper either. It’s been a season of stops and starts, spanning almost eight months in total, with the major reason for this being the sudden death of Cory Monteith shortly before filming started. The third episode of the season, entitled ‘The Quarterback’, paid tribute to Finn and to Monteith, leaving the character’s death unexplained – a comment from Kurt about how the important thing was how he lived and not how he died seemed somewhat pointed, given the morbid fascination that pervaded the press coverage of Monteith’s fatal overdose. The tribute was surprisingly sensitively handled; for although Glee is known for its hyperbole, this was moving without being mawkish, and knowing that the actors – and in particular Lea Michelle – were genuinely grieving made it difficult to watch at times.
After a hiatus, it was back to (show)business for the rest of the season, with most episodes being split between the glee club in Lima and Rachel, Kurt and Santana trying to make it in New York. It all felt a bit fragmented, and I found myself drifting off during the scenes at McKinley, as the writers tried desperately to make us care about the new generation of Glee kids by repeating storylines from earlier seasons. Was there anyone with any genuine attachment to these characters? Personally I found Marley (aka Rachel but more wholesome and Christian) completely insufferable and the others just uninteresting.
The decision to uproot the show and move to New York permanently seemed like the best one the writers and producers could have made. In its last few episodes, Glee left behind the endless cycle of sectionals and finals and became a joyous mash-up of Fame and Friends, as Blaine, Sam and Artie joined the others in New York, while Mercedes returned to the show and announced, apropos of nothing, that she was moving to the city too. Cue Blaine and Kurt duetting to a montage of domestic bliss, Sam following his modelling dreams of getting his “junk” on the side of a bus and Mercedes singing ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’ to a carousel. I like this new Glee.
One of the weirder storylines of the New York part of the season had to be Sam and Mercedes suddenly deciding they’re in love, after dating for about five minutes in high school. Another aspect that didn’t quite ring true was Broadway-obsessed Rachel getting her dream part as the lead in the musical Funny Girl and then deciding after a couple of shows that what she actually wants is to be on TV. The season finale felt a little bizarre as it focussed on this new storyline after most of the season had been spent building up to Rachel’s opening night on Broadway.
Nonetheless, the finale ended on a high note, as a feel-good group performance of Bastille’s ‘Pompeii’ on the streets of New York encapsulated everything that Glee does best. This has been a season of ups and downs (let’s not even talk about the awfulness of ‘The End of Twerk’) but the pure fun of the last few episodes suggest that the next and final season will definitely be worth watching.