Oh, Mick Jagger, it’s true that you can’t always get what you want. What exactly did we want from the Glee fall finale? Resolution of the remaining ridiculous plots, for sure, and that happened neatly enough within the first third of the evening: Finn now knows he’s not Quinn’s baby daddy (though he still seems confused about the hot tub, unfortunately). But resolution of well, most plots? It remains to be seen whether that was a good idea or not. Other than Finn’s believably visceral anger at Quinn (just like with Matthew Morrison last week, we didn’t think Cory Monteith had it in him — but he scared us!), everything this week went pretty much as we expected. We’re neatly set up for the road to Regionals in April — and it might take that long for our ears to recover from the insane amount of belting that went on this week.
Krieger and Eyen (originally Jennifer Holliday), “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” from Dreamgirls
As the episode began, mum was the word on all fronts: Mercedes predictably told everyone (other than Rachel) about Puck and Quinn, but Rachel remained in the dark (despite her psychic abilities; “I just can’t read minds or anything yet”); and Emma valiantly continued to quash her feelings for Will by volunteering to take the kids to Sectionals (“We just pushed the wedding back a few hours; now it doesn’t have to happen in broad daylight!”). Of course, that wouldn’t last long — we must give Rachel credit for her ingenious Tay-Sachs sleuthing (and Puck for his response to “Jewish baby testing:” “Does this have to happen tonight? Cuz….I have my fight club”). But before everything hits the fan, time for a musical statement, care of Mercedes, who once and for all shuts Rachel up (and gets a very cute hug from her) with this most notorious of showstoppers. We could’ve dealt without the crazy swinging camera angles, and we remain baffled by McKinley’s always on-call, always musically spot-on student orchestra/band, but Amber Riley does knock this one out of the park. The minute Sue called her Effie long ago, we knew it was coming (apparently, so did the pianist, after Mercedes’s fantastic: “Do I even need to tell you what song?”).
Styne and Merrill (originally Barbra Streisand), “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl
We always knew Rachel’s love of Barbra would manifest itself eventually! And with the crazy Barbra accent too! (putta, butta, etc.) It’s an oddly appropriate song choice, too: This whole season has been about how the glee kids, and Rachel especially, turn to music to help them forget their often miserable existences, so it was oddly uplifting to see little Lea Michele strut down the aisle defiantly. Come to think of it, this episode showed some growth on Rachel’s part — giving up the solo (initially, at least) to Mercedes, giving Quinn permission to punch her (“if you can, just try to avoid my nose”). But most of all, we were impressed by how she rallied the troops who heretofore loved to hate on her. The girl got Other Asian to speak!! And Artie to say one of his best lines yet: “Perhaps I could improvise some of my Def Poetry Jams.” Stellar!
The Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
In the realm of literal song choices, this ranks pretty high: It could be the Glee theme song! But in a neat little twist, it’s also the message Sue would like to smack Schue over the head with, as we noted in her excellent Hallway Encounter of the Episode (there seems to be one every week, right?): “I am reasonably confident you will be adding revenge to the long list of things you’re no good at,” including “finding a hairstyle that doesn’t make you look like a lesbian. Love you like a sista!” This being a mid-season finale, Schue and company, of course, get both what they want (the Sectionals trophy; Emma) and what they need (Sue out of the picture, for the moment, Schue reinstated as head of glee club — we were pleased to hear Figgins for once not say, “My hands are tied, Schue!”), so the number itself seems almost beside the point. The vocals are of the ultra-polished sort we’ve come to hear every week (whatever happened to the days when Tina cracked notes?), the choreography still rather bland (fist pumps to the sky…..forever!), and the super-into-it crowd almost too much. We get it: The glee kids are overcoming adversity, and this is the new “Don’t Stop Believin’”!
Kelly Clarkson, “My Life Would Suck Without You”
Ah, end of episode, and all’s right with the world: Schue running in slo-mo down the hall to kiss Emma! A big, pointy trophy! Well, maybe not all’s right — Puck and Finn won’t shake hands (thank you writers, for introducing a shred of reality here), Quinn’s decided to go it alone on the pregnancy, and, well, we’ll all remember the day we were invited onto the Sue Sylvester Express, “Destination: Horror.” We give the writers credit on multiple counts here — most of all, for not ending the episode as predictably as possible with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (and fade to black!). But we’ve also realized, over the course of the season thus far, that it’s the poppiest songs that often work best—the veneer of saccharine somehow hints at the melancholy that’s always below the surface on Glee, such that we can’t help but watch those smiling faces and think, “Oh, but things are just gonna get sooo much worse.” Setting aside sadness for a moment, though, this number felt sweet and realistic: a song teenagers would definitely bounce around singing together, a believable a capella arrangement (save for that electric guitar), and choreography so impossibly wacky (cowboy hats, crotch whacking, oh my) we couldn’t help but smile.
And now, as we bid farewell (tear!) to Glee for many months, we submit a wish list to the writers, who, yes, we hope might see our humble recaps. Please, in 2010, give us Jonathan Groff as the star of Vocal Adrenaline. Please give us singing Sue. Please create an amazing plotline involving Rachel’s biological mother, who should clearly be played by Idina Menzel. Please give us more believable teenage dork numbers: Presumably, these kids do like the top 40! And please, please, bring Puck back into the world of solos. Until April …
At the A.V. Club, Todd VanDerWerff notes how the varying focus on Sectionals throughout the season diminished the impact of the kids having to come up with a routine on the fly (this would explain why we weren’t all that surprised they came through … no tension was really set up first). Also, it’s clear this episode was meant to be a show finale if the Glee didn’t catch on.
Dan Snierson at EW.com coins an amazing new word: Glee-va! And speaking of Glee-vas, Snierson makes the astute observation that, after Mercedes sang, as proud of her as Rachel was, she was just as proud of herself for being so magnanimous.