Well, you can’t say that Ryan Murphy makes things easy for himself. The Glee showrunner already had a difficult task ahead of him, as laid out by the rules of Oxygen’s slow-burning summer reality competition The Glee Project: The winner was promised a seven-episode arc on the next season of Glee, meaning the writers would have to concoct a significant story line to suit a virtually unknown reality-TV contestant instead of simply creating a character that Glee needs and casting whoever best fits the part from the SAG talent pool. With that in mind, how did Murphy decide the outcome of last night’s Glee Project season finale? In the most complicated way possible, of course.
At first, things took a fairly expected turn. This season’s front-runner was always dreadlocked dreamboat Samuel, who wowed the judges with his finale rendition of the Dolly Parton classic “Jolene.” (It didn’t hurt that Samuel preserved the song’s pronouns and sang about the man he’d miss, which completed a Project-manufactured arc where Samuel had to come to grips with potentially playing a gay character on Glee, even though we’d already seen plenty of examples where the straight Samuel was an equal-opportunity flirt.) When Murphy announced that Samuel was the winner of The Glee Project, it seemed like the most predictable choice he could have made.
But Murphy doesn’t do predictable — that’s why his shows are prone to wild plot developments and whiplash character reversals. The Glee Project, ultimately, was no different: Mere seconds after Samuel was crowned, Murphy told Irish crooner Damian that he, too, had won a seven-episode arc on Glee. What’s more, runners-up Lindsay and Alex would also get to appear on the show, albeit in two-episode arcs.
Where will he put them all? Who knows! Murphy has teased before that the Glee Project winner will become Sue Sylvester’s newest adversary, but is that going to be Samuel, Damian, or both? And how will the writers overcome the cognitive dissonance that’s sure to occur when these reality-TV people are plopped next to Glee’s ultraheightened fictional characters (especially when they have to do it four times)? On the show, the McKinley High singers have never taken home the national title, because Murphy has wisely drawn out their underdog status for as long as possible. Now, though, he’s got four big winners in the mix. Will the already overstuffed show know what to do with them?