Glee blog review: Episode 22 — ‘Journey’

My wife and I saw a rainbow this evening. Then we heard a sweet song about another.

The first was real — a spectacular byproduct of late-evening showers as we walked our neighborhood before the season finale of Glee. The second rainbow was only in song, yet no less appreciated.

And appreciation is what I offer now to Glee, a show which, while not perfect, is the finest TV series I have ever witnessed, and that includes three decades as a professional entertainment writer for major newspapers. Daily inundation with show biz makes you realize how much of it is, in fact, simply business, and scars you with a stark awareness that true artistry is rare, while most of our pop-cultural diversions are just that — time passers.

Glee is not. Glee is special.

Many will decry it, now that it’s hit big — now that’s it’s a huge, inviting target that dares to be broadly popular. But this unlikely and oddball little musical — has there ever been another like it on TV? — deserves more at this time of its season-ending triumph than nitpicks from discerning fans like me, or salvos from the haters who merely label it, from “too gay” to “too Auto Tuned,” as if Glee claims to concern the veracity of live concert performance, rather than the gloriously realized artificiality of an on-screen musical fantasy — a fantasy we embrace not because each plot point adds up or each necessarily pre-recorded note is perfectly synced, but because we love the fantasy — the tuneful, soulful fantasy. Love it with all of our hearts.

Fortunately, I get it. I get what creator Ryan Murphy and his collaborators are after. They respect their job as entertainers, but they also work so much more into the mix, from meaningful messages about societal tolerance, or lack thereof, to sharply defined characters shaped as much by their flaws as by their hopes and dreams.

And then there’s the music — the  astonishing quality and quantity of music, week after week. Producer Adam Anders, I salute you. And Ryan, you as well, for shrewd song choices and for unleashing so many boldly captivating performances — renditions largely enabled by you getting your job done right on the front-end, when you hired this incredible cast of Broadway vets and young actors with not a household name in sight, and then tailored their roles to their real lives.

Sorry, Lea Michele, but you are Rachel — or, should I say, Rachel is you. But in Glee’s loving context, that’s not an indictment. It’s a tribute.

And BTW, you’re the greatest young singer on the planet.

So yes, I’m grateful to Glee, even if its Season One finale, Journey, wasn’t as rousing an episode as its fall finale, Sectionals. In fact, New Directions wasn’t even as good tonight as they were in sectionals, given such hard acts to follow, from Rachel’s incredible Don’t Rain on My Parade at mid-season to a tiny glee club’s resolve to stick together with their first spin on Don’t Stop Believin’ back when it all began. Ending their regionals performance with the same song, rehashed and now bloated, was anticlimactic. This Journey went one song too long.

Faithfully, I’ll take — especially after Finn’s backstage declaration of love for Rachel made it so spot-on. And Any Way You Want It, mashed with Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin,’ was rousingly sung — if ordinarily staged — bombast. But that was enough of Journey — and a musical journey. With regionals out of the way early in the show, there were plots to be advanced.

While humor-deficient, this episode did that ably, with Will also declaring his love for Emma; with Quinn having a sudden and premature birth; with Shelby fittingly adopting Quinn’s baby girl; with Quinn’s mom showing up to announce a divorce; and with New Directions losing, yet surviving to fight another year, thanks to intervention by none other than an admiring Sue Sylvester. Thanks, Sue — I knew you had it in you.

Besides, I’d firgured ND wouldn’t win regionals, any more than Rocky won his first championship bout against Apollo Creed. Plenty of time for that next year, now that Sue has shown her good side and negotiated for ND’s survival after it failed to “place” in an absurdly prejudicial judges’ vote. (Olivia Newton-John was certainly a good sport to be portrayed not just as vain, but as a cynical bully.)

Now the dust has cleared, and we know where our favorite Gleeks stand — sort of — as we wait out another hiatus. But after a too-long four-plus months before the “back nine,” I think we’ll make it more easily to fall. After all, this time we’re left with 22 shows to see us through the dog days of summer — shows which will air again on Thursdays on Fox. So yes, I’m grateful, since the wait won’t be so bad.

Besides, I’m comforted that Glee will be back for at least two more seasons, thanks to its unusual renewal that far in advance. I know that my favorite little high school glee club will survive. And I know that Somewhere Over the Rainbow, as Will and Puck sang so sweetly, New Directions — and their hopeful hearts — will win the day.

For me, that rainbow — that promise — is enough. I’m content.

Oh, forget that! Now let’s rewatch this whole damn series again. From the top!

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One Response to “Glee blog review: Episode 22 — ‘Journey’”

  1. ‘Glee,’ with 19 Emmy nominations, rightly leads the TV pack « Tripping the Light Says:

    […] Emmys were bound to fall in line. Besides, this vote, unlike those others, came after Glee’s superb back-nine spring season aired from April-June. Talk about sealing the […]

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