Glee Review/Recap Episodes 20-21 ‘Props,’ ‘Nationals’: The truth of triumph

As a longtime entertainment journalist, I acquired a healthy cynicism toward show business, yet I always also believed in so-called “Hollywood” endings, which is to say, happy ones. But I didn’t believe in them as mere wish fulfillment, and I didn’t believe in them as shrewd audience pandering to sell tickets.

No, I believed in them as truth.

Some will say Glee’s amazingly cohesive double-header of Episodes 20, Props, and 21, Nationals, was too feel-good — too Hollywoodish — to ring true. They’ll say that New Directions winning Nationals, Rachel getting another — and apparently solid — shot at NYADA, Will winning teacher of the year — and heck, even Will getting laid — was too much too quickly, and more phony than feel-good.

And to that I say: Not in my book. After all the struggles and heartbreak, after all the slushies in the face, after all the “L” sign of losers from contemptuous fellow students, after finishing in 12th place last year, our little glee club had this championship coming. They’d worked for it. They’d fought for it. And this time they won it. And it was right, because sometimes underdogs do come out on top. Sometimes the right people do win despite the odds. And that truth is as real as any heartbreak, and certainly as meaningful.

So thanks, Glee, for winding up season 3 — with the exception of next week’s Goodbye episode — on such a rare and deserved high note. By referencing the past so adroitly, starting with Tina’s inspired wide-ranging recap at the start of Props, these two shows put things in their proper perspective.

Heck, Glee’s first double-header even referenced Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat, which any longtime Glee fan knows is the first song a fledgling New Directions ever performed.

Here, with this superb payoff, not only New Directions triumphed, but also a bold little show for which we once only hoped for an extra “back nine” episodes to complete season one.

Now we’ve had 65 so far, and counting. And the last two are among the best, from Props’ workable mix of wacky body-changing humor and heavy interpersonal soul-searching to Nationals’ rousing competitive performances and final victory laps.

Musically, I was stoked by the diverse array of selections, though a bit mystified by ND’s three Nationals songs. Gaga’s Edge of Glory made the most sense, as a vibrant Troubletones crowd-pleaser. But the two Jim Steinman songs, while I love the guy, didn’t quite seem championship worthy.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light, originally performed by Meat Loaf, is basically an angry makeout song between a guy and a girl in a car, ending with a declaration by him that he couldn’t stand living with her — sung by Finn to Rachel. Huh? But it’s also an “epic” song befitting Nationals in the same way Vocal Adrenaline’s Bohemian Rhapsody did in Season 1.

Too, Steinman’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, a hit for Celine Dion, seemed a rather ponderous power ballad for the manic frenzy of a Nationals stage. But Rachel/Lea Michele certainly nailed it, thereby getting her fresh NYADA shot — and later, a piece of that trophy.

Loved the welcome home celebration at the end, and another Queen song in the fitting We Are the Champions. The payoff was complete in narrative terms. And the triumph was true.

Surely things will come down to Earth a bit next week, with fond farewells, tearful goodbyes and maybe another heartbreak or two. Surely everything can’t turn out all right for everyone, from Puck’s hoped-for graduation to Rachel and Kurt’s NYADA dreams to Finchel and Klaine’s romantic togetherness.

But for one double-dose night, Glee was in full glory, with a resolution that was three years in the making. It’s also one that makes me proud of our little glee club, just as I was when its first eight members performed the National Anthem at 2009’s World Series, back when Glee was a quirky new show with its share of skeptics and no sustained future guaranteed.

When they were introduced, typically feisty Philly fans booed. But when Amber Riley started hitting those glory notes, and when her cast mates stepped up to harmonize magically, and when they all brought it home with verve and respect, the crowd went wild.

Tonight the crowd went wild again, on screen, and in a fictional sense, but it still felt real. It felt like the validation Glee has earned all along, but which it’s denied itself while it kept its little glee club in the mode of lovable losers. Now they’re winners, and their underdog appeal may wear off. But I’ll take it. I’ll take the payoff. I’ll take the feel-good Hollywood ending. I’ll take it all.

And why? Because there’s also truth in triumph, and because New Directions, like Glee itself, has earned it.

— Bruce Westbrook

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One Response to “Glee Review/Recap Episodes 20-21 ‘Props,’ ‘Nationals’: The truth of triumph”

  1. distractedblog Says:

    I agree! It was a fabulous episode!

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