It’s a good thing Glee has summer to reset for Season 5, since despite some soaring moments for Season 4 finale All Or Nothing, season’s end, in many ways, was a hot mess.
Season 4 had enough of a challenge fragmenting into two casts in two settings while introducing many new characters. But at year’s end, the double punch of Cory Monteith’s absence via rehab and Heather Morris’ semi-absence — as Brittany’s usual dancing self — via pregnancy threw things off. And raising expectations with promos’ promises of a big cliffhanger that never materialized didn’t help this send-off at all.
I mean, on what cliff are we supposed to be hanging? That Blaine will ask Kurt to marry him, as he’d already said he’d do, and for which he had a ring in hand for the final shot? We knew this already. The true cliff on which to hang that would have been Kurt’s decision, and the finale didn’t even get that far.
Then there’s Rachel’s final call-back audition for Funny Girl, which was staged early in the episode and to which we never returned, so again, where’s the cliff? For all we know, learning her own fate is days away, not on the edge of a proverbial precipice.
Certainly Regionals was no cliffhanger, in that Regionals was resolved: New Directions won, in part thanks to a weakly contrived “home court advantage” (a cost-saver, since no new sets or settings were needed). And though it’s fitting that they won — despite a spirited effort from the Hoosierdaddies led by American Idol alum Jessica Sanchez — there was no catharsis as in the past, just a sense of “Next?” transition.
Adding to the general awkwardness at season’s end is the fact that the school year, this time, didn’t end in real-time May as in Seasons 1-3. Season 5 presumably will open with a push to Nationals in Los Angeles, and it can’t stretch that out for 22 episodes. So then, where will Glee go? That’s a tough one.
And let’s not forget one hugely glaring omission and two small ones.
Small? Sugar and Joe, whose unexplained absence for weeks never was addressed. They simply sauntered back into the choir room for Regionals, all ready to go.
Huge? Finn. No sooner had he ditched college to rejoin Will and co-coach the glee club than he disappeared — without one word to account for him. For three entire episodes. That’s what’s called insulting your audience. And it makes it hard to stay invested in Glee when it doesn’t deign to offer one line of dialogue explaining the absence of a major character.
At least Brittany got a genuine story to explain her departure next season: The unlikely genius heads to MIT, while Heather Morris heads to motherhood. But Finn? Nothing.
That’s not to say this episode lacked eventful turns and some superb music.
It was grand meeting the loving lesbian couple played by Patty Duke and Meredith Baxter. MIT’s eggheads’ obsession with Brittany’s numbered scrawls was a hoot. We got to witness a sudden Wemma wedding — and learned Michael Bolton is Sue’s baby’s daddy. (What a yarn that was.) And there were two episodes of Fondue For Two, the first shot in steep angles, ’60s Batman-style.
We also got the dragging catfishing subplot resolved with Unique’s belated admission — and who didn’t see that coming? A secret male admirer made the most sense. Ryder’s resuming the charade and then freaking out about it did not.
Best of all, the songs held up their end, starting with the night’s best number, Lea Michele owning Celine Dion torch ballad To Love You More for her final Funny Girl audition, which fittingly was saved for — first?
While seeing and hearing it was incredible, in retrospect I didn’t need immediate gratification. I needed catharsis at the end. This incredible show-stopper is how they started what became a sometimes stumbling and anti-climactic episode? I’d have finished the show and the season with Rachel’s performance to end on the highest note possible. And as she faced her judges expectantly, I’d have made that my cliffhanger, not waiting for an inevitable and premature proposal.
After years of covering show business as a journalist, I’ve often said, “If I was running things in Hollywood . . . ” Well, there you have an instance of why I sometimes say that.
So, sorry, Glee. You’re still my favorite show — ever. But for all the good songs to come, they were downhill after this performance, which could have been called To Belt You More, it had such power, technique, control and sheer emotion, even ending in tears.
Those tears evoked one of Rachel and Lea’s other great performances: Streisand’s My Man in Season 2. That one brought Kurt to tears. This time, Rachel herself was so moved — and moved me.
With a hopefully expanded New York presence for Season 5, this underscores a vital difference between Glee’s budding Gotham front and its old McKinley settings and situations: New York is exciting and new, and whether at NYADA or in Broadway auditions, Rachel isn’t prancing around a high school stage in a large group just looking for validation via a shiny trophy. This is a third Broadway audition for the role of a lifetime — and Rachel doesn’t blow it. She owns it.
Even going downhill from there, I enjoyed Sanchez and company for the spirited Clarity and Wings, while ND’s set was a knockout, from the stirring Hall of Fame to the sassy I Love It to the show-ending gleelapalooza of All Or Nothing, an original song yet a traditional one in a classic Glee mode.
So you see? There’s always something — or many things — to love about Glee. I just wish Season 4 had built to a satisfying end instead of lurching to a “What the — ?” finish.
Yet despite the title of the episode and the song, this wasn’t a case of all or nothing, Instead it was a case of wanting it all and getting — if not nothing — an uneven something.
— Bruce Westbrook