Glee Recap/Review Season 5 Episode 12 “100”: Merry Milestone

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Have any of Glee’s 100 episodes had as little story as this week’s “100”? But have many episodes been as fun?

I’ve always embraced Glee as a musical fantasy, meaning I forgive (even while bemoaning) its inconsistent characters and far-fetched plots, especially when the all-important music delivers. Heck, Glee’s very artifice even can be its own reward: as wry amusement for its preposterousness.

This episode embraced that with a denting-the-fourth-wall comment by Brittany (Fondue For Two returns!)  about the absurdity of workaholic Rachel often traipsing from New York to Lima at a moment’s notice (not that everyone else doesn’t make cross-country trips at the drop of a Bob Fosse hat).

So I accept that this show had scant tale to tell apart from welcome reunions and a melancholy winding down toward the McKinley glee club’s dissolution. After all, in place of story we had six great songs and reappearances by so many Glee characters, from the original core cast’s Quinn, Puck, Brittany, Mike and Mercedes to such lovable part-timers as Kristen Chenoweth’s April Rhodes and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Holly Holliday, now embroiled in a save-the-farm – er, glee club — scheme.

Yes, it’s good when songs serve a story, fitting its twists, themes and moods. But this time the story served the songs, as an excuse to get on with moody or merry music-making, which in this case meant reworking viewer-voted songs from seasons past.

Nostalgic? Damn straight. Sentimental? Sometimes that too, even for snarky Glee. But stale? No way — not with fresh new arrangements and the verve gained from time’s passage.

That “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show for old time’s sake” plot thus served such moving music as Rachel and, now, Mercedes as dueling divas for Defying Gravity (with Kurt as backup) and a reformed Puck’s unplugged and passionate Keep Holding On — another first-season tearjerker — as a plea for Quinn’s reconsideration. (Her nutty romance with Chace Crawford’s Biff as a cruelly haughty rich guy — make that preppy prick — was a heavy-handed statement more than a credible relationship.)

Also grand were the Unholy Trinity’s (Quinn, Santana and Brittany) tangoed-up Toxic, with nods to the aforementioned Fosse’s choreography, and April leading the gleeks in a boisterous, non-Warblers Raise Your Glass. But Santana singing lead for Valerie has been done. Apart from the context — serenading Brittany — where was the freshness there?

Glee’s producers wisely injected a new song, too. Like Holly says, I’m looking forward, and recent Oscar-show hit Happy did that, infectiously pumping new blood into the dead-place-walking choir room.

Soon we may say goodbye to its walls, but not to its fallen inspirations: earlier show choir coach Lillian Adler, and too-young-to-die brief co-coach Finn Hudson, whose framed photos will remain mounted, but in the auditorium’s wings.

Interestingly, the big bawl of the episode wasn’t over Cory Monteith’s Finn, but Rachel’s lonely-at-the-top isolation as a newbie in New York. It was well played by Lea Michele, who’s a good enough actress to cry on cue (note Glee’s very first episode) but for whom I now feel special heart tugs when considering that her tears may mean more.

Will April and Holly save the glee club? I don’t think so. I think it’s over — which means, as Blaine would say, a new life “commences.” But with “100” and next week’s two-parter windup offering five more chestnuts, I’m satisfied by going out this way with a show-choir bang, and on to a new Glee — maybe a better Glee — as the season shifts full-time to New York.

Until then, I’m savoring these songs like nectar– and unlike Will, I’m harboring hope.

Hope that, even for a show as weirdly wonderful as Glee — and even after 100 episodes — the best may be yet to come.

— Bruce Westbrook

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