Glee Recap/Review Season 5 Episode 13 ‘New Directions’: Best Glee Ever?

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Best Glee ever? This week’s Episode 13, New Directions, is certainly among the best of its now 101 shows. It was both a heartfelt ending and a soaring beginning, empowered by characters invested in each other and music with a special conviction. And if that’s not worth saluting, I don’t know what is.

Sure, the creators were as busy as sweat-shop seamstresses tying up every loose end — while creating some new ones. But after last week’s plot-challenged show as an excuse for (albeit great) songs, I’ll take the twists, turns and slew of happy narrative resolutions in this week’s aptly named New Directions.

For starters, after admitting again that she’s not a nice person, Santana sort of apologizes to Rachel for ruining her well-earned Broadway spotlight, and withdraws from fierce competition as her understudy. They’re gal pals again.

Quinn and Puck continue their abrupt re-romance straight out of a high school reunion — which this was — and perform the night’s prettiest song, a duet of Pink and Nate Ruess’ Just Give Me A Reason, then later pledge to stick together somehow as a “we forgive each other’s darkness” couple. (With Finn and Rachel no more, Glee needed another sweet straight-couple romance. Hey, I’m a happily married man for 22 years. Sue me.)

And the romance didn’t stop there, as Santana — with Brittany’s encouragement — welcomed her back as a girlfriend while inviting her to New York — and not just as an escape from MIT. That town’s gonna get crowded with Lima glee clubbers!

As for Will, after accepting that McKinley’s glee club is, in fact, over, he hears the most eloquent and loving tribute from Sue as she’s ever made to anyone, ending with her wistfully admitting that she’ll miss their combativeness. That’s called closure, folks.

Not only that, but with her help he’s offered a shocking shot as coach of (gulp) old rivals Vocal Adrenaline. Hey Will: The show must go all over the place. Or something. So go for it.

Meanwhile, the seniors graduate, Blaine is accepted at NYADA and Tina, though not Gotham-bound, is accepted to Brown University in nearby Providence, R.I. Sam, of course, is ready for his New York career as an underwear model — or something.

There — that enough story for you?

But it wasn’t just the story that made this such an enormously entertaining and even meaningful episode. This being Glee — TV’s Only True Ongoing Movie-Musical Style Show In Its Entire History — it was also the songs.

Along with the aforementioned Just Give Me A Reason, Loser Like Me by the graduating seniors was a remarkable reinvention of a Glee original, turning a buoyant, aggressive stage number into a melancholy, quietly stirring choral piece, and as soulful a song as Glee has ever performed. Wow.

Rachel and Santana’s reconciliatory duet of Be Okay, while stool-stuck and dance-light, was charm-heavy, and Holly Holliday’s ’80s fever dream of a field trip for Eddie Murphy’s (of all people) Party All the Time made me want to dance in a sea of soap bubbles.

But different strokes, as they say, and I endured, not enjoyed, Kurt and Mercedes’ shrill showboating for another overrated and ‘way oversang Dreamgirls song, I Am Changing. It’s great for some. Just not for me.

Yet the only taste required for the night’s most moving number was a love of Glee, especially if that love extends to its first episode, when we weren’t sure if a brave little show with no stars and a concept never truly achieved could last more than its initial 13 episodes — and when an old Journey song called Don’t Stop Believin’ became an anthem for a new breed of TV series.

Hearing that song again reminded me not only of how much I’ve always loved Glee, but how that one song changed everything. As the stirring finale of Glee’s pilot episode, it made a new show suddenly, wonderfully and fiercely special.

And though Glee has redone it before (twice, by my count), and though the new version was largely traditional, it was also, shall I say, gloriously Glee-ified, while beautifully staged, danced and sung by a large cast for whom this meant more than a role and a paycheck.

Even for the newbies — who finally got a brief sign-off — but especially for the core cast from the first show, this song was a moving reminder of what made Glee special all along — and still does: the music at its heart — and the heart in its music.

Then, like a classy concert that ends quietly, not boisterously, the show ended in reflection, with Will facing a stripped-bare choir room for the last time.

There he heard disembodied voices from the past, including Rachel’s fervent plea to be special by being part of something special, and even some “go get ’em” parting words from Finn, marking the first time we’ve heard Cory Monteith’s voice on Glee since late last season.

And as Will walked away, the years-old sounds of a scrappy little glee club’s early laughter echoed in the choir room.

And in our hearts.

— Bruce Westbrook

 

 

 

 

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