Glee Review-Recap Season 5 Episode 20 ‘The Untitled Rachel Berry Project’: Shaking My Head


Since I always try to see silver linings, here’s one: Perhaps this week’s Glee will make the long wait till Season 6 more bearable — because as much as I love the show, its Season 5 finale did not leave me craving more. Instead, it had me shaking my head over one of the worst episodes ever.

That’s coming from a guy who recognizes Glee for what it is: a musical fantasy, meaning I cut the show slack when it comes to logic and consistency, because for me it’s largely about the songs, and they’re so damn good. But while Episode 20, The Untitled Rachel Berry Project, had some strong songs, it had to be the worst-written Glee episode in many a moon. I mean, there are limits.

To a degree I’ll still cut Glee some slack, given that it’s had to make such major adjustments for two seasons, first by graduating most of its major characters at the end of Season 3 and then having to straddle two principal locations, in Ohio and New York. Then Cory Monteith died, which meant Finn died, which meant a central romance and the end-game envisioned for Glee’s final episode was out the window.

So Glee had to adjust — and it did so, turning New York into the place where the show — and its young-adult characters — belonged, and finally fixing its focus there this spring, after allowing one school year at McKinley to drag on for a season and a half.

But hold on: Now Glee is heading to LA, with Rachel landing a semi-biographical pilot on (what else?) Fox. So next year she turns to the tube. But what does that mean for the remaining cast — and the show as a whole?

Who knows, because this episode didn’t tell us. Instead, it pretended to wrap things up when all it did was show how diffuse and confusing Glee has become.

After a brief appearance, where is Brittany headed? And with Naya Rivera out of this episode (she may not have been fired from Glee, but she was ditched for the finale), where is Santana headed? And why would Sam simply saunter back to Lima to haunt the high school’s halls? And just because Blaine and Kurt are living together again doesn’t suggest what they’re going to do other than continue NYADA studies.

Glee needed a bigger picture — a sense that its characters are finding themselves. Instead, they still seem lost, listless or in limbo. Indeed, the narrative and character inconsistencies were just too much.

I mean, the heart and soul of this show for years has been Rachel’s and Kurt’s Broadway dreams. Then — poof!

First Rachel wanted to attend NYADA. It meant the world to her. Then, a few weeks back, she bitterly quit, as if to say, “Who needs this place?”

Then, having realized her dream of starring on Broadway — and even in her favorite show — she suddenly decided she’d rather do TV, a complete 180, and move to LA, another 180. And besides that, it’s only a pilot — which might not even air. And it’s while she’s under contract for Funny Girl — no small thing.

Also, why was she joyously jumping to be leaving New York, the city she loves, for LA, which she’d never even considered for an instant for five entire seasons?

I could go on, but if you saw this episode, you know what a hot mess it was, including the always unlikely if not preposterous “romance” between the woefully mismatched Mercedes and Sam, as well as Blaine’s big “showcase” before a crowd that looked like an ill-attended PTA meeting.

The horror. The horror. And the crowning indignity is that this episode is the last Glee delivers until eight or nine months from now.

For those who haven’t heard, Fox announced this week that Glee, while renewed, is not on its fall schedule, but rather will return in “mid-season,” which could mean January or even February — at which time it will necessarily be trimmed from the original 22-episode order.

So losing two shows this season due to postponements after Monteith’s death turns out to be small-time. Next year may be only a 13-episode run, the same length as Glee’s original launch, back when we didn’t know if it would last after Will and Emma’s first big kiss at least provided some resolution.

As for Season 6, I’ll be damned if I know where it’s going, and from this week’s show, it’s almost hard to care — again, even for me, who loves Glee so much. Face it, Ryan Murphy and company fumbled the ball, awkwardly stumbling through a scene-changing setup which didn’t truly set up much at all, and was sorely lacking as any kind of finale crescendo.

That said, there was some splendid music, from Rachel’s tenderly soulful Glitter in the Air to Blaine’s romantic and passionate All of Me. But even those songs lacked narrative impetus and almost seemed sung in a vacuum, which also could be said for Sam’s superfluous by-the-numbers remake of Duran Duran’s Girls on Film (in a scene which took preposterousness to a whole new level–scads of female dancers were needed to inspire male models for a mere audition?).

But I did love one song: a rare Glee original, Shakin’ My Head. From Amber/Mercedes’ wailing to Heather/Brittany’s dancing (she’s back!), the energized dance-pop with provocative lyrics was the highlight of the night. Of course, it also was the first song performed.

Then it was all downhill — which is not how you want to leave a beloved show while waiting eight months or more for its return.

Look, I still love Glee — always will. The haters are as irrelevant to me as the sinking ratings, because I get this showand I revere it as the first true movie-musical style series in television’s history.

But though musicals can have flights of fantasy, from people bursting into song on a street to a rich Austrian widower suddenly falling in love with a nanny after one dance, they also must somehow ring true. And this episode of Glee, more than any other I recall, did not. It felt both phoned in and phony. It felt perfunctorily done, as if to say, “Let’s get this out of the way and move on again next season.”

Glee, its characters and its audience deserve better than that. Shaking my head is how I felt, too.

— Bruce Westbrook






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