‘Glee: The Final Season’ DVD Review: Fond Farewell

Glee S6 DVD

Revisiting Glee’s sixth season on its new DVDs not only provides a  fond farewell to my favorite show, but also reminds me what a great season it was. Sorry, Kevin McHale, but Glee did not “jump the shark” just because Cory Monteith died. Glee remained a superb, richly entertaining ensemble series through its almost fully satisfying end, with 13 more episodes of great songs, great performances and great character moments.

Now, why did I say “almost fully satisfying”? Well, we never can have it all, can we?

In this case, I’m referring to the series’ two-part finale, when it time-jumped to reveal happy endings for its characters as a payoff not only for them and the actors who played them, but also for longtime fans.

The problem for me and many fans (“Samchel” supporters, I’m talking to you) was that the “happy ending” desired by Lea Michele conflicted with what her character, Rachel Berry, would have wanted.

There’s no way in God’s universe that Rachel should have wound up with Jesse St. James — a smug, vain, egotistical clod who once threw eggs at her and was hated by her true love, Finn. Besides, Glee’s creators spent much of Season 6 developing a credible romance between Rachel and Sam, who was easily as sweet and earnest and tender toward her as Finn had been, only to squander it at the end with the head-scratcher of jerk Jesse suddenly taking his place.

But I know why they did it. They did it for Lea, not Rachel. In fact, one of two fine behind-the-scenes featurettes on Disc 4 explains it all with one telling remark.

Among many in the cast and creative crew who appear in onscreen interviews, Lea Michele pops up to exult in Rachel’s happy ending. She includes in that list her Tony award and being “married to Jonathan Groff.”

That’s the telling remark: married to Groff, who played Jesse, not married to Jesse.

Groff is Lea’s best friend, so it was comforting to her to have him by her side at the end, pretending to be her character’s supportive husband. I’m thinking Ryan Murphy and company asked Lea how she wanted Rachel’s story to end, and she asked for this — for her BFF to stand in as Rachel’s husband, since her beloved Cory could not. But while this may have comforted Lea (and God knows she deserved that), it subverted Rachel’s Season 6 storyline and her character in general.

Like I say, we can’t have it all.

Beyond that hiccup, the fourth disc’s special features are indeed special. (And this may sound trivial, but cast photos on the box’s spine are the best of any season’s DVDs.) (Also make note: A new Glee: The Complete Series collects all seasons in a box set, whose extras are the same as on individual season DVDs.)

The new DVDs have no bloopers, as fans had rumored (if Fox floated this, I missed it). But they do have three extras: the usual Glee Music Jukebox for accessing each individual song performance; the 11-minute, 21-second Glee: The Final Curtain, assessing the finale and its tearful celebration on the set; and the 23-minute, 31-second Looking Back Video Yearbook, with a quick history of the show and its impact.

That Yearbook is divided into chapters, from the pilot to “O.M.Glee,” a look at Glee’s huge rush of popularity in its early seasons, when it claimed nine of iTunes’ Top 10 songs, sold out concerts in major venues and became a true pop-cultural phenomenon (as it should have, being TV’s first true ongoing series in a traditional movie musical mold, where characters burst into song at any old time and in any old place).

The “Booster Club” chapter highlights many of Glee’s guest stars, showing shots of John Stamos, Jeff Goldblum, Matt Bomer, Stevie Nicks, Shirley MacLaine, Britney Spears, Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Olivia Newton-John, Kristin Chenoweth and others. As creator Brad Falchuk says, “It was very easy to get most people to say yes, as long as they got to sing.”

A “Stand Up and Sing Out” chapter showcases the many ways Glee championed diversity and underdogs. Darren Criss says the cast joked, “What issue have we not tackled?”

A “Glee To Me” chapter (comparable to online videos shown in recent months) has the cast reflecting on the show’s meaning, which Jane Lynch sums up as “love.” In an exquisitely nice touch, we see each cast member then sign what looks like a Glee yearbook, with their handwriting appearing onscreen. Matthew Morrison’s signing says, “What a wild ride. Can I go again please?”

As for the Final Curtain featurette, it depicts the finale’s wrapup. As Jenna Ushkowitz puts it, “Essentially we all get our happy ending,” which even included the weird reconciliation of Lynch’s Sue and Morrison’s Will, a classic hate-love relationship.

Final Curtain ends with footage previewed online before the DVD’s release: a moving look at the cast tearfully yet joyously taking their final bows during a “series wrap” in the choir room.

No, no bloopers. But yes, plenty of warm and wonderful moments to savor. And though Glee has ended, the show lives on by virtue of 121 episodes, around 800 songs and the meaningful memories it provided for six seasons.

My own happy ending? Having Glee to savor still, on DVD or wherever — including in my heart.

— Bruce Westbrook

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