Teen pregnancy! Feuding teachers! Long-lost-mothers! Impromptu musical outbursts! Glee is nothing if not complicated. To help make sense of it all, we have a panel of musical theater buffs—Meghan Brown, Patrick Burns, and Jessica Reiner-Harris—to provide their takes on how realistic the show feels, how well the romances develop, and of course, how good the musical numbers are.
This week, they weigh in on the show's Season One finale—and whether the series has stopped being believable:
Meghan Brown (co-founder of the Giraffe Hunt Theater in Los Angeles): When I was 16, high school theater ranked somewhere between "air" and "food" on my personal hierarchy of needs. The thing I like best about Glee is that it helps me remember what that felt like.
It was all there in tonight's season finale: the strangely emotional bonds that form within temporary theater-families, the ecstatic post-performance backstage run down some generic hallway, the overwhelming sense of loss and joy that accompanies any truly theatrical moment. When New Directions performed their Journey-themed set at the oft-mentioned (but never rehearsed for?) regionals, they bared their scrappy, public-school souls and anticipated the victory that would make their hard work worthwhile.
And I am so glad that they lost.
It would have been really, really easy to give New Directions another big win, but the show made a brave choice that highlighted Glee's secret thesis: sometimes, no matter how much you want them to, things just don't turn out the way that you planned.
Of course, Quinn's water breaking came at the most obvious time ever, Mr. Shue telling Emma that he loved her made little sense, and I actually groaned out loud when he took out the ukulele ... but who cares? This show has some of the most vibrant, earnest, and exciting moments on television, and I already can't wait for next season.
Jessica Reiner-Harris (member of the touring improv comedy troupe The Striking Viking Story Pirates): It's nearly impossible to feel choked up at New Directions' ode to Will Shuester, when a.) we know glee club is never going to end because everything always returns to the status quo, and b.) nothing prevents all of them from meeting once a week and singing their little misfitted hearts out.
If winning is not the point, then there should be no problem being unable to compete, but still able to get together and harmonize. Of course, that isn't really the point, because sectionals and regionals have been the axis upon which the basic conflict rests: WILL THEY GET TO GO? WILL THEY WIN? WILL THEY GET A CHANCE? They did not win, but—surprise!—they get another year. I might have a heart attack and die from that surprise, to quote a Disney bird.
Unrelated, the anger I feel about Mrs. Corcoran adopting Quinn's baby, Beth, cannot be calculated by human methods. She rejects Rachel, her REAL DAUGHTER, who is THERE, NEEDING HER, because she wants a baby, not some 16 year old. If someone lost their pet puppy, and was devastated for years and years, but somehow FOUND their trusty hound, now older and wiser, would they send that dog out in favor of a puppy? I'd like to think absolutely not, but if people find this senseless and selfish plot twist sentimental or positive, perhaps they would kick the old puppy to the curb and grab a new one.
Oh, and apparently Finn loves Rachel, Will loves Emma, and Puck loves Quinn. Done and done. Who believes it? New Directions would tell us not to stop believing. But I stopped a long time ago.
Patrick Burns (writer, composer, and star of the original one-man-musical, From Foster Care to Fabulous): The glee club performs at regionals spectacularly. All of the kids sing their hearts out and have the time of their life! Sure, we all wanted them to win regionals, but it was destined that they would lose. Besides, Vocal Adrenaline's Queen number in tandem with Quinn's child birthing was the best five minutes of the entire episode. Jonathan Groff wails amazingly on this epic song as an army of show choir machines dance around him.
As Rachel Barry points out, Jesse St. James can sing, but he doesn't have much heart. That's what makes New Directions so special. Sure, Jesse sounds amazing and Vocal Adrenaline takes home the big trophy, but as they drive their matching Escalades, our glee club functions as a family of individuals as they navigate their way through the journey of life.
"To Sir With Love" was fabulous, and I've never liked that Josh Groban.
Past Glee panels: