While judging the soloist competition for Nationals on this week's episode of Glee, Mr. Schuster told Mercedes that her (scorching, spectacular) performance of "Try a Little Tenderness" made him think of where this whole New Directions thing began, and how much times have changed.
It's a statement that could be made about the episode and the series as a whole. On the basic level, the song choices of Santana, Kurt, and Rachel were full-circle symbols. Santana's Amy Winehouse cover harkened back to her break out moment singing "Valerie" last season; in the time since she's become even more of a scene-stealer. Kurt sang another number from Gypsy, recalling his coming out as a star character belting "Rose's Turn" in season one. Rachel sang another ballad from Funny Girl. Like season one's "Don't Rain on My Parade," "My Man" was a vocal power house. But her second go at Fanny Brice showed just how much Lea Michele has grown as an actress.
And the whole funeral plot line? It was pure, classic Glee: Egregiously random, emotionally manipulative, wholly unnecessary to plot development, and, in the end, deeply moving. The old Glee, however, would have faded to soft black after New Directions finished that unsettling yet touching version of "Pure Imagination." The episode would have ended satisfyingly with a sob and, against all odds, the sense that this whole, strange funeral thing was actually a good idea.
But not the new Glee. The new Glee quickly dusted the jarring funeral plot under the rug, and then continued to throw 10 more plot lines into the episode's final 15 minutes, including but not limited to: Finn and Quinn's break up, Sue's announcement that she will run for political office (huh?), and the (non) decision of the Nationals soloist. Killing off Sue's sister seemed cruel, but ultimately paid off—it's too bad the episode completely derailed afterward, dying its own rapid death in turn.