‘Glee’ Recap (Season 2 Finale): New York City Serenade (LISTEN)
I don’t think I’m alone in what I’m about to say: this season of Glee sucked. I mean, really sucked. And what sucked the most about it was how frigging mediocre it was, how cartoony the characters became (especially Sue Sylvester, whose Must-Destroy-Schuester plots became so repetitive the writers tossed her headfirst over the shark by sending her into politics), how lazy the writing got, and how little payoff there was for so many promising plotlines at the start of the season (just to name a few that remain unresolved tonight: Will and Emma; Karofsky in the Kloset; Santana’s left-field lesbianism; Kurt-Finn homophobic tension/subsequent brotherly bond; anything and everything involving Quinn). And on top of it all, the songs weren’t even that great. It was, all in all, a complete goddamn mess.
And yet, I kept watching. And so did a lot of people. That does prove, for all the shit I heap upon it, that this show still does have a certain je ne sais quoi going for it; some scrappy curb appeal that keeps it watchable even when Ryan Murphy and his lackeys steer the ship needlessly awry. Glee had a bad second season, but the finale was nothing short of exuberant. You could practically hear the wheels of exhaustion turning this whole second half of the season, but the final episode, “New York,” felt breezy and fun.
Admittedly, there was a little too much emphasis on the Gleeks and only the Gleeks (Schuester is practically a gelled-up piece of furniture at this point, which is also a waste. Not of a character, really, since Will isn’t terribly interesting, but of an actor, since Matthew Morrison tends to go all-out in the role, even when he’s reduced to the perpetual straight man amongst a cadre of lunatics). And the very end was kind of stupid in that pretty much every plotline in motion up to this point was either reversed entirely or brought to a screeching halt. But I don’t know; it worked for me despite all that or maybe because of it, like the writers just said “fuck it,” and decided to do a throwaway.
In any case, let’s get to it. The Gleeks have haul-assed their way to New York for Nationals, and they spend the first two-thirds of the episode doing all that New York-y stuff that only really happens in TV and the movies. You know, where they bounce from Times Square to the Metropolitan Opera House to Washington Square Park and back to Times Square and down into the Village for good measure, all within the span of an hour and seemingly without taking cabs or the subway? In any case, they’re clearly having a ball, and one of this episode’s great strength was the way it glorified the New York myth as it must appear for kids from Bumfuck, Ohio. To evoke the one musical they haven’t beaten the shit out of on this show (also Pete Hamill), it’s like their Oz.
None more so than Rachel, who is so agog at setting foot in Manhattan she literally doesn’t know what to do with herself. She implements a strict no-boys policy that includes ignoring Jesse St. Trainwreck’s numerous texts, but not a cheeseball super-date with Finn that begins in Central Park (on the very bridge Peter Parker got dumped in Spider Man 3. I’m sure other famous movie stuff happened there, too, but that’s all I got right now) and ends with Rachel accosting Patti LuPone in some blindingly expensive steakhouse where Finn presumably blows whatever of his family’s savings didn’t go to Kurt’s stint at Dalton. Actually, it doesn’t end there. What it ends with is a charming scene in the Village where Finn tries to make his move but is summarily shot down for reasons left unclear.
In any case, Nationals rolls around, and Jesse St. Trainwreck magically appears at Schuester’s side for the big show under the auspices of fulfilling his duty as the official Glee Club jerkoff or whatever, but ostensibly because he’s still in love with Rachel and wants to see her sing. Rachel and Finn begin the competition with a rather lovely original song (more on that later), but bring everything to a halt when they spontaneously kiss onstage. And the director does a pretty awesome thing here: the second they kiss, he switches it up so the whole theater behind them is empty for a few seconds while the camera swirls around them before the crowd reappears in the next cutaway. Cheesy? Yeah. It worked though.
Jesse St. Trainwreck is a little frazzled, understandably, as is the crowd. Evidently such a thing as kissing during A PERFORMANCE is unprofessional, although maybe it was obvious that one was for real. In any case, they sing another original song that has the crowd on its feet, and Finn is throwing platitudes in Jesse St. Trainwreck’s face about the awesome, planet-devouring power of his and Rachel’s love, but it’s all for naught since the Gleeks not only fail to win the damn thing, they fail to place in the top 10 entirely.
Wait for it…wait for it…
I mean, I get the point: this episode was about the Gleeks coming to terms with the fact that life exists outside the show choir; even Rachel had her moment of grace in the B-plots. But for the second year in a row now, I can’t help but feel robbed. Whatever. It’s on the writers, even though we’re the ones who have to suffer.
In any case, B-plots: Sunshine Corazon (Charice again) has a Grade-A panic attack before Nationals and Rachel’s heart grows three sizes or something when she gives Sunshine a pep talk that gets her through the competition. Also, Blaine loves Kurt and vice versa; Santana and Brittany are still just friends; Sam and Mercedes are secretly dating; and Rachel makes a sacred vow to go to college in New York and never turn back. Finn, undeterred, decides he’ll take his chances with the year they have left, and the two get back together in the closing minutes. Oy.
Quinn’s big New York secret boils down to some cockamamie sabotage plot that’s so stupid I’m guessing she stole it from Snidely Whiplash’s playbook or something. Quinn finally breaks down and admits she just wants someone to love her (what a great, wasted job in a great, wasted character), and former fellow Cheerios calm her down with a New York haircut that probably cost her $40 but whatever. And the haircut is very cute on Quinn. In a subtle and therefore probably unintentional bit of irony, it actually slightly resembles The Rachel.
Oh, and Schuester abandons his Broadway dreams at the moment of truth to keep coaching the Gleeks. Then again, this was when he still thought they could win, so he might be regretting that right about now.
“My Cup”: Brittany’s impromptu sequel to “My Headband,” this is our first original song of the night. It is, of course, a farce (the song’s about Brittany’s cup on her nightstand) but it does kind of help that it’s light and fun and Heather Morris plays it completely straight. Filler, but fun filler. B+
Madonna/On the Town: “I Love New York”/“New York, New York”: Our last mash-up. Nevermind the cornball montage where the Gleeks dance around New York like the hippie flower-child fools they are; is it bad that I thought this was a joke song before I realized it was a mash-up? I think it is. C
Matthew Morrison; “Still Got Tonight”: The self-promotion, she is thick. This cut is apparently from Morrison’s debut album, which came out to minimal fanfare a couple weeks ago. That said, this song actually isn’t that bad. It’s got big choruses and nice production and it’s just one of those big cheesy love songs you only acknowledge you like in quiet moments. I mean, kind of hate that this song’s in the episode, but in terms of a grade? B+. All that was missing was the Bic.
Wicked; “For Good”: The one (and only one) problem with this song is that, in context, Rachel and Kurt sneak into the Wicked theater to perform it onstage, and the security guard lets them do so under the auspices of fulfilling their dreams to sing on a Broadway stage. Horseshit. I will say this about New York. It’s a wonderful fucking city, except for a few select aspects. The security guards happen to be one of them. Even the nice ones aren’t that goddamn nice. In any case, it’s a Wicked song, which means Lea Michele and Chris Colfer are in their element. If we’re being honest, it doesn’t beat “Defying Gravity,” and the song waits too long to throw Kurt and Rachel into a harmony together. Otherwise? Friggin’ lovely. A-
The Lady and the Tramp: “Bella Notte”: Hilariously, the male Gleeks appear in Finn’s head as a chorus playing this romantic music to end off his and Rachel’s date. And yeah, there was a total missed opportunity for a meatball roll here, but this is actually rather beautiful. And thank GOD, Artie’s one song tonight and it wasn’t by a damn rapper. Hallelujah, hallelujah, praise His name Amen. B+
Usher/Lil’ Jon/Ludacris; “Yeah!”: Remember how annoying the Warblers got by the end of the year? Great. Now flip the gender and have them sing a song that, quite frankly, if it was never played on the radio ever again it would be too soon. Yeah? OK. D-
“As Long As You’re There”: An original that Sunshine sings for Vocal Adrenaline. I read a rather spot-on summary of Charice’s performances on this show, from Variety’s awesome “Gay Guide to Glee” recap series: she “sings like a machine and has all the stage presence of one.” Sounds about right. Luckily, she at least shows some pep in that second area for her big original debut, and everyone goes home happy. B
“Pretending”: Finn and Rachel’s original song. Did I already say it’s lovely? I did. Nothing more need be said. B+
“Light Up the World”: Our grand finale. Kind of a cheesy title, but it’s got a lot more interesting melody than “Loser Like Me” and makes much better use of the Gleeks as a whole as opposed to just Lea Michele. The chorus blatantly steals from “Let It Rock” by Kevin Rudolf, which is baffling and oddly disappointing. But otherwise? I’ll take it, if only because it means I can finally sleep on Tuesday nights and wait till the writers pull their heads out of their asses next year. Hints: more Quinn, better songs, better Sue, better plots. Oh wait, I have a song to grade, right? Fair enough. The song gets a B+, the season gets a C+. And if these recaps have taught me anything about myself, it’s that I’m an easy grader. Here’s hoping next season is better.
READ: More Faster Glee recaps:
-2×21: “Funeral”: Putting the F-U in Funeral
-2×20: “Prom”: Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
-2×19: “Rumours”: Rumour Has It
-2×18: “Born This Way”: Corny This Way
-2×17: “A Night of Neglect”: Nobody Likes You, Either.
-2×16: “Original Song”: Everyone Loses
-2×15: “Sexy”: Sexy Time, Very Nice
-2×14: “Blame It On the Alcohol”: They Be Actin’ Like They Drunk
-2×13: “Comeback”: Biebermania
-2×12: “Silly Love Songs”: A Friggin’ Ohio Lovefest
-2×11: “The Sue Syvester Shuffle”: The Championship Game
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