In the first episode of this series-concluding double-bill we’re taken back to 2009 and to the events of the pilot episode, filmed from the points of view of some of the main characters. (Which means that, for example, we get to see Will’s appalling pregnancy-faking first wife again.) The best of these vignettes was probably Kurt’s, as we recall the despair he was in before the glee club gave him a purpose; and, quite possibly, saved his life. As ever Mike O’Malley, as Kurt’s father, is terrific, and the awkward way in which he claps Kurt on the back reminded me of his anguished admission, after Finn’s death, that he hadn’t hugged him enough while he was alive.
Revisiting the pilot – and what a pilot it was – in this way is a clever device, although it has to work around the vacuum where Finn used to be. The writers manage this pretty well, in particular by making a key plot point out of a conversation which perforce would have taken place behind his back: whether to allow him back into the glee club. But then, all of a sudden, there Cory Monteith is, leading the New Directions in the now-iconic performance of ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ from the pilot, the one which convinced Will to stay at McKinlay. My God, they all look so young.
‘2009’ is a very good episode and a salutary reminder, as we near the end, that the glee club was originally for friendless outsiders, no matter how talented – Rachel, for example. In which context it’s also worth acknowledging that Lea Michele is excellent as the Rachel of six years ago. There’s been a discernible Michele backlash in the past few years, which I suspect to have been driven, at least in part, by people thinking that in real life she embodies some of the more diva-esque aspects of Rachel’s personality. I have no idea whether that’s true or not, and nor do they. What is true, though, is that Glee never got luckier than when it cast the enormously talented Michele in a key role.
And so to ‘Dreams Come True’, the series finale. In truth it isn’t a great episode, but it doesn’t need to be: it’s all about closure, very probably for the actors as much as the audience. In fact, while watching the episode’s first musical performance – Matthew Morrison’s acoustic ‘Teach Your Children’ in the choir room – I jotted down a note that the cast’s tears looked unfeigned; later, I discovered that was the very last scene to be filmed.
Anyway, New Directions win Nationals – of course they do – and, in consequence, McKinlay High is turned into a performing arts school with Will as principal. Yeah, whatever. As well as present-day farewells we get a series of flash-forwards, in which we see that everyone gets their happy ending: Artie as director, Kurt and Blaine as actors, Sue as Jeb Bush’s vice president, and so on. I’m fine with this – it’s Glee, I want happy endings, and so should you.
The first moment which really got me, though, was Rachel’s speech after winning a Tony award (heavily pregnant as the surrogate mother of Klaine’s child), in which after thanking everyone she made a special point of expressing her gratitude to Will above all. I may have had something in my eye at that point, and it was still there when the McKinlay auditorium was renamed after Finn, and everyone who’s ever been in the show – and I mean literally everyone – joined in with the final song. Which was OneRepublic’s ‘I Lived’ – not my favourite, but not a bad way to end. (Actually, the best performance in this episode was Kurt and Blaine’s adorable ‘Daydream Believer’.)
With which we’re finally done with Glee, perhaps a season or two after its natural ending point. Whatever else can be said about it, the show made the performing arts cool again. More importantly, it should be fondly remembered for its significant contribution towards equality for LGBT people, which I still think others have underplayed. This week Blaine and Kurt, a young married couple, kissed; and it was entirely unremarkable, as it should be. It certainly wasn’t when Glee started, and I don’t think they’d have got away with their visit to the Harvey Milk Elementary School Career Day then either.
Worthy though the PSAs were, ultimately Glee has to be evaluated on its merits as a TV show. It was never quite as good, as I’ve said before, after its remarkable opening 13 episodes, and the death of Cory Monteith finally robbed the show of its innocence. Mind you, there were plenty of excellent episodes after that, even if I was, by the end, just about the only person watching.