AV Club by Todd Van der Werff (A)
A few weeks back, I argued that Glee is at its best when it doesn’t really try to tell any specific story about these characters but, instead, tells an archetypal one, a story that plays big moments we’ve all lived through, then forces these characters through them as well. “Goodbye,” a messy, moving, sad, plotless, entrancing hour of the show, is this principle exemplified. Pretty much nothing happens. The kids graduate. They decide what their future will be. They sing songs. They split off to all ends of the country. Yet in the moment, this all feels momentous, because it felt momentous when we went through it. When we graduated, we felt as lost and excited as these kids, knowing that the world was in front of us but also knowing how terrifying that all was. And we also knew we could fail.
The specter of failure has always been present in the best episodes of Glee. It’s a show about kids who love to perform, but teenage performers likely have even worse “hitting it big” stats than teenage athletes. Even those who are able to make a living doing what they love—and we’re talking just a basic, middle-class living where the bills barely get paid—are few and far between. When the show has even allowed for the possibility of this, it’s been at its strongest. I get that, on one level, it’s a show about the joy of performing, but joy is rarely dramatically interesting. The show has too often turned to melodrama to goose the proceedings, but that has a poor track record here, too. As a show about tooth-rottingly saccharine teenagers, this show is awful. As a melodrama about those teenagers confronting important issues, it’s hit-and-miss. But as a show about these characters confronting the fact that they could end up never doing what they love for a living, could end up right back in Lima, working at the Shop ‘n’ Save, it’s often been wonderful.
This approach works best when the show has contrasted those characters with Rachel Berry. Rachel is the girl who gets out. That hasn’t been in doubt since the pilot. She’s the girl with the big voice and the hunger for fame (I can’t quit you, Smash) who’s going to go to New York and make it if she has to hold people down and extract their teeth. She’s got the talent, sure, but more importantly, she’s got the persistence. The show has done a fairly bad job of portraying this persistence—she gets into NYADA essentially because she wants it hard enough—but it’s done a good job of portraying her essential drive. She’s driven and motivated, and she knows that from small things, mama, big things one day come. The few times we’ve spent time alone with Rachel Berry, she’s been annoying as hell, but she’s also constantly been working toward those big things.
This is one of the things that’s hard to take about her, I’ll admit. I’ve always liked Rachel a lot, even when she was being insufferable, because in its heart of hearts, Glee knows that the people who annoy you most with their big dreams and how frequently they’re working on them are often the people who achieve those big dreams. Yes, there are people out there who are completely delusional (and the series has some of those, too), but there are also people who seem destined to live out their dream lives. These people are annoying, because how many of us get to live out those dream lives? But the show is very good at reminding us—often clunkily, I’ll admit—that the successful people of the world, nine times out of 10, are the Rachel Berrys. They’re the people who thought non-stop about what it would take to become an actor or a Super Bowl-winning quarterback or the president. And while we admire that quality once they’re up there, accepting an Oscar or delivering their inauguration speech, we find it intensely irritating in real life. Many of us don’t even know what we want for breakfast in the morning. Who wants to deal with somebody who knows exactly where the next four decades will take them?
What I liked most of all about “Goodbye” was that it was remarkably clear-eyed about who these people are and what they’re capable of. They’re all capable of great things, but they’re not all capable of stardom. The moment when Kurt opens his letter from NYADA and finds he hasn’t been accepted is as good a gut-punch as I can think of for this series. We’ve been led to think that Kurt will be right there, beside his friend, making their way through the mean streets of New York. But he won’t be. Oh, sure, he might move there at some point. (In fact, I suspect he will.) But he’ll always be one step behind Rachel, and that might breed jealousy or resentment or something that wouldn’t seem possible in the Kurt we have right now. This moment of struggle is the next step in Kurt Hummel becoming the man he will be. The process that began back in the first episodes (memorably revisited tonight in a scene where Burt performs “Single Ladies” for his son) isn’t over yet. He came out, but that wasn’t the end of his journey. Now, he gets to see who he is when all his dreams are tossed into doubt.
The series gives us resolutions for the other seniors, too. Brittany will repeat her senior year—her GPA, after all, is 0.0, and she never goes to class. Santana has a nest egg her mother socked away for her over the years, one that means she can do whatever she likes and not just attend the University of Louisville because it’s her only option. Mercedes is off to L.A., to become a backup singer for an indie record label. Puck manages to graduate, and in and of itself, that’s a triumph, I suppose (though I’d call bullshit on the notion that kiss from Quinn is enough to magically help him pass the test—or that the show really needs to revisit this relationship yet again). Quinn’s heading to Yale—we knew that—but her legs are getting stronger, and she’s going to be the other McKinley representative on the East Coast, there to drop in on Rachel (or vice versa) when needed. The underclassmen are all there to guard the legacy of what the seniors built, and the teachers say goodbye to yet another generation of kids they’ve grown close to, forever sending young people off into an uncertain world.
To some degree, this is all unmotivated. These are just scenes that are there for characters to tie off relationships. But since some of these relationships have been building since the first episode—Will finally admits to Finn what a creeper he was in the pilot!—that more or less works for the show. The series can be plotless when it’s nailing the emotional moments, and it more than nails the various goodbyes. (I didn’t expect to be affected by the scene where Quinn and Sue say farewell to each other, but I was. They’ll probably see each other again, but it will be as fellow adults, not like this.) Indeed, the stuff that doesn’t work probably consists of the scenes where the actual plot butts in on the proceedings, like Puck managing to graduate or Brittany explaining why she’s sticking around WMHS for another year. This isn’t to say that these scenes are bad, necessarily, but they definitely stick out in the midst of an episode that aims more for something like an emotional mood piece about the various sadnesses of growing up than anything like a traditional TV structure.
The show knows how to do emotion, though, so instead of feeling like a bunch of disconnected scenes, the episode feels more like a bunch of minor story points coming to an end, propelled along by the sight of these kids spending their last week in this school. Yeah, it’s cheesy to have them singing “Glory Days” up on stage while graduating. (Not to mention that the song is literally about adults gone to seed looking back on their own high school days; I’d say that’s the show suggesting failure again, but I sort of suspect Born In The USA is the only Springsteen album the show’s writers have listened to.) But it also gets at the feel of that moment, of what it’s like to have that diploma in your hand and realize one chapter is over and another is beginning, all from the simple swipe of a tassel from one end of a cap to another. You’ve worked hard to get to this moment, sure, but that doesn’t mean what comes next is any more certain.
If there’s a reason it feels a little shocking that the show only has Rachel succeed in getting into NYADA (and/or the Actors’ Studio), it’s because the series has been so hellbent on just giving the characters things they haven’t really earned this season (which might be my main complaint with a season of TV that was all over the place). When we see the kids performing, it seems like they’re the best in the world, and now they have the Nationals trophy to prove it. But the more I look at this, the more I think it’s just the show getting back to its season one roots, when the musical numbers were more explicitly occurring in a kind of fantasy space. The kids aren’t actually performing at graduation, but that’s how they feel. Rachel isn’t actually singing about being alone as she gets off the train to New York, but that’s how she feels. The show uses pop music to capture the heightened moments of adolescence, and when it settles down and just does that, it can be transcendent, like few other shows on TV.
There’s a character I left out of my big paragraph explaining what happens to everybody above, and that’s Finn. He doesn’t get into the Actors’ Studio, which, of course, is the only outcome that makes any damn sense. But instead of going to New York with his fiancée, he decides that the open-ended parenthesis that is his father’s tragic death needs a closing parenthesis. He’s joining the Army. He’s going to try to put right what went wrong in his father’s life. After he puts Rachel on the train to New York—in her bright red outfit—he’s going to head off to Fort Banning, presumably to his own new future and new experiences (and, God help us, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.-style spinoff).
It’s a gutsy choice, not least because Finn’s mentioned this possibility exactly once—earlier in the season (so early I don’t remember which episode), when the news that his father’s death hadn’t been as noble as he’d thought first came up. Bringing it up again requires the audience to have something of a long memory (especially without the previously on montage), and it requires the actors to sell an idea that seems a little preposterous, at least until you start to realize that Finn has never been the guy to break out and be a star. He’s always been the guy who’s the steady support for the girl who is the star, the lummox who got to be the lead in high school because there was a need for a guy who looked like him to play the lead. But there are a million guys who look like him in the Actors’ Studio.
Cory Monteith and Lea Michele kill this scene. They kill it. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen on TV this year, and it’s so good that even if everything else had sucked, this would have been at least a B. It’s the emotional equivalent of my much-beloved “Bohemian Rhapsody” sequence, especially for how it goes on and on and on, and never seems like it’s going to come to an end, because you can see one whole set of dreams dissolving in front of these kids’ eyes, replaced by another, much more uncertain one. That’s the way the dreams you have at 18 are, though. They gradually fall apart, and then you build new ones. Or maybe you get caught up in the old ones and wish for a way to go back, to punch in the code on the time machine you don’t have. To quote Springsteen again: Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?
So that’s where we leave the characters, with Lima as the center of their universe but no longer the planet they all live on. Rachel is the final girl, all alone in New York City, and the choice to close on her figure, clad in unmistakable red, receding into the distance, drives home the uncertainty of what’s coming. But what’s great is that the uncertainty doesn’t stem from whether Rachel will be a successful Broadway actress. She will be. She’ll get there. The question is more just how much she will change to get to that point, just how much she’ll have to give away to get what she’s always wanted. The thing that makes “Goodbye” as good as it is is that if the show plays it right, this is the point where Glee stops being a diverting TV show and starts to get interesting.
Finale grade: A
Season grade: C+ (I actually averaged my grades and arrived at this point after deciding to give the season this grade. It seems appropriate. Wildly ambitious at times, not always successful, but always trying weird, new things. I’m also fairly certain this is the only time I will give a season of television two A’s and two F’s.)
- Like our last two season finales, this one is written and directed by Brad Falchuk, and the man knows his way around a Glee finale. He makes everything feel suitably epic, while still keeping it emotionally grounded. No easy feat, that.
- I kind of wish I had given last week (which had much larger issues than this one) the A-, since this one really earned the A. That said, I did find the whole Puck thing kind of a waste of time, though I’m glad the show at least saw that through.
- Just tell us how the songs were, VanDerWerff, God!: I really like that New Radicals song, and I thank the show for digging it up, even if it didn’t go with “We’ll kick your ass in!” in the end.
- Straight guys, talkin’ ‘bout Glee: Let’s just say everybody was pretty! Except in the unflattering graduation gowns. (Then again, is there a person alive who can make a graduation gown look good?)
- The sole hint of a season four plot that might exist came when Sue and Roz seemed like they might be teaming up to take down Figgins. I hate this plotline already!
- Just as last week worked because it foregrounded Will, I was glad this episode mostly pushed him to the background. He sings a Rod Stewart song, has a scene with Finn, and gets out of the way.
- Okay, it was weird when all of the supporting characters I do not care about were there at the station to see Rachel off. It was like the opposite of the reprise of the "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat" number that so memorably opened the episode (and focused just on the five original glee club members).
- Some of you have asked if you can watch last week's episode in isolation. I would say yes, and that goes doubly for this one.
- Thank you, again, for reading these reviews. I know I don’t make all of you happy all of the time, but I give my honest, unvarnished reactions in this space, and I like to think that’s why you keep coming back. I was going to dump Glee next season because I wasn’t sure I could ever find it in myself to love it again, but the closing images of this episode made me think next year could be really interesting—if not an outright train wreck. So we’ll see you when we see you. Good luck at NYADA!
Hit Fix by Ryan McGee
Having an ensemble can be an asset for a television program. Ostensibly, the more onscreen talent you have, the more diverse a set of stories you can tell. On “Glee,” perhaps less would have been more as a general rule. The show hasn’t narrowed its scope of storytelling over the years, but rather expanded it to the point where everything has become diffuse. It’s hard to focus on any one particular aspect of the show when it keeps shining flashlights into the corner of your peripheral vision. “Goodbye” was probably one of the best episodes of this uneven third season because it turned “Glee” into what it’s always truly been: the story of Rachel Berry. One can argue the relative merits of that focus. But having that focus tonight really did make a difference.
Of course, Rachel wasn’t the sole focus of the hour, which was less about plot and more about wrapping some emotional bows around a few key relationships. I usually enjoy shows that wrap up the season’s plot in the penultimate episode, so long as the finale itself wraps up the emotional loose ends still remaining. “Goodbye” featured almost no plot for the first half hour, instead allowing a leisurely but still effective series of songs in which various members of New Directions let the others know how they felt. I only bought that a handful of these teenagers actually have the bonds displayed in tonight’s hour, but it’s fairly easy to place oneself into his or her own high school experiences and understand the emotions on display tonight. It’s crazy how infrequently “Glee” can evoke something as pervasive and deeply formative as the audience’s collective high school experience. But when it stops working so damn hard to be edgy, inventive, or iTunes-driven, it frequently succeeds in being the show it thinks it actually is.
And while the adults are historically problematic on the show, “Goodbye” wisely kept them off to the side (for the most part) except if they had a direct relationship with one of the seniors. Will broke out his guitar to say “Forever Young,” and aside from finally admitting to being a straight-up creep in the pilot episode to Finn, largely stayed out of the picture all night. Burt appeared to give his son the gift of mortification, through a performance of “Single Ladies” that still has me smiling. Beiste appeared only to help fulfill her promise to enable Puck to graduate. Santana got a chance to go somewhere besides the University of Louisville thanks to her mother’s financial foresight. Sue got a nice scene with Quinn, and it’s a testament to how much “Glee” has rehabbed her character this year that I bought Quinn’s breakdown in Sue’s office. I’ll say to “Glee” what Sue said to Quinn after the latter told the former she would miss her: “I don’t see how that’s possible, but thank you.” Sue and Ros got a short scene together that clearly sets up a Season 4 storyline involving the removal of Figgins, but other than that, the kids were on display.
When it came to emotional payoffs, most of the New Directions-centric material succeeded. But when plot started to creep back into the picture, things got more than a bit muddled. That Puck can nail a geography test only after Quinn plants a kiss on him is weird, unless her magical Yale pixie dust is chock full o’ trivia. That neither NYADA nor the Actor’s Studio wouldn’t send out admittance letters until nearly graduation time seems, quite frankly, insane. (Having New Directions sing “Glory Days,” an ode to the fact that adult life straight up sucks, is also insane but in a more manageable way.) That neither Rachel, Kurt, or Finn have any backup plans is also insane. But the scene in which those three open their acceptance letters? It was fairly devastating, and all three actors nailed that moment. One can forgive narrative contrivances if the emotion feels uncontrived. The specifics of the situation don’t matter. What played onscreen were three lives changing in an instant, and all of them realizing it.
This all sets up an interesting fourth season in which a lot of characters are split all across the country. Ryan Murphy has gone on record as saying that any cast members that wants to be on the show going forth can be on it, but we’re going to need a “Games of Thrones”-esque intro to the show in which we see where everyone is situated. (Oh God, an a capella version of that “Thrones” theme song already annoys me. And I came up with the idea! I’m so sorry, you guys.) Mercedes will be in Los Angeles, as a backup singer on an indie label while she takes extension classes at UCLA. Mike Chang will be in Chicago. Quinn will be in New Haven. Rachel will be in New York City, easily identifiable thanks to her insanely red outfit and by the fact that she’s singing like a crazy person in public. And Finn will be in Georgia, because he’s enlisted in the military as a way to honor his father.
The Finn thing threw me for a loop, although it’s classic “Glee” whiplash plotting. Cory Monteith actually did some really good work as he drove Rachel to the train to Hogwart’s Academy for Musical Theatre. But where on earth did this decision come from? As far as I can recall, we haven’t see anything in the show related to Finn’s desire to follow in his father’s footsteps since “Yes/No,” this season’s 10th episode back in January. In that episode, Will, Burt, Carole, and Emma staged an intervention in which Finn learned his father actually died of an overdose, not in combat. So there’s some narrative precedent here. I’m imagining what we’re supposed to take away is this: Teenagers do dumb, stupid, impulsive things, and if Finn didn’t so something as drastic as join the freakin’ army, Rachel would have deferred NYADA, and thus her career, indefinitely. But while “Glee” can walk back a lot of its silly decisions and pretend like they didn’t exist, I’m not sure Finn can go AWOL without some serious repercussions.
I suppose I should applaud the show for at least pushing Finn in a direction it seems unwilling to do with every other character save Rachel. Having Kurt not get into NYADA was a surprising choice, one that reflects the show’s attitude that the dreams of these characters often outstrip their reality. But is keeping Kurt around Lima post-graduation a good thing for the show? He got a lovely little send-off with Madonna’s “I’ll Remember”…but now he’s not going anywhere. Will “Glee” have him awkwardly hang around, performing jobs above and beyond all reason? In other word, will they Jesse St. James him? When news broke about a possible split in narrative focus between Lima and New York, I envisioned a situation in which Rachel and Kurt anchored a set of new characters while the juniors/teachers held down the fort in Ohio. Now? It’s “Glee,” plus “The Rachel Berry Show.”
But as I said at the outset, maybe “Glee” has always has been “The Rachel Berry Show,” and not just in the negative ways such a title connotes. If “Glee” has been about Rachel’s journey out of Lima towards bigger things, many other sidebars along the way seem like temporary distractions rather than a lack of narrative focus. That’s not to say that’s how I imagine the show has been consciously structured. But in choosing to primarily tell Rachel’s story tonight, the show achieved a sense of balance that most of its episodes have lacked over the course of…well, its entire run as a series. To make another “Game of Thrones” analogy, this show has always had the problem the HBO hit currently has in its second season: the lack of a strong central figure to serve as the sun around which others can orbit. Rachel’s self-righteousness doesn’t suddenly become palatable if the show ordains her the star in the third season finale. But it sure as hell seems more understandable as a result.
This isn’t to say that Rachel should always and ever have been the focus of the show. Lea Michele seems by all accounts to have the most musical theatre talent of anyone in the cast, but that doesn’t necessarily make Rachel the most interesting character to follow through the course of the show. Imperfection can be infinitely more interesting to observe. Her arc doesn’t really change if this show were seen through the eyes of Kurt, Mercedes, Santana, or Rick the Stick. But how we as an audience related to that arc certainly does change. A three-season arc where Tina comes to the realization she did last week–that Rachel isn’t evil, just more driven and with more natural talent–could have been amazing. But “Glee” isn’t interested in process so much as getting right to the results. That’s why New Directions can win nationals after a week’s worth of rehearsals.
Since “Glee” has never decided on a central anchor for the show, all proceedings have either floated along in the ether or come crashing down in a fit of sudden gravitational overcompensation. We get what these moments mean to these individuals in the individual moments in which they happen. But contextualizing them has always been the show’s biggest problem, whether they are a big thing like Nationals or a small thing like Artie shamefully wishing that Quinn remain in a wheelchair. The show treats both as equally important when it feels like, but it usually doesn’t feel like it for long, and thus everything eventually feels unimportant. Turning things into “The Rachel Berry Show” may not have made the show inherently better. But it did make tonight’s episode exceedingly more focused. We didn’t worry about how every single person in New Directions felt about Rachel’s acceptance. Nor should we have. It was about a short moment with Kurt and a much longer, more important, life-altering conversation with Finn.
With Rachel the only one in New York next year, there’s a chance for the show to choose someone still in Lima to be the anchor for that part of the show. It probably won’t happen, since everything I described above probably occurred as a byproduct of accidental serendipity. If they focused on anyone, I’d probably make it Sam: the guy does really good impressions, he’s seriously weird, and he has a built-in backstory that makes him an excellent candidate for an attempted rags-to-riches storyline. (After that, I’d pick Tina, then Artie…then as the 457th option, Sugar Motta.) But the last thing the show should do is focus on the Bataan Death March that is the progress from sectionals to regionals to nationals. Achieving that goal should put competition on the backburner in favor of actual human interaction. When “Glee” just has people sitting around singing their feelings to each other, it’s a consistently entertaining show. The Rachel/Finn/Kurt scenes tonight proved just how fleeting that moment of victory is compared with the rest of one’s life. The show should use that knowledge and start making some core changes in its fourth season. If it does so, those that have long abandoned the show might start to hear the music again.
Kurt, Tina, Mercedes, Rachel and Artie, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”
- Washington Post: The first number of the night was a short one and one that featured a flashback to the first time this “Guys and Dolls” tune was performed: in the pilot. Santana called it “ghetto.” I thought it was a nice reminder of how far these plucky “Glee” kids have come; the fact that they did this one without any fancy sets or illogically professional-looking costumes made it better. Grade: A-
- TV Line: I dunno, maybe I’m a dark-hearted beast, or maybe Mr. Schue’s diminished role this year made his “emotional” sendoff for the kids a little less impactful? Grade: B
- Entertainment Weekly: Schu kicked things off with a song to the club that wasn’t a rap. It sounded lovely, and I’d like to make a personal appeal to the writers to have more of this in season 4. B+
- WP: Glee” could have gone with a number of “Forever Young” options: the original Bob Dylan version, the Alphaville model. It chose — or should I say, scored the rights — to the Rod Stewart take, which hews pretty closely to the Dylan version. This was your first reach-for-the-tissue moment as Will strummed an acoustic guitar and the panned across the faces of the young graduates, finally pausing on the word Mr. Schue had written across his white board: “Goodbye.” Sweet. Grade: A.
- Rolling Stone: Everyone looks appropriately sad and reflective, but while the bare-bones guitar arrangement is suitably melancholy, Schue's voice never quite settles in, seeming forced the whole way through.
Burt, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” (lipsynched, of course)
- TVL: Another shining (albeit silly) moment for Glee’s best parental unit. Grade: A-
- WP: Does it make sense, really, that Kurt’s father — a busy congressman — would randomly show up at school to make a poignant speech about his acceptance of his son and give him the gift of performing Beyonce to further demonstrate that acceptance? No. It makes no sense at all. But it provided another flashback to a season-one, episode (“Preggers,” the one where Kurt joined the football team). And it gave us the opportunity to watch Mike O’Malley slap his backside while wearing a single glittery glove. Surely that’s enough to merit a grade of B?
- RS: This is not technically a song performed in this episode, but it was far and above the best moment. "Do you remember when when we started walking towards each other instead of in opposite directions?" Burt asks his son. Kurt immediately knows what's up as Tina and Brittany walk on stage, and BURT LAUNCHES INTO THE "SINGLE LADIES" DANCE, recalling the moment when he discovered Kurt rehearsing the number in their basement. "Best graduation gift ever," Kurt tells Blaine after. BEST GIFT OF THE SEASON is more like it.
Kurt, “I’ll Remember”
- TVL: A sweet rendition of an underrated Madonna ballad, though I found it weird Kurt went out of his way to dedicate it to the New Directions guys, with whom he’s never been as close as the ladies. (Side note: Remember when Kurt and Mercedes were inseparable? I do, too.) Grade: B+
- EW: Waterworks Alert! Chris Colfer sold it singing this goodbye song to fellow Glee club members. Song choice is everything, to quote American Idol judges, and this number delivered. Nice arrangement for his voice as well. A-
- WP: Kurt dedicated it to the guys in the room who supported him. He started to get weepy and then so did Rachel — dang it, Michele, such a good crier! — and then I gave this a B- because it was pleasant but not particularly memorable and not one of Madonna’s best either.
- RS: "In this room, it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight. What matters is that we're friends," Kurt says tearfully to his New Directions, launching into an appropriate Kurt goodbye tune: Madonna's 1994 With Honors theme. He's both dapper and emotional while singing in a crisp, clear and natural voice – but I wish there was something more than everyone's sad faces. There's got to be more nostalgic b-roll of Kurt's greatest moments than just "Single Ladies."
New Directions seniors, “You Get What You Give”
- TVL: I’ve always had a soft spot for New Radicals’ only hit, and this spirited rendition captured its jaunty essence. Grade: A
- EW: The Glee seniors’ swan song to the underclassmen. This was the moment when it really kicked in that the show will never be the same. B+
- WP: Per Mr. S’s instructions, the glee club elders sang a song for the juniors. So they fired up this ’90s New Radicals one-hit wonder, Puck moonwalked, they changed one of the lyrics to “We’ll kick you down, yeah” so no one would have to hear a certain semi-bad word that rhymes with grass and they passed the torch to the next generation. By the way, is it just me, or did Cory Monteith/Finn finally get the hang of this whole singing-and-dancing thing in the last three epiodes of this season? Figures, since he’s graduating. Grade: B.
- RS: Finn leads the graduating seniors in a rambunctious cover of the New Radicals' '97 hit. Everyone gets a moment in the spotlight, and the angst and bitterness of the original is (surprise!) turned into an uplifting pass-the-torch moment. It's fine and fun, but nothing really spectacular.
New Directions underclassmen, “In My Life”
- TVL: Not the most ringing endorsement for the National Champions’ 2013 chances. Just being honest. Grade: C+
- EW: The underclassmen sang my favorite Beatles song to the seniors Finn, because he was popular before he joined the club. B
- WP: In further keeping with Mr. S’s instructions, the lower classmen sang a song of farewell to the graduates and, appropriately, chose this standard Beatles song of remembrance and goodbye. (Well, besides “Yesterday.”) The harmonies sounded lovely. And the tears started to flow again. Dang it, Agron. Dang it, Michele, you’re crying again. Dang it, even Ushkowitz is sniffling. And dang it, Lennon and McCartney, this song could make me nostalgic about the end of anything, even “House.” And I didn’t even watch that show.. Grade: A.
- RS: The underclassmen want to thank Finn for always having their back, even when he didn't need to. And we have now officially entered sappy hour, with a blended-past-recognition, laden-with-harmonies Beatles tune.
Puck and Finn, “Glory Days”
- TVL: Was it just me or was the Boss’ ditty about middle-aged folks thinking back on their youthful good times a tone-deaf choice for modern teenagers on their big day? Grade: C+
- EW: The Glee seniors put their choral spin on the Bruce Springsteen classic as they jammed their way through a gradation ceremony that doubled as a performance. B+
- WP: There is no way anyone should have been blaring Springsteen in the middle of a commencement ceremony. All that guitar and drumming would have made it impossible to hear Principal Figgins. Plus, if you listen to the words to this Springsteen song, it’s actually about not being able to move on from high school and growing up to be a pathetic adult fixated on the teenage years. But who cares? No one ever listens to the lyrics to “Born in the U.S.A.” either. Besides, it’s so jubilant! Happy graduation! The best years of your life just passed you by in the wink of a young girl’s eye! Grade: B.
- RS: Nothing like a little Puck- and Finn-led Springsteen to soundtrack a graduation that looks more like a fashion show than a graduation ceremony. But, you guys, they did it! They graduated! The plot line actually happened. And for that, I enjoyed the scene.
Rachel, “Roots Before Branches”
- TVL: Didn’t really know this song before Rachel closed the episode with it, but I’m glad I do now. A triumphant ending for a girl chasing her dreams, not her delusions, in the streets of New York City. Grade: A
- EW: I feel like a broken record here, but I’ve yet to see a power ballad Lea Michele couldn’t sell. Waterworks Alert! Powerful finish to the season and I didn’t not rewind the tune three times while silent tears rolled down my face. A
- WP: After the aforementioned crusher of a Finnchel break-up, Rachel broke into this well-chosen song by Room for Two as the whole New Directions gang gathered on the Amtrak platform to send her on her way to New York even though her first semester at NYADA doesn’t start for at least two months...For now, let’s grade this final finale number on a slight curve, shut this down on a high note and go out with an A.
- RS: I know I was complaining about the mega mush of "Goodbye" – and this last scene definitely carried that torch – but after everything, I would have expected a more Glee song to close out season three.
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