Glee Season 5 Review “The Back-Up Plan”

Glee Season 5 Episode 18 Back-Up Plan (2)

Not all Glee episodes can be showstoppers. We know that, and would honestly be exhausted if every episode from now until the season six finale was all about our beloved cast achieving their dreams. We need the quiet moments, the existential dilemmas, the bad decisions and the heartbreak. With all of its problems and all of its ambition, it might actually be better to look at Glee’s tumultuous fifth season as a collection of mini-seasons, one starting with ‘New New York’ and ending with last week’s ‘Opening Night’ and, now, yet another little adventure beginning with ‘The Back-Up Plan’.

Because the episode was full of set-up for future, and somewhat distressingly went back on the happy ending Rachel seemingly achieved for herself last week. Now, without the comfort of McKinley alum, Mr. Schue’s approval and the fresh excitement of a Broadway role, Rachel has itchy feet and, like all “ambitious, irresponsible” children, she wants more. Rachel has always been a fascinating character not particularly because of her talent or, as took over for a while, her relationship with Finn, but because of her sheer, unadulterated ambition. Her decision to quit NYADA and audition for this TV pilot tie into that beautifully.

That doesn’t mean it’s a comfortable watch, just like the problems between Blaine and Kurt currently being explored, but it does show that Glee finally seems to have rediscovered what makes its characters tick. As we understand it, the original plan for Rachel was for her to “make it big on Broadway” before finally returning to Ohio to be with Finn, the new glee club teacher at McKinley, and the speed in which the writers have come up with alternative is both impressive and frightening. Because I wonder whether the end of this particular story has been worked out, and if we’ve already witnessed the high point for Rachel’s career.

But I applaud the show for exploring these adult themes, with ambition and talent suddenly clashing with the endless possibilities that a grown-up life can offer. High school Rachel was always sure of what she wanted to do, but now that suddenly doesn’t seem to be enough. It makes my initial worry of where Glee could go after Funny Girl’s opening night seem a little silly, as of course life doesn’t end with your happy ending. Maybe when this season is over that’ll be the theme that runs through – happy endings are just the beginning of more troubles and strife down the road.

Which is also what’s happening to Kurt and Blaine, who began the season with a romantic engagement and are now constantly on the brink of self-imploding. I’ve thought this for a while, that Blaine is essentially a male version of Rachel, with things simply handed to him over others simply because he’s Blaine Anderson, and that has been causing problems for his relationship at every turn. Will he heed Shirley McClain’s warning and actually break things off with Kurt for fear of settling? Probably not, at least not permanently, but that doesn’t eradicate the fact that the show brought it up in a way that makes the move feel entirely plausible.

Two weeks ago, Blaine said that, for the first time in his life, he felt like he was losing, and that speaks volumes. His singling out makes perfect sense both because of Darren Criss’ talent and with how we’ve seen characters react to Blaine in the past, and it’s also true that his love for Kurt may actually be getting in the way. While Kurt seems genuinely happy for his fiancé when good things happen, we’ve never really witnessed the same from Blaine, with him only happy and content in the relationship when he’s the superior one. When Kurt got the Vogue internship, he cheated and, when he started to get attention at school, he had to be coddled back to security.

It’s a ticking time bomb and, as big of a shipper as I am, their problems are one of the best and bravest things this season of brave decisions and overcome circumstances has introduced. Of course, there are still a lot of messy elements that need to either be cut off or figured out, such as Mercedes’ implausible record deal, Sam’ lack of an arc and, now, the prospect of losing Santana. But this is Glee, and my unconditional adoration for the show has the power to drone out all of the weaker elements and make room for the magic this show can so often evoke. As a fresh, darker mini-arc for these characters, I’m completely on board.

What did you think of the episode? Will Blaine and Klaine survive the season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.