Glee “We Built This Glee Club” Review (Season 6 Episode 11)

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I feel like I need to start this review by saying that I’m a fan of Jesse St. James. I’m a fan of the character and his relationship with Rachel, and so his return in this episode of Glee, ‘We Built This Glee Club’, was always going to stir up some of those feelings.

But it was also Sectionals and, heartbreakingly, the last non-finale episode of the show. There was a lot of opportunity for the show to hit some of those huge, obvious emotional beats that season six has been largely missing and, while there were a heck of lot still dodged and left dangling, at least the episode made an effort to be Glee again, however late in the day it is.

Competition episodes are what the series has always been built around, with a song-heavy latter half touching on some of those silly traditions that fans have learned to love. There was a stupid, nonsensical choir going up against Vocal Adrenaline and the ‘Warblerections’ (that’s what we’re calling them, right? It seems too good not to), a panel of crazy judges, and the plinky plonky piano tune playing over the moment of their obvious victory.

The numbers were fine – the full-length recordings were better – and I could have done without Myron and Spencer’s weird stage gimmicks during ‘Chandelier’. The whole point of New Directions is that they don’t need those things to win.

That’s what ‘Hairography’ was about in season one, and shoot me if Blaine and the Warblers would ever let that happen on their watch. But then the Warblers were featured in that set about as much as Blaine has been all season, so what can you do?

And the callbacks did a bad thing – they reminded us of those glorious moments they have accompanied in the past. Remember when the New Directions triumphed against the odds at their first Sectionals, with Rachel singing Don’t Rain On My Parade? Or when the 2.0s failed to win with their Finn-tribute, leading to the club’s cancellation? Or when they won Nationals for the first time, back when things were good?

I remember all of those things, and those things are why I love the show. This was lackluster, and maybe it was supposed to be, but even the Vocal Adrenaline numbers felt slow. The most elaborate, staged production they’ve ever done? Go re-watch ‘Bohemium Rhapsody’ and tell me that’s the truth.

Speaking of which, as said, we got Jesse back this week. It’s been a long absence, and any remaining shippers had all but lost hope that their little dream of having Rachel end up with her show choir mirror image would come true.

But his seamless return, right in the middle of a song (as is their tradition), immediately snapped everything back into focus. There were swirling shots of the auditorium – my favorite kind of shots of Rachel, always a part of her big numbers – and there were all of the emotions written on their faces at various stages of the song. It was wonderful and transformative and dripping with indelible chemistry.

I worried last week that Jesse would be back just to push Rachel towards Broadway – two battling love interests representing two different choices – but thankfully the way things played out felt less icky and more like Rachel’s decision made with the varied opinions of those she loves most (except Blaine, because he doesn’t talk anymore).

Really, if there was someone to push her over the line one way or the other it was Kurt, which is the ideal outcome. He framed it as a decision between what she wants to do and what she thinks she should do, citing her obvious struggles last year and the fact that she didn’t really get to enjoy any of the wonderful things that had happened post-Finn.

I loved this moment, both because it showed Kurt knowing Rachel so well and because it mentioned Finn without really mentioning him. Framing Kurt in that respect also makes sense of a lot of his actions in season five, with Blaine especially, so I appreciated the acknowledgement of season five’s weirdness. A death like that permeates everything, and Glee has done well at not relegating their grief to one or two scenes.

In contrast to this, Sam is awful, which I think is the first time I’ve ever written those words in that order. Season six has featured a strange, unrecognizable robot-Sam and, while I was on board the good ship Samchel for a time (RIP), his stance of NYADA versus Broadway makes little sense at the same time as pushing the audience away from his character in general.

I go on about Blaine a lot, but the side-lining of Sam this year has been nothing short of criminal. We get a couple of throwaway lines about Sam and Rachel possibly being just friends with benefits, despite a lot of couple-y behavior and knowledge of their personalities (Sam, especially, would find a casual relationship difficult), so I guess that makes Rachel kissing Jesse at the end okay, but when is he going to catch his break?

There was a Blam moment, though, and it was lovely. They looked at each other, clinked glasses and even sort-of hugged. The show, for a brief moment, remembered they were characters it had built 50 per cent of two of its seasons around. It was like greeting two friends you haven’t seen in ages, despite them having always been hanging around. Thanks Glee, you asshole, for this tiny afterthought.

The trophy montage was a nice touch, and I think an insight into what we can expect from next week’s episode. Glee loves a good montage, an advantage of its structure as a musical, but it’s so far limited them to the important moments. This, like the other competition traditions, was a good callback to times past, finishing off with Rachel and Finn carrying their first and only Nationals trophy to the cabinet, back when everything was Glee and nothing hurt.

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I think this final farewell season of Glee has been a challenge for fans to get their heads around, sprinkled with good moments but heaving with WTF plotlines and wasted time. This episode didn’t really change that, including yet another Sue/Will story absolutely no one cares about, but it did simultaneously give me a glimmer of hope for next week’s grand finale.

We’ll get a happy ending for everyone, they say, and a look back at how the characters all met each other back in the old days. At this point, I can only take those promises with a pinch of salt and hope for the best, or at least an adequate goodbye to these characters I’ve grown to care for so deeply over the last six years. Pull this off, Glee, and I dare say that all will be forgiven.