Glee “2009” & “Dreams Come True” Review (Season 6 Episode 12 & 13)

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It was always going to be difficult writing about the Glee series finale.

This week was the last one in which Glee could be spoken about in the present tense, and to say that the level of interest had significantly dropped would be the understatement of the decade. But that’s good, I’d argue Glee was never really supposed to be the hit it became in its early days, and it’s going out not with a whimper, but with a song and a dance and a heartfelt thank you.

Glee landed in the world like a ton of bricks, a genuine phenomenon for at least two seasons but, as with all cultural juggernauts, the backlash that followed was just as significant. It’s become a punching bag, a scapegoat for everything that’s wrong with YA television, female-leaning fandom and LGBT representation. It has it’s faults – fans know that more than most – but it’s never been what the outside likes to make out.

It’s a high school show about musical theater, it’s painfully earnest and its unapologetic about its commitment to that niche. It should never have been a success in the first place.

But when it comes down to it, no matter how these episodes had turned out, this silly show about a fictional glee club striving against the odds, stumbling through life, has ultimately meant the world to so many.

It didn’t help me through high school (I was 20-years-old and in college when it premiered) or help me come out. All of those things you frequently hear people say about it’s influence on their life don’t really apply to me.

But I am a fierce advocate for the power that television – popular television especially – can have on people, especially young people, and, though there are swathes of critics who will steadfastly deny this fact, Glee actually ended up changing a lot of things for the better over its six year run.

Glee is the kind of show that can’t be watched casually, and those who gave themselves to it wholeheartedly, no matter how far they may have drifted over the past couple of seasons, can’t help but now take stock of all the things it meant and all the things it changed.

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Starting with the first half, ‘2009’, which was a completely separate entity yet perfectly placed immediately before the grand finale, it was clear this was Glee‘s way of reminding us all of those glory days.

Though hardcore fans were always going to be tuning in for this, there’s an element of the show also having to take into account the general audience that may have stopped watching a while ago but are still curious about how it would all wrap up. The show’s brief time as a cultural phenomenon should be acknowledged, and this was a great way to do it.

There’s also the Finn problem, and the related ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ problem, that this finale had. A flashback episode without Finn would have felt so wrong and disrespectful, but one nudge over the edge and it would lose its emotional power. Say what you want about seasons five and six, but they have never, ever messed up when it came to paying tribute to Finn and the memory of Cory Monteith.

So it’s fitting here, then, that Finn is nowhere and everywhere. He’s just around the corner; in the previous scene; about to walk into the choir room. That’s hard to watch, as it must have been hugely difficult to film for the cast, but those who know the pilot like the back of their hand could easily marry it in their minds to the beginning of Finn’s arc in the corresponding episode.

Watching the original club – Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, Tina and Artie – all vote to keep Finn in New Directions despite his apparent differences was the tribute we were all looking for, the events that followed permeating every aside and every bit of dialogue. Kurt’s response, especially, was immensely powerful, with everything we all knew would happen to them from here offering poignancy to an otherwise unimportant bit of information about their story.

The fan service in this episode was great – Karofsky flinching at Puck’s ‘gay’ ass-slap, Matt’s appearance, the old sets, Blaine’s cameo – calling back to things both ridiculous (MySpace) and touching (Burt) yet never letting them pull focus.

No, this episode was first and foremost about the characters we care about, which is something season six has been curiously missing.

Tina and Artie’s respective origin stories were similarly inspired – Artie’s song the misogynistic anthem we all secretly knew it would be and Tina’s stutter a symptom of her counter-culture delusions, rather than of shyness as she had protested back in ‘Wheels’. Tina’s voiceover had me in stitches, and was the perfect way to say goodbye to that crazy, often lovable but always fascinating character.

Then spiky, closeted Kurt was back to break all of our hearts, the show not only reminding us of how lonely and sad he was back in 2009, but also bringing suicidal thoughts into the mix.

All of it was done wonderfully, and Kurt was rightfully the center of much of the first half. I’d missed Kurt getting any sort of focus outside of his relationships with other people, and all the credit in the world goes to Chris Colfer for managing to recapture what the entire world had loved about him back in season one.

The birth of HummelBerry was something I’d been looking forward to ever since I knew this episode would exist, and their duet on Wicked’s ‘Popular’ transported us back to those days of rivalry while keeping their interactions infused with the begrudging, mutual respect that came to define their entire relationship.

Burt was the one to convince him to join a team, any team, and Rachel and Mercedes the ones to coach him. He found friends, something to be a part of, bringing home the message of not just the episode, but the series.

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The second hour was dedicated to wrapping everything up that could be wrapped up in a way that would please the general audience, loyal fans and those that had picked their favorites. The Glee fandom is a funny place in which everyone has their preferences and will defend their chosen character or relationship to the end. ‘Dreams Come True’ had a big job to do, and it did it magnificently.

They won Nationals, Kurt and Blaine became a celebrity couple with a baby on the way (via Rachel as surrogate), McKinley became an arts school, Rachel won a Tony, Sam started coaching New Directions and Mercedes is the opening act for Beyonce. In short, everyone’s dreams came true, and Glee ended with a beautiful group number in the auditorium, red color scheme and all.

You could pick holes in it – as you could with the entire Glee experience – but why bother now, at the end of all things? This was a send-off for the cast and the fans – a love letter that disregards the show’s many glaring flaws and celebrates it for it’s great, soaring triumphs.

Those were real tears cried during Will’s ‘Teach Your Children’ in the choir room, a chance for everyone involved with the show to say goodbye in the proper way. You could hear it in Sue’s speech to Kurt, Mercedes’ speech to her assembled friends and the opening dialogue to ‘I Lived’. Fourth wall breaking has never been something Glee shied away from, but here it was used in exactly the right way.

Sam got Finn’s storyline of heading up New Directions, but he did it in his very Sam way (yay for country music). Blaine and Sam even got to be friends for five minutes, acknowledging the gaping chasm of strangeness that had been sitting in the middle of Blam for all of season six (was it a plan all along?), and I was so glad those two supporting players get any kind of send-off, let alone one that felt so perfect.

And Rachel. Rachel got a number all to herself – ‘This Time’ written by Darren Criss – alone in the auditorium, the choir room and the halls of McKinley. This was a moment for the show, and a moment for Rachel fans. She may not have been everyone’s favorite character, but she was the heart and soul of Glee.

The song was beautiful, her performance stunning, the message clear.

Even without the Tony, or the husband, or her becoming the supernova she had announced herself as back in the pilot, Rachel’s life was infinitely changed by her experience these six years, good and bad, and she came out shining.

The final number welcomed back glee clubbers old and new (everyone except Marley and Rory, in fact), in one of the most joyous sequences the show has ever produced. That’s it’s legacy, both of characters that connected so deeply with viewers and of talented actors, actresses and performers who were discovered over the years.

They sang One Republic’s ‘I Lived’, the show faded to black, and then one last shot of the plaques mounted on the wall – “See the world not as it is, but as it should be.”

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As I already said, I was in my twenties while Glee aired. I wasn’t a teenager when it started, but it did see me through a significant part of my life. I will say, without shame, that it’s ultimately been my favorite show, not because it’s perfect or even consistently good, but because I loved it with all of me, and that’s rare.

Whenever I read something about how a particular character or storyline on this show significantly affected someone’s life, it makes me love it even more, and for a television show to do that to any degree is something to be cherished. Sometimes we forget what entertainment is supposed to be about – enjoyment, yes, but also the pursuit of something meaningfully human – validation, change, comfort and, in the age of internet fandom, community.

It was something special, and we were a part of it.

Goodbye Glee, for those who loved you hard for precisely what you are, you’ll be missed.

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