Season 5 was rough for “Glee,” but “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project” made it feel easy. There’s no changing the hardships that “Glee” as a show faced this year with the loss of Cory Monteith, but in the fictional world at least, everything got to make sense by the end. It was the spirit of choosing a destiny, not just letting one befall you, that cast a magical spell on the city of New York where the show resided for this final seven episodes. And now, for our heroes, it’s okay to let New York become a relic of their youth, their frozen Pompeii, as we time-jump ahead to some undetermined future Ryan Murphy has planned. Until we know where we are going, we’ll celebrate what gets our trusty gleeks to their jumping-off point.
Mercedes is already solid in her choice for a music career, including a very ’80s style mall tour, bringing Britt along as her featured dancer and meeting up with an off-camera Santana along the way. She kicks this off with an “A.” Her only lingering decision is Sam. They’ve been remaining celibate and faithful, until he is kissed by his sleazy female photographer after winning the coveted side-of-a-bus ad spot by sexy-strutting his way through Duran Duran’s “Girls On Film” (so much ’80s for Samcedes.) He rushes home to apologize to Mercedes for his cheating, and even though she doesn’t see it that way she decides they need to call it off. Even if they might be meant for each other in the end, they still aren’t meant for each other now.
Blaine has perpetuated the lie that Kurt will be in the showcase, hoping he’ll change June’s mind. With the right amount of charm, you imagine Blaine Anderson has always eventually gotten what he wanted. Not the case with June, who still says “no.” Kurt is not her taste, and she repeatedly calls him Blaine’s friend as a way of putting him at a lower place of respect. Kurt walks into the practice room to catch the tail-end of Blaine performing John Legend’s “All Of Me” all alone, and with many years of understanding Blaine’s musical moods under his belt, he knows this isn’t good. The last time Blaine got this emotional at a piano, he cheated. He reveals the lie and Kurt erupts, smacking his sack lunch to the ground and storming off. After he cools, they talk. Blaine says he doesn’t even want to do the performance anymore, that nothing is more important than Kurt to him. Kurt explains that he understands the reason behind the lies, and that being in a relationship is as terrifying as a bird flying for the first time, but he chooses to trust Blaine and their relationship. Kurt wants Blaine to take his turn to fly now, with the showcase. In their grand new tradition, the next stop after a fight like this is makeup sex.
Blaine and June’s big showcase number is “No Time At All” from Pippin, the show about the boy who wanted to be extraordinary and learned it was okay to be just average with people you care about. They sound good together, but Blaine and June duetting is also everything our “Glee” kids are not. It’s old fashioned, lacking all the right kinds of references that makes the camp tolerable. June pushes Blaine out for his encore, telling Kurt he’s such a nice “friend” to support Blaine. Kurt shuts that right down in no uncertain terms, that Blaine is the love of his life and he won’t let anyone stand in the way of that.
Nor will Blaine, who unexpectedly calls Kurt up for a duet, explaining to the crowd that the best way to know him is to know the man he loves. Blaine’s first grand statement of romance to Kurt was the offer of a duet during Season 2’s Sectionals, and now he parallels that with “American Boy,” which features more Kurt than Blaine as they dance their way through the showcase crowd, camp in all the right places and ways. Who needs polish when you’ve got this much charm. With a wave of their hands the crowd is to their feet, and even June softens and joins in. She admits she was wrong, but she’ll take all the credit for their success.
Despite the threat of being blacklisted from Broadway forever, Rachel is still in pursuit of a TV show. Fox has sent a writer, the over-the-top-quirky Mary, to come craft a script about Rachel’s life. After interviewing all of Rachel’s friends and jazzing up their lives with more sellable elements, it’s time for a read of the new script, a send up of edgy young television in the style of “Girls.” Rachel eats a whole sheet cake in the bath as a cross between Hannah and Shoshana, while Kurt (Cert) is Adam Driver in a dinosaur onsie. Blaine hooks up with Britt and decides to open an art space in the basement, where they eventually celebrate Rachel’s birthday with a coffee rave. It’s insane, and the only person who likes it is Britt, naturally. Rachel brings Mary to the diner to convince her to change the script the only way she knows how, through song. At first Mary is like “really?” but then Rachel slays on Pink’s “Glitter In The Air” so much so that it brings Mary to her feet experiencing a feeling she’s never felt before. “Happy.” She promises to rewrite it without all the irony and edge, although she’s assured the network will never go for it.
The gang unite for one last Monday dinner before Mercedes and Britt are on their way, and Sam catches a glimpse of his half-naked body on the side of a bus out the window. He’s made all his New York dreams come true, and he too has decided to leave for back home, somewhere more quiet. For a few magic months New York brought them all together, but now less than half of them are tethered to it, as they embrace to celebrate their triumph over a difficult year, Kurt exclaims he’d give anything to break into song right now. Ask and ye shall receive, as they fantasy-dance down a New York street leaping on cars and singing Bastille’s “Pompeii,” cut with images of each of the gang having their New York moments — a goodbye, a hello or stasis. Mercedes and Britt hop a cab, Artie is in film school, Blaine moves back into the loft now complete with the office space he wanted, and Sam returns to the halls of McKinley to peer into the converted choir room and presumably to follow through on Finn’s legacy. The music fades as Rachel gets a call — the network wants her show. She’s going to New York to film a pilot. Kurt, Blaine and Rachel leap in the air and scream, and our final shot is Rachel, still singing “Pompeii” but this time all alone with a final look at the camera. She’s living her life as TV Rachel now, and that’s all we know until Fox finally returns “Glee” to us sometime in early 2015.
It was a rough year, there’s no denying that, and not at all the year “Glee” intended both from a meta sense, and in the world as well. Season 5 was never going to be easy, but it wasn’t suppose to be this hard. When we started the season New York was still a problem — it had come between Finn and Rachel, and it kept Kurt and Blaine apart. At the beginning, we hinged on fate. Rachel is destined to be a Broadway star, and New York gives that to her. Kurt and Blaine are destined to be together, and Blaine shows that by his marriage proposal. As we close out the New York chapter, it’s residents are relying on their own choices, not fate, to dictate their story. Kurt choose to trust Blaine, and Blaine chooses to trust his heart in including Kurt in the showcase. Rachel chooses television over Broadway. Mercedes chooses to separate from Sam. New York, it’s purpose served, is rubble, preserved in their moment of triumph and life. Rachel made the gang promise they’d be right back at the spot where they all left each other in 6 months, but reality makes us believe that it’s going to take them considerably longer to find each other again.