Raina Deerwater ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Being a part of something special makes you special,” Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) says in the pilot of Glee. It is known by fans and critics alike to be one of the best pilots in the 21st century. This is mostly due to the sentiment encapsulated in that line. Young people who felt different would watch the show amongst millions of other outsiders and feel like they were something special. They could take comfort in the fact that other people had these feelings and experiences too.
In the spring of 2009, when the pilot was released, I was just a small town girl living in a lonely world. Basically. I mean, I was 15, gay and did a lot of high school theater. Glee was perfect for me. It came into my life at the exact right time as it did with so many others. I had a bright red Glee t-shirt, I downloaded all songs from iTunes and convinced all of my friends to watch it. During it’s first season, the following gained by Glee had to do with a lot more than it’s catchy music and love triangles: it was a place we felt that we could belong.
In the six years since it’s inauguration, that sense of belonging slowly faded away. (Basically, we all just gave up in the middle of season three.) Within the last half-decade, I have stopped wearing the t-shirt, deleted the songs, and apologized to the friends who I forced to watch the show. Yet, after having only seen snippets of seasons 4 and 5, I decided to watch the complete final season of Glee. Though, mostly to make fun of it on the internet, there was a small part of me that wanted to find the thing that my 15-year-old self had loved so dearly. Even if it was just a little bit, I really wanted to not stop believing.
The first half of the series finale is entitled “2009” and it all takes place during the time frame of the pilot. In between Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) terrible hairpiece and Rachel’s casual racism, there was a glimpse of the Glee we had once known. It reminded us of a time, when we actually rooted for Will Schuster (Matthew Morrison), and when the characters actually had to work for all the good things that happened to them. “2009” ended with the final clip from the pilot, the clip that started the revolution of Glee, the six, red-shirted, insecure high school students belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” and being damn good at it.
On the one hand, showing a clip of a better Glee from six years ago to illicit emotion is just lazy, but on the other hand, it really worked. Seeing Cory Monteith in his prime up on that stage was stirring on a completely different level.
Just like that, the show jumps to the second part of the episode, “Dreams Come True,” where SPOILER ALERT, everyone’s dreams come true. New Directions 3.0 win Nationals, McKinley becomes an art school helmed by Will, Rachel goes to back to New York, Sam (Chord Overstreet) takes over Glee Club, Mercedes (Amber Riley) gets to open for Beyoncé and everyone is happy. Five years in the future, they are all where they want to be.
Seeing these characters achieve their dreams is exactly what the fans deserve. We have sat through divorces, pregnancies, bi-phobia, “Run Joey Run,” and the entirety of season six. We deserve to see Rachel win a Tony while being the surrogate for Kurt and Blaine’s (Darrin Criss) baby and being applauded by her husband, Jesse St James (Jonathan Groff). We deserve to see the auditorium he dedicated to the memory of Finn Hudson before all iterations of Glee Club members sing a surprisingly lovely rendition of “I Lived.” We earned all of this.
But the show didn’t earn any of it.
Though Glee was indescribably important at a particular time in my life and the lives of so many others, it is no longer what it used to be. A good finale does not make up for the way that Glee let down so many of its fans and characters over the years. It was poorly written, over processed, and at times, downright offensive. It turned from something powerful into merely a joke. Glee is like that boyfriend who was so amazing in the beginning, then treats you like garbage for years, and then is back with a smile and a Journey song to make it up to you.
“Being a part of something special doesn’t make you special. Something is special because you’re a part of it,” Rachel Berry says in the finale of Glee. I don’t know if the writers were aware of the significance of this line. What made Glee so great in 2009 were the millions of people around the world, people who were different and special, people like 15-year-old me. We made Glee the thing it was, and when so many of it’s fans left for greener pastures with better writing and representation, it faded into a shell of what it once was.
I know for a fact that Glee is not what made me special, but I like to think that for a little bit, six years ago, I helped make it something great. I sincerely hope that, in the long run, the positive aspects of the show will outweigh the negative, but it’s honestly anyone’s game at this point. At least now, we can rest easy knowing that Glee is now officially a thing of the past.
Congratulations to those who made it till the end. It was not easy.
Finale Grade: A-
Season Grade: C-
Show Grade: Your finger and your thumb in the shape of an “L”