The episode that many believed would mark the end of Glee for a long while. Graduation finally comes for part of the original cast in an episode that’s part retrospective, part farewell episode where the graduating part of the cast narrates the ways in which they’ve grown while the ways in which they deal with parting are explained on screen. Though mostly a festival of nostalgia, there are a few important things that take place in the episode, those things happening in between songs about parting and odd, quirky scenes showing how the friends or family of each character bid them farewell or welcome them into adulthood.
The important parts that take place are, basically, dealing with who graduates and who doesn’t (One person doesn’t, a rather expected one) and what several of the cast mates are doing after graduation, along with some of the reactions people have to these. The smaller things are the predictable ones, particularly Quinn going on with her do-good spree that began in the senior prom episode when she gave Rachel the crown, which makes her go to Puck and confess to him that he was her first love in an attempt to get him to brighten up and pass his geography test (He does in the end, though his future is unceirtain).
However, there are several more interesting moments in the episode that, along with the interesting use of music through it (The finale is easily the best scene that’s been shot for Glee in a long time, if not the whole season). One of the questions that had been left open so far was whether Kurt or Rachel would be accepted into NYADA, and for the finale Finn’s fate is also added to the mix, with the three characters deciding to open their letters at the same time. The outcome, however, is a very mixed bag. Though it is understandable (And I for one praise the writers for following suit with reality… A little bit) that not everyone can get in, the choice of who to allow in is the most ridiculous and patronizing one since, as you probably realized already, Rachel gets into NYADA while Kurt, who not only didn’t blow his audition but was also wooed by the examiner doesn’t and Finn, obviously, doesn’t either.
The reason why this decision was such a hard one to take for me as a viewer was that, to put it simply, there’s absolutely no reason why Rachel would’ve deserved a place there more than Kurt other than having gone batshit insane and stalked the judge for weeks. Yet instead of a restraining order, she got an acceptance letter – I’m sorry but such a turn doesn’t have the slightest resemblance to what reality is like.
Another pet peeve of mine was Finn’s eventual decision of what to do with his life after he got rejected from studying acting. Though joining the army is many a young man’s dream (And I won’t get into details on my personal thoughts regarding it – I’m a pacifist, anti-militarist freak but then again I didn’t grow in the US, where the army is generally hailed), the storyline had already been explored before with, as I recall, Finn being talked out of it after learning exactly what had happened. Him choosing to go to the Army of sudden and having nobody do anything to stop it is ridiculous and, if anyone tried to stop him, not have it shown on screen reeks of terrible screenwriting.
A few other characters also have important things happen to them, though in smaller ways. Out of the rest of the cast, the only other storyline that seems important is Santana’s, who decides to follow her dream after she sees Mercedes get an opportunity to become a singer (Something that’s mentioned almost in passing, though then again Mercedes was never that big a character and she changed personalities like underwear). This has her discussing with her mother (Guest starred by Gloria Estefan, being the third guest star in the show that’s worth it, along with Whoopi Goldberg and Gwyneth Paltrow), who wants her to go to college yet eventually gives in and tells her to go to New York with some money she had saved for university.
Besides that, two smaller arcs appear – The first letting us know Mike Chang got accepted somewhere and the second letting us know Brittany wasn’t graduating, since her grades were an absolute 0. How the character was allowed to partake on a school club while having such horrendous grades is a testament to McKinley being an awful school (Though then again with the director it has it isn’t really a secret for anyone).
The episode ends as Rachel and Finn go to where they are supposed to get married. However, rather than taking her there, Finn takes Rachel to the train station, where he lets her know she’s going to New York to chase her dreams while he will enlist the Army, effectively breaking up with her. It is then discovered that apparently everyone knew about this but her, since all her friends were there to say goodbye to her. The episode ends as the spoiled girl who didn’t quite deserve a place in NYADA and who’ll always be in our memories for being one of the most annoying main characters in history (About as annoying as Roxie Hart, with the difference that Hart was meant to be annoying) sings a cover of Roots Before Branches, original by Room for Two, as she leaves Lima Heights and arrives at New York City.
Besides of the storyline, which was a good one even considering the glaring holes in its writing, the episode boosted a rather solid set of songs – None of them sounded horrible or overtly edited with the dreaded autotune. The set of songs is Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, from Guys and Dolls in a scene that overlaps both the current performance and that from the Pilot episode; I’ll Remember, original by Madonna, sung by Colfer (Who does it quite well, the song fitting his voice in the way that Music of the Night didn’t); Forever Young, original by Rod Stewart (When I read the title I was hoping this would be another Meat Loaf cover, sadly it wasn’t); A reprise of the Single Ladies performance from season 1, this time performed by Mike O’Malley as Burt’s graduation gift to Kurt; You Get What You Give by the New Radicals; In My Life, original by The Beatles and Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen.
As for my final take on this finale, it is a simple one: This looked and felt a lot more like a series finale than a season finale and, in my opinion, it did nothing but showcase just how better the show would be were it to stop focusing on a show choir and try to actually become a musical – Something that happens beautifully in the bittersweet final scene of the episode. Not only that, but it also seems to put the original cast as (mostly) irreplaceable, giving the viewership a good look at just how much the show could evolve if it abandoned high school altogether and decided to follow the main characters to their adult lives. Alas, that is not to be and the fourth (And, unless the writing gets a LOT better, probably last) season of the show will retain the current format with a small twist. Whether said small twist will be enough to retain viewership and gain back a portion of the lost viewers remains to be seen, but I personally don’t hold a lot of hope regarding that.
Final review rating: 4/5