The showtune-singing seniors at McKinley High graduated last night on “Glee” in the only way they know how: by singing an ’80s song loudly throughout the proceedings and making the entire commencement ceremony all about them.
Based on what we saw in the season three finale, titled “Goodbye,” a grand total of eight students offically earned diplomas: Quinn, Finn, Rachel, Kurt, Santana, Mercedes, Mike and Puck. Principal Figgins didn’t read any other names out loud, so I guess all those other random McKinley kids in caps and gowns just got held back a year.
Oh, but who cares? That octet of matriculating seniors was clearly sad to say farewell. And their tear-shedding made us a little teary as well.
Look, what I’m really saying is that I lost it when Dianna Agron started crying, and then Jane Lynch started crying, too, okay? I couldn’t help it. I can’t take the sight of a verklempt Sue Sylvester; there’s not supposed to be any crying in scenes that involve insult-hurling cheerleading coaches and the cheerleaders they once insulted. Tom Hanks said so in “A League of Her Own.” I mean, sort of.
Overall, the knowing choir room glances and supportive smiles displayed during last night’s musical performances seemed more genuine than usual. I’m pretty sure some of those emotional expressions weren’t just the result of being completely immersed in character; the ”Glee” stars were clearly going through their own stages of grief right before our eyes.
Some quick observations, which involve some spoilers, before we get to the musical numbers.
1. I really wish Mercedes — who will head to L.A. next year to be a back-up singer for an indie label, thanks to Sam’s insistence on sharing her talents on YouTube — had gotten a musical number all to herself.
2. I was not expecting Kurt to be rejected from NYADA. Whoopi Goldberg/Carmen Tibideaux praised his bravery for pretending to be Hugh Jackman. I thought he was as good as in.
3. Finn’s eleventh-hour, out-of-left-field, three-pronged decision to not marry Rachel, force her to go to New York (all of her begging actually got her admitted to NYADA) and enlist in the Army after getting rejected from the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University, was a shocker for us as well as Rachel. The potential Mrs. Hudson got totally blind-sided by all this on what she thought was her wedding day.
I guess Finn pulled a sneak attack so Rachel had no choice but to visit NYC, mainly so the final shot of this episode could feature her wandering around Broadway looking like Marlo Thomas.
But was it necessary to crush her with this news and then immediately push her onto an Amtrak train on what I hope, given all her loud singing, was not the quiet car? Rachel’s heatrbroken response was wrenching to watch, and not just because it involved so much authentic snot. (Man, Lea Michele is a really good cryer.)
4. For those of you attempting to keep track of who will be where next year: Quinn will be at Yale; Rachel and Santana will be in New York (beause Gloria Estefan gave Santana the money she needs to go to the Big Apple, get on her feet and make it happen); Mike will be in Chicago studying at the Joffrey on a scholarship; Mercedes and, presumably, Puck will be in L.A. (Puck passed his geography exam after, as I understand it, Quinn kissed the knowledge into his head); and Finn, Kurt and Brittany (who flunked her senior year) will remain in Lima. If all these people stay involved in the “Glee” narrative in some way, next season is going to feel like a globe-trotting James Bond movie with showtunes.
But let’s not fast-forward to season four yet. We’ve got musical numbers to assess. So grab your tissues and let’s pay homage to the past three seasons of attempting to win sectionals, regionals, nationals and anything else that end in -als.
“Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” — Kurt, Tina, Mercedes, Rachel and Artie
The first number of the night was a short one and one that featured a flashback to the first time this “Guys and Dolls” tune was performed: in the pilot. Santana called it “ghetto.” I thought it was a nice reminder of how far these plucky “Glee” kids have come; the fact that they did this one without any fancy sets or illogically professional-looking costumes made it better. Grade: A-
“Forever Young” — Mr. Schuester
“Glee” could have gone with a number of “Forever Young” options: the original Bob Dylan version, the Alphaville model. It chose — or should I say, scored the rights — to the Rod Stewart take, which hews pretty closely to the Dylan version. This was your first reach-for-the-tissue moment as Will strummed an acoustic guitar and the panned across the faces of the young graduates, finally pausing on the word Mr. Schue had written across his white board: “Goodbye.” Sweet. Grade: A.
“Single Ladies” — Burt Hummel, Tina and Brittany
Does it make sense, really, that Kurt’s father — a busy congressman — would randomly show up at school to make a poignant speech about his acceptance of his son and give him the gift of performing Beyonce to further demonstrate that acceptance? No. It makes no sense at all. But it provided another flashback to a season-one, episode (“Preggers,” the one where Kurt joined the football team). And it gave us the opportunity to watch Mike O’Malley slap his backside while wearing a single glittery glove. Surely that’s enough to merit a grade of B?
“I’ll Remember” — Kurt
As Mr. Schue said early in the episode, the New Directions no longer have anything to prepare for; they’ve won nationals. The school year is winding down. And yet they continue coming to the choral room anyway, compelled by the power of music. Oh, and the power of Madonna since this Madge ballad was clearly a left-over that didn’t get used during the “Power of Madonna” episode. Kurt dedicated it to the guys in the room who supported him. He started to get weepy and then so did Rachel — dang it, Michele, such a good crier! — and then I gave this a B- because it was pleasant but not particularly memorable and not one of Madonna’s best either.
“You Get What You Give” — The New Directions seniors
Per Mr. S’s instructions, the glee club elders sang a song for the juniors. So they fired up this ’90s New Radicals one-hit wonder, Puck moonwalked, they changed one of the lyrics to “We’ll kick you down, yeah” so no one would have to hear a certain semi-bad word that rhymes with grass and they passed the torch to the next generation. By the way, is it just me, or did Cory Monteith/Finn finally get the hang of this whole singing-and-dancing thing in the last three epiodes of this season? Figures, since he’s graduating. Grade: B.
“In My Life” — The New Directions non-graduates
In further keeping with Mr. S’s instructions, the lower classmen sang a song of farewell to the graduates and, appropriately, chose this standard Beatles song of remembrance and goodbye. (Well, besides “Yesterday.”) The harmonies sounded lovely. And the tears started to flow again. Dang it, Agron. Dang it, Michele, you’re crying again. Dang it, even Ushkowitz is sniffling. And dang it, Lennon and McCartney, this song could make me nostalgic about the end of anything, even “House.” And I didn’t even watch that show.. Grade: A.
“Glory Days” — Puck and Finn
There is no way anyone should have been blaring Springsteen in the middle of a commencement ceremony. All that guitar and drumming would have made it impossible to hear Principal Figgins. Plus, if you listen to the words to this Springsteen song, it’s actually about not being able to move on from high school and growing up to be a pathetic adult fixated on the teenage years. But who cares? No one ever listens to the lyrics to “Born in the U.S.A.” either. Besides, it’s so jubilant! Happy graduation! The best years of your life just passed you by in the wink of a young girl’s eye! Grade: B.
“Roots Before Branches” — Rachel
After the aforementioned crusher of a Finnchel break-up, Rachel broke into this well-chosen song by Room for Two as the whole New Directions gang gathered on the Amtrak platform to send her on her way to New York even though her first semester at NYADA doesn’t start for at least two months. This gave us the opportunity to watch Finn chase after the train, Rachel cry her eyes out while also singing (dang it, Michele!) and then see Rachel go all “That Girl” while soaking in the sights of New York. The look on her face said: I have a new life ahead of me, full of promise and opportunity and musical numbers that will not, in any way, dovetail with whatever happens on NBC’s “Smash.”
Will Kurt and Finn eventually join her in New York? How long until she runs into season-four guest stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson? We won’t know until later. For now, let’s grade this final finale number on a slight curve, shut this down on a high note and go out with an A.