Don't stop believing, because dreams really do come true.
I remember the day I first heard about this new quirky show called Glee. The words “show choir” definitely piqued my interest, but I never fully committed until I saw the first teaser: It showcased a band of misfits who all rallied together in the high school auditorium to sing and dance to Journey songs. I knew I had found my people.
I wasn’t the only one who identified with the show. Each week, countless fans tuned in to see how the New Directions would navigate the treacherous halls of McKinley High. We laughed at the campiness of the weekly Glee Club assignments. We identified with the storylines. We shuddered at the thought of our own insecurities. And we found sanctuary in the chorus of a familiar song.
The music of Glee was the heartbeat of the show. It became the soundtrack of our childhood, adolescence, and young adult lives. Several generations were introduced to a wide variety of musical stylings, thanks to Ryan Murphy’s vision. We became honorary members of New Directions with every showtune, mash-up, or original recording we belted out in our car.
More than anything, Glee challenged us to dream big. It was only fitting that the series finale open with a flashback to 2009, when the original cast members each made the decision to take the first step in building their legacy.
When Ms. Pillsbury shows Kurt’s dad a pamphlet Kurt had been reading (Ending it All: Pros and Cons), Mr. Hummel becomes concerned. He forces Kurt to join a team at school, or his sewing machine will be confiscated.
Kurt scours the cafeteria for a place to fit in. He lands at Rachel Berry’s table. Kurt refrains from whipping out a pair of tweezers to help wrangle Rachel’s eyebrows. Instead, he listens as this small, feisty girl convinces him to join the Glee Club.
Kurt approaches Mercedes to help him figure out what he should sing for the audition. Mercedes encourages Kurt to match his attitude with his fierce wardrobe choices. But Kurt wonders if it even matters—most of the time he feels invisible. Cut to Kurt auditioning to “Mr. Cellophane” in the auditorium. It was a nice throwback to the pilot episode. Warm fuzzies all around.
One of my favorite moments from the night is when Mercedes complains in voiceover that the only other black kid in school is boring. Then the camera pans to Matt! (Remember him? Yeah, I almost forgot, too.) That sweet boy is still getting the shaft.
Rachel, always the schemer, falls into step with her “new best friend” and invites herself to Mercedes’ church so she can scope out the competition. Mercedes commands the stage in front of a gospel choir, hitting notes that would definitely crack the stained glass windows. The gauntlet has been thrown, and Rachel knows it. Game on.
Tina and Artie
I had almost forgotten that Tina was once a Goth chick with a (fake) stutter. Not to mention that Karofsky and Puck were truly horrible individuals! Even when the two bully her, Tina refuses to conform to the norm. Instead, she joins forces with the kid in the wheelchair. Both Tina and Artie audition for the Glee Club as a result of a dare from the dude who thinks he’s a werewolf. Kids these days.
Rachel tracks down Mr. Schuester to hand him her list of potential male lead candidates. She also gives him a list of reasons why she should get the first solo. Moments later, Mr. Schuester is shocked when Puck launches a slushy in Rachel’s face. He now understands the underdog status of Glee Club.
Did you ever wonder what instigated Sue Sylvester to hate Will Schuester? We now know the answer. During a friendly game of basketball, Sue casually suggests to Will that fostering unrealistic dreams in the kids at McKinley High is unfair. Will informs Sue that he has Finn Hudson on board. There’s no stopping the Glee Club. The arts are important—even more important than cheerleading.
And so a rivalry is born.
Rachel is back on her elliptical machine, mentally preparing for her future Broadway debut. She knows that she can’t get there without the Glee Club. However, we’re at the point in our timeline when Mr. Schuester is about to quit so he can become an accountant to support his family, including horribly manipulative wife Terri. Rachel takes it upon herself to visit Terri at Sheets-N-Things. She implores the non-pregnant woman to reconsider guilting her husband into quitting his job. GO BERRY!
Meanwhile, Kurt and Mercedes debate whether Finn Hudson is right for the Glee Club. They figure he will eventually convince his jock and cheerleader friends to join. That means that the misfits will be pushed to the side. Rachel reminds her fellow show choir members that Finn wants to be accepted for who he really is and not what his label says. When they look back at their time in Glee Club, they need to be proud of what they did and who they included. Can someone pass me a tissue?
NEXT: Here come the tears
At this point, we all know what happens. Emma convinces Will to stay by showing him an old video of his show choir from 1993. He leaves his office, stopping when he hears the familiar opening cadence of a beloved Journey song. Suddenly, we are treated to the original performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” from the pilot episode. It was a perfect tribute to origins of Glee, the original cast, and Cory Monteith. This is the exact moment we fell in love with the show. And it’s the iconic moment we will never forget.
The scene switches to the current day. McKinley High School has just won nationals. Although we don’t see the performance, it’s still a sweet moment. (You’re my boy Roderick!) The superintendent is so impressed with Mr. Shuester’s hard work and dedication, he has decided to make McKinley a school for the arts. And guess who is going to run the school? Say hello to Principal Schuester.
Three months later, Mr. Schuester sings a farewell song surrounded by alumni and friends in the choir room. It was extremely touching when he admits that his life was changed because of what went on in that room. I can’t help but think that line was delivered as Matthew Morrison. He blows a sweet kiss Lea Michele’s way and we both cry.
Now that Mr. Schuester is in an administrative role, the baton has been tossed to Sam to carry on the traditions of the Glee Club. This may not be the most mature fit professionally, but Sam certainly has the campiness to pull it off. And I bet he can rap better than Mr. Schue.
Later, Mercedes takes her moment to say goodbye. She won’t be seeing her friends for a while since she’s the opening act for Beyonce’s new world tour (yeah she is!). She bids farewell with an amazing song backed by her traveling gospel choir.
Blaine and Kurt say goodbye to Sue and thank her for getting them back together. Sue uncharacteristically thanks Kurt for teaching her things about herself that she would have never discovered on her own. She ditches Porcelain and Mrs. Porcelain for a sentimental moment with Becky in the hallway. I laughed as they pushed people out of the way in order to run and embrace each other. I have always loved their sweet friendship.
Speaking of friendship, Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison’s farewell song was one of my top performances from the finale. “The Winner Takes It All” was a brilliant song choice. I liked how Sue and Will competed for the spotlight as they sang, but ended the piece by holding hands. Sue putting her finger to Will’s lips, forbidding him to say anything was the perfect way to wrap up their story. Sue swiping her leg under Piano Brad’s bench, making him fall on the ground as she exited stage left was hilarious.
Suddenly, we jump forward five years to 2020. Jeb Bush is President, Sue is Vice President, and Becky is her security detail. After performing in the first LBGTQ version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Blaine and Kurt are the special celebrity guests at a local elementary school. They salute all the young children in the class, encouraging them to dream big and be proud of who they are. Kurt and Blaine are going strong in the future! I can’t say the same for Blaine’s hair.
We fast forward another five years and find a very pregnant Rachel carrying Kurt and Blaine’s baby. Her husband, Jesse St. James (YES!), escorts her to the Tony Awards, where she wins the best actress category. She thanks her husband, her friends at McKinley High, and her two dads. Then she dedicates the award to Will Schuester for teaching to her strengths, cheering the loudest when she soared, and picking her up when she was in a million pieces. There’s that darn lump in my throat again! Go hug a teacher today.
We flashback to the fall of 2020. Vice President Sue Sylvester stands on the stage of the Finn Hudson Auditorium, acknowledging Will Schuester for managing to accomplish something so unimaginable—modeling what it looks like to showcase the arts in public schools. It’s a very brave thing to open your heart and sing about it.
The show ends with an all-star final number, consisting of every kid who ever graced the stage as a member of New Directions. As the old and new performed together, you could see the joy in their faces. That moment was a literal translation of the definition of glee.
Glee accomplished something so remarkable in such a small amount of time. The show captivated our hearts with misfits, music, and the one and only Miss Rachel Berry. At its core, it taught us that we need to see the world not as it is—but as it should be.
And whatever you do, don’t stop believing.
NEXT: Musical notes and sound bites
“Popular” of the Broadway musical Wicked
Rachel and Kurt nailed this song. Like the original, it was fun and entertaining. Lea and Chris’ comedic timing and facial expressions made the performance.
“I’m His Child” by Zella Jackson Price
I stand by my assessment that Amber Riley could sing a textbook and I would be enthralled. I love that she was backed by a gospel choir. She hit the notes in the intervals each and every time. The girl is talented.
“I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry
Even though I could have done without the “pelvic chops,” Tina’s rendition was a clean version of Katy Perry’s hit song.
“Pony” by Ginuwine
I love when Kevin McHale gets to showcase his soulful side. His wheelchair choreography was impressive too.
“Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
I prefer Mr. Schuester with his voice and his ukulele. I think knowing it was the series finale made it more powerful for me. Seeing Darren Criss and Lea Michelle cry like babies just made the moment sweeter.
“Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & The Supremes
Kudos to another Mercedes solo with another gospel choir. I loved every moment, including when Artie respectfully noted, “Mercedes Jones has left the building.”
“Daydream Believer” by The Monkees
Other than Blaine’s weird hair and that random part in the middle where the children jump over our married couple, this was a light and airy number. You can’t help but sing along.
“The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA
I think Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison harmonize well together. I thought the choreography was perfect for their characters. This was one of my top performances of the night.
“This Time” written by Darren Criss
Lea Michele’s voice was amazing in this performance. It’s clear why she is the star of the show. I encourage you to research the lyrics of this song and consider of how each line fits with the series finale.
“I Lived” by OneRepublic
This performance was sheer joy. It was a fitting choice for a series finale.
“Mr. Schuester is taking over now. He’s the really cool Spanish teacher who looks like an old Justin Timberlake.”—Rachel, convincing Kurt to join the Glee Club
Will: “I want them to have a place where they can experience the joy of music.”
Sue: They already have that William. It’s called the iPod.”
Will: “It’s been quite a journey.”
Emma: “And you made it without losing your integrity. Except for those days when you were rapping.”