'Glee' Season Finale: 'All or Nothing' Delivers Regionals, a Surprise Wedding... And Little Closure
"Glee" had a lot to live up to for season 4 after a third season that left many die-hards and casual fans alike disillusioned with the once titan of teen television. And with the first glimpses of a post-Lima life for our beloved characters the show split to feature two main locales and collegiate plots for it's graduated seniors while still trucking them back to Ohio as many chances as they could. The finale this year, titled "All or Nothing," didn't so much as ...
crystalize anything plot-wise or theme-wise in the greater scheme of "Glee," but serve as an ellipses to the ongoing stories and discussion of life after McKinley.
New York, which was ostensibly half of the split season, only features briefly in this finale, with Rachel's big audition number for "Funny Girl" playing as the credits still hash themselves out. She delivers a rendition of Celine Dion's "To Love You More" that is so powerful it moves Rachel to tears. The casting team is more stone faced, but the episode doesn't leave us hopeless regarding Rachel's Broadway dreams, just realistically hanging in an unresolved limbo. In a single sign of restraint, the show doesn't cash in Rachel's frequent flier miles to get her back to the Ohio audience to cheer on her former classmates one last time, either. Rachel's pregnant pause will stay firmly in New York.
Instead Lima takes center stage this episode. We enter on Brittany finding out from the math department at MIT that she's quite possibly the greatest mind since Albert Einstein. She returns to McKinley and immediately starts wreaking havoc, essentially burning all her bridges and breaking up with Sam via text message right in front of him. She's the only club member going off the handles in the choir room, as Ryder has hit his limit with not knowing who in the group is Catfishing him. He blows up, yelling and hitting the table, demanding someone comes clean or everyone pulls out their phone and prove their innocence, until Marley claims she's been the one deceiving him. However, the editing reveals a little early that Unique is the true Catfish, which she reveals in a later scene when Ryder tries to get Marley to explain why she'd do this to him. Unique's reasoning makes sense -- she liked Ryder, but knew she wasn't his physical ideal so she stole a girl's photo. The relationship, she assure him, was all her and all real. While she repeatedly states that she expects him to punch her for her deception, she also asks that they don't throw away their connection. He says he won't punch her, but he'll never speak to her again.
The inclusion of Unique as a core character this season and the evolution of her trans identity was one fraught with minefields for "Glee" that they have finally deftly navigated to a story that while pretty un-shocked in it's execution plot-wise, resonates theme-wise as the next logical "Glee" step. The queer landscape of Glee opens now to more than just our old standbys, who are sometimes a little fool hearted.
Despite Burt's sensible advice not to jump into marriage for love of an idea, Blaine is still full-steam ahead on his ill-advised proposal plan and enlists Sam as his best man and ring-buying buddy. Despite reservations Sam eventually shows up at the cute jewelry shop run by Patty Duke's character, who's the first adult character to give weight and support to Blaine's quest. She's also not fully clued in on the situation, but understands his excitement over the prospect of attaining something he once thought was impossible in a way none of the other characters in Blaine's life can since she's also gay. Serendipitous she also met her longtime partner while still in school, and sensing that Blaine has no queer role models to turn to, offers to be gay mentors to both Kurt and Blaine.
On a double non-date at Breadstixx, Patty and her partner, played by Meredith Baxter, recount their love affair and many years of queer history that's led to When Kurt questions how this whole queer mentorship situation came to pass, Blaine lies about how he actually met Patty, and despite Kurt very clearly telling the ladies that he and Blaine are not a couple, Blaine doesn't seem diminished in his resolve, only mildly awkward. All their uncertainty is pushed to the wayside when Patty gets down on one knee and proposes to her longtime partner now that legal marriage is looming on the horizon for all of America. For a town that just a few years ago was full of people prank calling Kurt Hummel and throwing him into dumpsters, the entirety of Breadstixx breaks into applause at a lesbian proposal.
As Brittany continues to run amok, subjecting Sue and Schue to a Fondue for Two episode where she calls Schue out on his attachment to teenagers' lives and reveals the father of Sue's baby (Michael Bolton, he's a fabulous lover.) Distraught, Sam calls Santana in New York for reinforcements. She's the only one who Britt will confess to, and just in time for Regionals. The first contenders played by the Yale Whiffenpoofs, sound lovely on "Rainbow Connection" but are cut short to deal with more flashy and pressing concerns, like the arrival of of American Idol's Jessica Sanchez as frontwoman for the Hoosier Daddies for their two-song set. First up is "Clarity" by Zedd, which is just Sanchez backed by the male Hoosier Daddy dancers, but when they kick into their second number, "Wings" by girl group Little MIx, the ladies of Hoosier Daddies join in with vocals and and impressive dance moves. The ethnic makeup of this group is also an interesting one -- all women of color and all white men. We're not sure what part of Indiana this is indicative of, but it's refreshing.
However, it's unfortunate that Sanchez doesn't have any lines or plot points, since her vocals are astounding and "Glee" has often found it's most interesting characters in rival club leaders (Jesse, Unique, Blaine). The lack of attention on them as more than just a flashy excuse for two more pop numbers makes the inevitability of New Direction's win glaringly evident, but we still have to watch their 3-song set. First, though, Brittany returns and reveals the source of her outbursts all episode -- she'll be matriculating to MIT immediately and is heartbroken about leaving her McKinley family behind. With everyone reduced to tears, it's time for the club to compete. The boys take the lead on The Script's "Hall of Fame" with typical bravado and bouncy choreography.
Next it's the ladies turn with Icona Pop's electro hit "I Love It" with flounce and freshness. Finally, because original songs have become the New Direction's "thing," they close on a number Marley wrote, "All Or Nothing" led by the two de facto faces of the club and the composite "New Rachel" -- Blaine and Marley. The group unsurprisingly wins, and while they celebrate (resulting in an awkward accidental hug between Unique and Ryder) Britt floats to the back of the stage, sitting down as fireworks fizzle out and the place is magically empty. Her "Glee" journey is over, and Santana comes to find her, hug her, and take her back to the choir room in time for Will and Emma's surprise private wedding, just them and the kids. They kiss, and the camera finds Kurt and Blaine, with the latter holding a ring box behind his back as the season closes.
The most startling thing about this episode is that it doesn't feel like a finale. Some of the structural elements that lead to these particular moments rounding out the year were beyond the control of the storytellers themselves -- Cory Monteith's stint in rehab put Finn out to commission for any lingering plot lines in the final three episodes, while Heather Morris' pregnancy accelerated her character's tearful goodbye to now instead of at actual graduation -- those weren't the only factors at play that made this feel un-ending-like.
This "Glee" season was touted as being "revolutionary" from the onset, and most ascribed that to the split-narrative idea that came forth between New York and Lima. However, what's really more revolutionary for American television is to break the seasonal structural mold of a show that relies so heavily on time-and-date-dependent storytelling devices -- Valentine's Day on the show happens within a week of Valentine's in reality so all the promos and images feel current to the viewing public. Season 5 is now set up as just a continuation of Season 4, and the markers that American television place will be out-of-sync at least for a little while. Will that work for audiences? Only time will tell.
Last season we had a semblance of closure on storylines with an eye to the future, and this year we asked a lot of questions about how you grow up and move on from Ohio, but the finale leaves most of the cast in similar places to where they began. It's lackluster by finale standards, but leaves the bare minimum of breadcrumbs to lead fans back come Fall.