Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Glee 2.22: "New York"

"Did you know I could get ahi tartare and a steak sandwich at 3 in the morning from their all-night dining menu? I feel like Eloise."

As the title so clearly explains, the second season finale of “Glee” is all about New Directions at Nationals in New York City. Overall, it was kind of an underwhelming finale. I guess I expect everything to be on the same level as season 1’s fall finale, “Sectionals.” That episode was almost perfect and made me teary at several points. This one had some great character work, but it also had some extremely predictable plot “twists” and some very unfortunate music choices. I just don’t like when “Glee” goes too overboard with the original songs. What they do well (sometimes) is covers, and I really think they should stick to that. I’d be very curious to find out how the original songs do on iTunes compared to a popular cover.

I think another thing, besides the music, that kept me from connecting with this episode as well as I might have liked is that much of the episode is a love letter to New York City, and that doesn’t speak to me. I was born and raised in the Mid-Atlantic, so I’ve been to New York on multiple occasions, and I just didn’t have that “this is all there is” feeling of awe that Rachel and Kurt felt. The last time I was there was a whirlwind day and a half with my undergrad’s pre-law society, and in an afternoon (the day before we were going to be touring two law schools) we perused Chinatown, ate dinner in Little Italy, saw a fun off-Broadway show in the Village and finished the night off with drinks at the Times Square Planet Hollywood. It was good fun and a very fond memory for me, but I couldn’t live in New York City. It’s too crowded and rushed, and it would stress me out.

One thing I did enjoy about this episode musically was that it opened on a Gershwin cue. A few bars from “Rhapsody in Blue,” to be exact. I do love me some Gershwin, so that put me in a good mood, music-wise. Most of the beginning of the episode is our loveable, country New Directions kids getting used to being in a big city. They gleefully sing a few bars of “New York, New York,” which Frank Sinatra made famous, while sitting on some steps and taking in the atmosphere. Rachel joins the group and announces that she just purchased tickets for everybody to go see “Cats.” One of the kids informs her that “Cats” closed some time ago (why wouldn’t have Rachel Berry, the Broadway queen, have known this?), but luckily the guy who sold her the tickets didn’t actually swipe her credit card (well, unless his ass had a magnetic reader in it…unlikely). The group then waits at the hotel for Will to arrange for their rooms, but they can’t find Puck and Lauren. They’re sitting at a bar trying to unsuccessfully order Manhattans. I found this amusing since the Manhattan is my grandfather’s drink of choice. Once will gets the kids checked in, he instructs them to go to the rooms and work on writing the songs they want to perform. I find it pretty ridiculous that these songs wouldn’t have been written and rehearsed and perfected for months now, but “Glee” always pulls this, so I’m not surprised.

Really, Will just wanted a way to sneak off unnoticed to the theatre where April is preparing to stage “CrossRhodes.” He gets up on the stage and sings a really cheesy song and does a really cheesy dance. I enjoy Matthew Morrison as a performer generally, but this scene didn’t work for me. First was probably because the song was bad. Second was because it didn’t feel like Will Schuster trying out an idea for the show- it was too polished. It was clearly Matthew Morrision promoting his new album. The theatre usher even sees him rehearsing and takes the opportunity to comment. He lets Will know that April is out having lunch with the crew, but he’s seen a lot of shows and performers come and go in his career, and Will’s “got it.” It was kind of ridiculously saccharine, really. I don’t enjoy when “Glee” goes saccharine. I prefer the dark comedy by far.

The kids aren’t having much luck writing a song. Brittany and Artie perform a song called “My Cup,” which is, you guessed it, inspired by a cup sitting in the hotel room. It’s actually a pretty cute song, but it is most definitely not Nationals worthy. It was kind of fun to see and hear Heather Morris sing, since she was really hired for her dance ability. She may have been Auto Tuned like nobody’s business, but it was still a nice change of pace. The group decides to go out to Times Square for a little inspiration, even though Will gave them strict orders not to leave the hotel rooms. They sing a pretty fun mash-up of “New York, New York” and Madonna’s “I love New York.” I liked the performance because it had a lot of energy. I think New Directions are at their best when they are really high energy. That’s what I first loved about them (and “Glee” in general) when they performed “Don’t Stop Believin’” at the end of the pilot, really.

Back at the hotel, Finn says he wants one of the songs to be a duet between him and Rachel. This prompts Sam and Puck to tell Finn to just ask Rachel out again already. They do have a good point. I’m kind of tired of the angst. They think Finn can win Rachel back if he does an all-out rom com-style romantic New York City date. Finn convinces Rachel to go along with it by saying it will be a “work date” and they’ll work on a song for Nationals. The date itself is super cute. They get all dressed up and go to Sardi’s, and Rachel dreams of having her caricature up on the wall. Rachel is smitten with New York City, and she becomes even more so when she sees Patti LuPone. At first, Rachel doesn’t want to introduce herself, but she eventually gets up the courage and goes for it. She handles it well, and Ms. LuPone wishes Rachel and Finn good luck at Nationals. To finish it off, the rest of the boys serenade Finn and Rachel with “Bella Noche” from “Lady and the Tramp” as they walk down the sidewalk. Finn tries to go in for a kiss, but Rachel freaks out and runs off. If any of those boys (including Finn) actually watched the rom coms they’re mocking, they would know that the guy has to run after the girl at least once before he gets the final big kiss. They should have told Finn to move his ass and go after her! But no, he just stands there confused.

The next morning, Kurt takes Rachel on a sort of platonic friend date that is even more perfect (for her) than Finn’s. First he takes her for “Breakfast at Tiffanys,” and they talk about their mutual dream to move to New York City for college. Kurt happily says Blaine is on board with the plan, but Rachel wonders what to do about Finn. She loves him and wants to get back together with him, but she thinks he’s too country to want to move to New York City. I disagree. One of my best friends from undergrad is about as country as it gets (he didn’t know you’re supposed to tip cab drivers), but now he lives in the Bronx and holds an extremely prestigious job in New York. You never ever know where people will end up, and how they adapt can surprise you. Kurt takes Rachel to the theatre where “Wicked” is performed, and they decide to do a little breaking and entering so Rachel can visualize her dream and make her choice. The usher is nice enough to give them 15 minutes on the stage, and they sing a wonderful duet of “For Good.” I find it amusing that Rachel sang the part of Elphaba, because her biological mom is played by Idina Menzel, who is famous for playing the role. After feeling what it’s like to perform on that stage, Rachel makes her choice. Broadway is her love.

Back at the hotel, Will and the coach of Vocal Adrenaline sit at the bar and have a chat. The Vocal Adrenaline coach knows about Will’s chance to be on Broadway because he read it on a blog. Their conversation makes Will realize he would really miss the New Directions kids if he left to do Broadway. The Vocal Adrenaline coach, on the other hand, hates his kids. No big surprise there. Will goes up to the kids’ hotel rooms, and they confront him about knowing he’s planning to go to Broadway. The Vocal Adrenaline coach told them. Will says he’s changed his mind and he’s decided to stay with New Directions. His one time on that stage was enough. I found this a bit disappointing because it was a rather quick end to a pretty important plot. There just wasn’t much depth to it, and although I was told why Will made his choice, I didn’t feel it.

The section of the episode that takes place at the actual Nationals competition is pretty lackluster. There’s an all-girl group that does a pretty lame performance of Usher’s “Yeah.” Then, out in the lobby, Will and the Vocal Adrenaline coach get into a little trash talking over Vocal Adrenaline’s tradition of sending competition t-shirts to all the teams they beat. In the rest room, Rachel runs into Sunshine Corazon, who is so nervous that she vomited. Rachel finally makes things right with Sunshine, telling her she treated her horribly at the beginning of the year because Sunshine was good and Rachel felt threatened. Rachel tells Sunshine to just look at her if she gets nervous. Vocal Adrenaline, in their tradition of building their performances around one lead, has Sunshine singing in the middle of the stage while everyone else sings and dances around her. The performance wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t spectacular, either.

Before the New Directions performance, Rachel and Finn have a backstage chat. Rachel says she loves Finn, but she refuses to let anything get in the way of her Broadway dream. The duet they sing is pretty silly and angsty, but I guess that’s to be expected since apparently Finn wrote it. The important thing is that Rachel and Finn share a long, passionate kiss at the end of the performance. The audience goes silent, and Jesse St. James, who has snuck into the auditorium, asks Will if it was scripted. The audience is uncomfortable until Will breaks the ice by clapping. The second song, “Light it Up,” was a bit better. It was high energy at least, and it certainly didn’t make the audience uncomfortable. After the performance, Jesse warns Finn that the kiss was unprofessional, and New Directions will lose the competition because of it. Finn laughs it off as Jesse being jealous, claiming it was “the Superman of kisses.” Unfortunately, Jesse was right. New Directions did not place in the top ten, and they do not go on to the showcase. I found this pretty predictable, because they have to have somewhere to go with the plot next season, which will be senior year for all the current characters. Winning Nationals should happen then.

We fast forward to an adorable scene where Kurt catches Blaine up at the coffee shop on all the post-competition drama. Santana was especially upset, and none of the kids are talking to Finn or Rachel. Kurt’s not especially broken up about losing Nationals, though, because he got to do some amazing things while in New York City. Sam and Mercedes also stop by the coffee shop. They try to play it off to Kurt and Blaine like they just happened to run into each other in front of the shop, but they’re really secretly dating. There’s positive vibes all around from the New Directions kids. Brittany tells Santana that she’s just happy she gets to spend another year with the people she loves. After a conversation in the library, Finn and Rachel decide to get back together at least for the rest of high school and then take things from there. The actual ending to the episode was rather rushed and random. There’s about two seconds of Will and Emma looking at a congratulatory banner, then we move to the club in the choir room for their last meeting of the year. Will shows them their very tiny 12th place trophy.

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