My teen daughter and I are loyal "gleeks." Unlike many critics and fans alike, we have stayed with the show through unnecessary celebrity guests, forced theme episodes and preachy story lines that taught important lessons at the price of entertainment. Let's see, we've learned about teen pregnancy, gay rights, OCD, bullying, mental and physical disabilities, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, teen suicide and not texting while driving (those last two in the same 60-minute show!). Yes, these are important topics. Yes, Glee! is a big popular forum. But, sometimes you just want to enjoy the ups and downs of the characters.
That's what we got this week. Emphasis on the downs rather than ups, I'm afraid. But, it felt like the old Glee! with less gimmicks and more heart.
This is where I warn you that there are spoilers ahead ...
Guys, there are spoilers ahead.
If you haven't seen "The Break-up," and you're planning to (which, btw, my daughter and I both recommend), stop reading. Go to your cable TV's video on demand or online after October 12th, and watch it. Then, come back and read this post.
Fox had promoted this episode heavily. "The Break-Up" promised to revolve around the show's main couples each of whom has merged into a short-hand combo-name: Finn + Rachel = Finchel; Kurt + Blaine = Klaine; Brittany + Santana = Brittana; Will+ Emma = Wemma. "Who will break-up?" the teasers prompted, promising that not all of the relationships would survive in tact.
But, we also assumed that some of the couples would stay together.
The biggest challenge the wildly successful show's creators had this year was to keep us hooked with most of the glee club's members graduating and making their way in the world. This is often the death knell for shows about high school students. I mean, how long could the sweat hogs really welcome back Mr. Kotter? Two of Glee!'s main characters (and arguably two of its most talented performers) moved to New York. Rachel is studying at the fictitious NYADA, New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, where faculty include a shamanic Whoopi Goldberg and satanic Kate Hudson. Kurt has taken his porcelain features to vogue.com, where (not to be outdone by his former rival, now friend), he is being mentored by Sarah Jessica Parker.
Somehow, the scenes at NYADA, at vogue.com and in their amazing loft work. They don't feel separate from life at McKinley High. They feel like a very natural extension of the talented oddballs we watched grow up.
A quick aside from a native New Yorker though ... I don't care how sketchy the neighborhood is, there is simply no way that two broke student/interns could possible afford that loft. No way. No how. Okay, I'm done.
So, in "The Break-Up," Finn arrives in the city after a brief stint in the army and four months of radio silence. Shortly thereafter, Blaine arrives as well. Although both couples are still in love, they are in different places. Finn doesn't belong in New York with Rachel. Blaine can't handle the long distance between him and Kurt. The acting (and singing — this is Glee! after all) was heartbreaking. And the plot was sadly realistic. How many high school sweethearts actually weather life in the real world? Not too many anymore.
Meanwhile, Santana broke up with Brittany as gently as she could. Through song, naturally. And, Emma decided to let Will go off to Washington while respecting her own mission by not accompanying him. The episode ended with all eight characters onstage as they face their now single futures.
My daughter and I rarely watch TV together anymore. In fact, I can count the shows we share on one hand (and still have more than half the fingers left over). So, while I am very sorry for our favorite characters — I confess I teared up more than once the other night — I'm still very grateful for Glee!