Glee 5.11 “City of Angels” Review: Remembering the Past, Looking to the Future

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If there’s been one thing that has been consistent about the fifth season of Glee, it has been Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan’s commitment to honoring and respecting both Cory Monteith and the character of Finn Hudson. Through “The Quarterback,” which aired early on this season, and storylines like Rachel getting Finn’s name tattooed to her side, Glee has tastefully been able to keep the memory of Finn alive in the series in a way that never felt manipulative or overly sentimental.

Everything about the series’ attempts to remember Finn and honor Cory has transcended the many meaningless plotlines of this season, where the stakes have never felt legitimately high, and this continued with last night’s Nationals episode, “City of Angels,” where the glee club paid tribute to Finn by performing what we were told were his favorite songs.  But that wasn’t it. Along with the New Directions performing “More Than a Feeling,” “America,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” clips of Cory Monteith as Finn were interspersed throughout the musical number, each one reflecting a moment with the cast, from the series’ pilot up to and including New Directions’ season three win at Nationals.

For me, these quick flashes into the past, some last moments shared with Finn that needed no words to accompany them, only the music, didn’t feel overdone or in poor taste. No, instead this simply felt like Glee continuing its tribute from “The Quarterback,” and the show’s producers remaining true to their word that Finn would still be an important figure throughout season five. And, frankly, that’s the most honest, honorable, and best thing that I think Glee can do.

The character of Finn was so essential to the main story of Glee, the bridging of these two worlds, shown and exemplified through his relationship with Rachel. In many ways, Finn was Glee’s most compelling character, especially in seasons three and four when he struggled with what he wanted to do with his future and the many successes and failures that met him along the way. If the series only gave Finn’s character that one episode worth of mentioning, it would simply be unworthy of the character and actor’s presence and impact on Glee. I love that the series is sticking to its promise to make sure that Finn is not only remembered but still present in Glee, even when Cory himself can’t be here. It feels real and honest and earned, and that’s when Glee is at its best.

However, while the surprising tribute to Finn (along with Carole and Burt’s genuine and heartfelt speeches) was enough to move me to tears, it wasn’t enough for the New Directions to win its second consecutive National title, as the episode ends with the glee club not only losing the competition but losing its place at McKinley. I was pleasantly surprised by how real and genuine the conversation between Sue and Will felt when she told him that she had to officially disband the glee club, listing off that it’s one of many programs that will be forced to be cut due to budget problems.

“I do like you, William. That’s why I’m so hard on you,” Sue says, before commending him on how far he’s taken the glee club over the past four years. “You didn’t lose, William. Game’s just over.” There’s a real sense of finality that rings throughout this scene, which makes sense since Glee is about to airs two-part 100th episode and leave McKinley behind to focus on the New York side of the show. While the series should continue remembering its past and never stop attempting to reclaim the heart that it possessed for much of its first three seasons, it’s the future now that’s exciting for Glee.

Other thoughts:

– Sam filling the role of Finn as a leader for the club mostly worked for me in this episode, although I thought his bringing of Finn’s plaque to Nationals with them was ridiculous and insensitive, especially since Rachel is the one who had it made and brought it to McKinley to begin with. However, while I enjoyed Sam and much of Chord Overstreet’s performance last night, I hope Glee refrains from trying to make him the “New Finn.” There’s nobody on the show right now that could really fill those shoes, and Glee shouldn’t be trying to find someone.

– Skylar Astin from Pitch Perfect as Jean-Baptiste, the leader of Throat Explosion, was pretty great and only made me wish we had had more time to spend with him leading up to Nationals. Also, that group’s performance of “Mr. Roboto/Counting Stars” was pretty killer.

– Mercedes reappeared in this episode, and she apparently talked her way into getting a record deal because Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s maid listened to her album and it somehow landed in Ryan Seacrest’s lap? Okay, Glee¸ that’s cool I guess. For the record, I love Mercedes and thought her exchange with Marley was pretty great, even though I wish the show had found a way to have Marley actively realize this by herself instead of needing to be passively told that she is talented by Jake and Ryder.

– Man, I still can’t get over how great those quick flashbacks to Finn were. So unexpected and emotional but definitely something that I’ve wanted since “The Quarterback.” Well done with all of that, Glee. Well done.

– Next week is Glee’s 100th episode, and it will feature many of the show’s original cast members, along with guest stars like Kristen Chenoweth and Gwyneth Paltrow, returning as their characters to help try to save the glee club. I’m actually pretty pumped for it.

What did everyone else think of last night’s episode of Glee? Are you excited for the 100th episode next week? 

[Photo via Adam Rose/FOX]

Chris is a graduate of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where he majored in English and Film. He has been writing for TVOvermind for two years and has written about several different television shows, such as New Girl, Breaking Bad, Glee, and Homeland. Along with writing for TVOvermind, Chris also writes for two of our sister sites, Uncoached and Worthly. Contact him through Twitter (@ckinger13).
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