Now, that’s the Glee I remember. That’s the Glee I would watch and rewatch and then rewatch again every week. That’s the Glee I fell in love with. Those are the main thoughts that came floating through my head last night during Glee’s 100th episode, appropriately titled “100.” Part of that unrestrained enjoyment (or most of it) may have been from a sense of nostalgia, from seeing all the beloved original glee club members return to the choir room for one last time, performing musical number after musical number like nothing had ever changed. But I think the more significant reason why last night’s Glee worked so well was its focus on character, as the series looked to its past for most of the episode but utilized and applied these memories to the present and possible future of the show.
While it can be argued that much of “100” was fan service, as we spent a majority of the episode focusing on romantic relationships, such as Brittany and Santana or Puck and Quinn, which hadn’t been discussed in what feels like forever, I didn’t find any of these moments cheap or fake. In fact, to me, everything about last night’s Glee felt earned, which isn’t something I say about the series that often anymore. All of the conflict (from Rachel and Mercedes’s diva off to Puck and Quinn’s relationship drama to, obviously, the glee club being forced to shut down) was grounded in history and character.
Take Rachel and Mercedes. Although the pair’s “Defying Gravity” competition may have felt like a slight retread of the many Rachel/Mercedes conflicts of the past, it’s the scene that the two of them share in the bathroom that makes all the superficial fighting seem worth it.
After Rachel is verbally attacked by Santana (some of Santana’s anger is warranted but she does need to be anywhere near malicious as she is), she tells Mercedes how “no matter where I go or what I do, I’m just back in high school again.” No matter how far she makes it or how big of a star she becomes, Rachel still feels weighed down by the cruel words of others, the always viciously mean high school popular girls that would torment her for amusement. However, Mercedes makes her see it in a new light, encouraging her to take all the negativity and the put downs and channel them into doing better, into proving those people wrong, because that’s what she used to do with Rachel’s comments and still does now.
What really works throughout this scene (aside from the stellar acting from both Lea Michele and Amber Riley) is the fact that both Rachel and Mercedes come to an understanding that the determination and drive that they always have possessed is never going to go away or change. The two of them are so talented and so similar in the way they think about things that it makes sense that they would butt heads, but with a year out of a high school and new look on life, they realize that their ambitious natures don’t need to oppose one another but instead can be used to support each other.
Furthermore, while I really enjoyed all the Rachel and Mercedes stuff throughout the episode, my favorite part of last night’s Glee by far was the focus on Quinn and Puck, who were always one of my favorite relationships on Glee in the past. Now, this isn’t me just being a crazy internet shipper who wanted these two together, because as Glee points out (I guess the writers finally saw in Quinn and Puck what so many had seen before?), the two of them just work. Puck sees and knows Quinn for everything that she is and was there for her in her best and worst moments. As Puck tells her, he’s the only guy that she has ever been honest with, and because Puck lost so much of what made high school so special for him when Finn passed away, it makes total sense that he would gravitate towards Quinn, who he believes is the best thing to ever happen to him. Neither of them have to be anything they are not when they’re around each other, and with Puck’s newfound sense of purpose with the Air Force and Quinn finally seeming to have her life stable for once (no babies born, hair dyed, or pianos burned in this episode), the two of them really appear to be mature enough for this relationship to work.
And in a way, the Quinn and Puck relationship really stands for what this entire episode of Glee attempts to accomplish: remembering the greatness of the past and using that knowledge to hopefully make an even better future. We see it as Brittany and Santana regain their spark after Santana renews Brittany’s love of dancing through a performance of “Valerie,” which Brittany then follows up with a kiss, telling her that they should be together again. We see it when Quinn leaves Biff behind and finally embraces who she wants to be instead of putting on a façade in order to “fit in.” We see it when Rachel and Mercedes enter the choir room together to tell everyone that there no longer needs to be a vote for the diva-off; they are just happy that they got to perform together again.
And we most certainly see it in the episode’s sad but sweet final scene, when Will addresses the original glee club members (the ones that have been there with him since the beginning), telling them that he has no more pep talks left. With Finn’s plaque hanging above the glee club as they stand behind the stage in the auditorium, Will thanks all of them for taking this journey with him, which has been a life-changing experience that has made them into a family, a group of people who are no longer lonely outcasts but who have found love, acceptance, and unity through one thing: music.
– I loved how the memory of Cory and Finn was interspersed throughout this episode, especially during the scene where Quinn and Puck stand together in front of his framed jersey in the locker room. Puck wondering if Finn had forgiven them for what they had done and Quinn reaffirming that Rachel was Finn’s soulmate was perfect.
– I didn’t mention them in my review above, but I loved the reappearance of both Kristen Chenoweth and Gwyneth Paltrow as April and Holly, who were obviously two of the best guest stars Glee ever had on. I’m really excited to see how the two of them will try to save the glee club next episode, only after they finish their wine of course.
– All the performances in this episode were fantastic, and I loved how a lot of the choreography (like during “Keep Holding On”) was brought back. The standouts for me though were “Keep Holding On” (definitely the most touching performance of the episode), “Toxic” (good lord, I could watch that number over and over again), and “Defying Gravity” (and for the record, I think Rachel would have and should have won the diva-off if I had a vote).
– When Ryder asks him if he’s going to vote for Rachel or Mercedes, Jake perfectly responds,” I’m torn. One is black and one is Jewish.”
– Man, I loved all the Quinn/Puck stuff this episode. Her running down the hallway to find him and tell him to stay was totally cheesy but boy did it work for me.
– All the past references, like the diva-off, Santana commenting on Will’s rapping or her interrupting everyone in order to perform a number with Brittany, and the reused choreography in some of the musical numbers (like I mentioned already above), worked so well. A great reward to fans who have stuck with Glee from the beginning.
– “Will Schuester’s profligate spending and his penchant for staging elaborate, private Bacchanalia — replete with extravagant scenery and costumes not seen since the reign of Caligula.” – Sue on why all of April’s donated money for the glee club had run out. If there’s one thing I think I’m going to miss most about McKinley and Lima, it’ll be all of Sue’s one-liners.
– Next week is the second part of this two-part 100th episode and will be Glee’s last Lima-focused episode before the series moves to New York for the rest of the season.
What did everyone else think of Glee’s 100th episode? Did you like or did you not? And what were your favorite moments from the episode?
[Photo via Adam Rose/FOX]