Watching Glee Until It Gets Bad S1E22: Journey to Regionals

by thethreepennyguignol

Okay, let’s let out a long sigh of relief: we made it.

The first season of Glee is officially (by my standards, at least, which are very much up for debate, as is most of my taste in general, actually) good. I can’t believe we’re already at the finale for season one, but honestly, it’s been a load of fun going back to this first season again with a more critical eye. For the most part, it stands up, even when it gets a bit ungainly for it’s own good. It’s incredibly funny, with some great performances and some genuinely excellent moments of drama (read: when Mike O’Malley is around) to boot.

But let’s not spend too long lingering on what has been – let’s talk about this episode Journey to Regionals. After the slight wobble of last week’s Funk, the show really does go out on a high note here, and this particular outing has a sense of narrative cohesion and a real bringing-together of plots that unfortunately lacks in a lot of the rest of the show. The competitions have always offered a natural point around which to build the show’s run, and I really love what they do with Regionals here.

First, though, I want to talk to you about the best performance this episode, and one of the best song numbers in the whole show’s run from a storytelling perspective – Bohemian Rhapsody.

First, you’ve got to have some fucking nerve on you to take on Queen’s iconic piece of pop culture art – it feels so right that Johnathan Groff is the one performing this for us, with all his bombast and stage presence, and I don’t think any other of the male leads in the cast at this point could have pulled it off. But what they do with this song really lives up to the grandness of it’s reputation, and I still think it’s one of the most impressive parts of this entire season.

Because this is a whole-ass act in a single song number. It kicks off with Quinn, finally having gotten her mother’s acceptance once more, telling her that her water has broken, and the song serves as a soundtrack to the birth sequence. It’s a perfect song choice to begin with, but then you add in the editing, the choreo reflecting the movement in the delivery room, the way the song builds and falls and that sad little outro as Quinn holds her baby knowing this is the only time she’s going to get a chance to – it comes together almost astonishingly well. On top of that, it deals with Rachel’s lingering feelings for Jesse as she watches him perform, and puts a nice pin in the Mercedes-Quinn plot that’s been woven through this season, and it does it in five minutes.

It’s a feat of editing, planning, of using song and dance as a storytelling medium, of performances from Groff and Dianna Agron – it’s everything, honestly, and to this day I’m blown away by how well it works and how deft and controlled it is. Glee has a bad habit of letting it’s own storytelling get away from it, but this? This is brevity without losing an inch of emotion, passion, or power, and it’s downright masterful. That last shot, of Dianna Agron resting her head on the pillow as she looks at her baby as the last piano riff plays out in the background – that’s cinema, baby. On TV, but you get what I mean.

As for the rest of the episode, how does it work as an actual finale? Well, it’s a real good pin in the point that Glee (the best version of it, anyway) has been making all along: sometimes, your dreams are going to kick you right in the nards, and you’ll have no choice but to get on with it anyway. The Nude Erections coming last in this Regionals competition is the exact right choice for this story – a blunt and slightly brutal reminder that all the effort and all the love and all the passion in the world doesn’t always match up against pure skill and talent (plus, after that Vocal Adrenalin performance, everyone else competing should have just been quietly ferried back to their homes in silence and never even thought about so much as humming along to the radio ever again).

But, of course, the show must go on – literally, it had been renewed by this point – so Sue concedes her point and allows Will to keep the Glee club going, despite his failure to place at Regionals. I don’t think it entirely makes sense for her character, but it does feel genuinely earned for Will to be able to celebrate there with all of them at the end. At the end of this season, Glee has had a lot to say, but it basically boils down to this small performance at the very end of the episode, of Somewhere Over the Rainbow – it doesn’t have to be grand or championship-taking or bombastic, but if you love it, keep doing it, because you can share that with other people, and that’s what matters.

And, so, thank you for letting me share this first season with you! I’ve really enjoyed chatting with other fans/hostages of the show about this first season, and I’m looking forward to diving into season two in a few weeks time. I am taking a little time away from Glee for now to focus on my Slasher reviews (hey hey, come join me if you’re into gory horror batshittery!), but I hope to see you back here for the next episode soon, as we continue on this hallowed journey to find out, once and for all, When Glee Gets Bad.

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(header image via TV Tropes)