Glee‘s 100th episode did what I think it was intended to do, which was to take me back to the days when I loved the show for its heart, epic musical numbers, and the chemistry of the original New Directions, most of whom came back to Lima this week for the first of a two-part last hurrah. What happened in those 60 minutes was a joyous reunion at heart, sprinkled liberally with infighting, thwarted romances, and most importantly the singing and dancing that have always been the show’s high point. See below for the top 8 moments from Glee’s 100th episode…
1. Kristin Chenoweth as April Rhodes
Chenoweth’s April Rhodes may actually be my favorite thing besides Sue Sylvester ever on this show. She brings her Broadway chops to a tiny screen, and what results is an over-the-top character who still seems right at home in a tiny Ohio high school.
2. Brittana together again
Brittany and Santana have been apart for a long time at this point, but Heather Morris and Naya Rivera come back together with the same sweet chemistry that makes them a favorite among teenagers — especially LGBTQ kids who get to see a lesbian off-and-on couple portrayed realistically (for the most part) on television. “I worked my ass off to get over you,” Santana says to Brittany, who has just told her that after “traveling the world” she’s figured out that where she belongs is with Santana. Brittany is no beacon of logic in spite of her new gig as a math genius at MIT, but this is a huge maturity leap for her character and a tough call for Santana, who has indeed worked to put her love for Brittany behind her.
3. Gwyneth Paltrow
Paltrow is the honey badger of erstwhile substitute teachers as Holly. I’ve loved her on Glee more than I did in many of her other roles because she doesn’t get to play an off-the-wall or highly comical character very often, and this part lets her do both. When Will tells her she has to sing a song from the old days, she says no way. “This hot b*tch is not looking in the rear-view mirror, she’s looking forward,” she says, which is about as clear as it gets. And when she rips into Pharrell’s “Happy,” it makes perfect sense.
4. Sue going after the Glee Club
The constant threat to the Glee Club from now-principal Sue Sylvester is like “I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those crazy kids” in Scooby Doo. It just always is. Sue is never successful, or at least hasn’t been so far, in ending the Glee Club’s run but it always seems just this side of possible. I suppose part two will tell this tale. The device is a little thin at this point, but I’m not sure it would feel like a milestone episode of Glee without this as a central concern.
5. The music
The 100th episode nailed the most important part of the show: the music. Fans voted on the songs from all years of the show to be remixed and performed on the episode, and an album called Glee: the Music Celebrating 100 Episodes will drop on March 25. Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison kicked off the hour with a fantastic version of Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.” Kurt, Mercedes, and Rachel sing “Defying Gravity” in a redo of the original “Diva Off” to settle a beef between the two girls. Chenoweth saying, “That song belongs on the BROAD WAY,” about her own hit is one of my favorite quotes from the episode. My favorite was Naya Rivera and Heather Morris’ duet of “Valerie.” I’ll take any opportunity to see Harry Shum, Jr., as the returned Mike Chang dance, and he was a highlight of that number along with Naya and Heather.
6. Quinn and Puck
Quinn brings her new boyfriend Biff — played by Chace Crawford — back to McKinley, and Puck is none too pleased. What ensues is a refreshingly well-acted, sweet plot line where Beth’s birth parents try to find their way back to each other. This surprised me the most, and perhaps played the best, of any interpersonal development in the reunion.
7. Quinn, Santana, and Brittany perform “Toxic”
They call themselves The Unholy Trinity, and this number is definitely the raciest on the show. It showcases each actress’ vocal and dancing skills, though, and reminds everyone watching that they’ve got quite a bit of history together, for better or for worse.
8. Remembering Cory Monteith
The 100th episode remembered Monteith and his character, Finn, but in an understated way. Still, there was no mistaking the real grief on the students’ faces — and the tears from his on- and off-screen girlfriend Lea Michele — at the end as they memorialized Finn in the McKinley auditorium. No matter what, Finn’s presence — always smiling and a key part of big musical numbers — was missed. It was a reminder of what a terrible loss his death was for his friends and colleagues in the cast.
I was an early Glee watcher, and I was honestly not a likely candidate to enjoy a show focused on musical theater. It grabbed me anyway, much to my surprise, and I hung in there until last season, when I felt disconnected from the new kids and the stories in New York didn’t really keep me hooked. Cory Monteith’s death was terribly sad, and I did tune in for the memorial episode for him. I’m glad I decided to do the same for Glee’s 100th episode, and I know I’ll tune in next week for the second half. I found myself wishing while watching tonight that next week would be it, and these characters could go out as they came in — together, singing their old songs, and at McKinley, where they always made the most sense. The previews promise that I’ll love the reprise of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” (what, I’m not made of stone) and for that and more I’ll make sure I’m watching. These characters have heart, and I don’t know how I can bring this experience full circle without finding out whether Sue seriously manages to shut down the Glee Club or not. Some stories must be seen through to their natural end.