Tuesday's episode marks the 100th episode of Glee (8/7c, Fox), but some of the show's cast members are emotional for a very different reason. "It's the end of an era," Matthew Morrison says.
That's because the two-part special, which concludes next week, will also be the show's last — at least for this season — set in Lima, Ohio in the wake of Principal Sue's decision to disband the New Directions after their second-place finish at Nationals. "You want it to be a celebration of the past," executive producer Brad Falchuk says, "but you also want it to be something that looks forward."
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However, the perennial underdogs of McKinley High's choir room aren't going down without one last music-filled and extensively choreographed fight. The show will welcome back beloved former cast members like Puck (Mark Salling), Quinn (Dianna Agron), Mike (Harry Shum Jr.), Brittany (Heather Morris) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) as well as memorable guests such as April Rhodes (Kristen Chenoweth) and Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) as they all band together to perform some of the show's biggest hits, and hopefully, save the glee club.
"Fans tune in to a 100th episode that have been fans for a long time. You want to honor them and say, 'Yeah we remember that too,'" Falchuk says. "We did that, first of all, by re-creating a bunch of songs and letting fans pick some of the songs we re-created."
The track list will include "Raise Your Glass," "Defying Gravity" and, of course, "Don't Stop Believing." "That song has become so iconic for the show, so getting to be apart of it, let alone on the 100th episode is pretty special," Jacob Artist says.
Because of the loss of star Cory Monteith in July, performing the Journey classic, as well as the celebration for the show's 100-episode milestone, was also a bittersweet moment for many of the show's longtime cast members. "Just doing this song here today and he's not here, that's kind of a full circle moment," Morrison says. "But that saying is so true, 'The show must go on,' and we've really kind of banded together. It's been tough, but it's been real."
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The show will also go on despite the fact that the song-and-dance effort to bring back New Directions will not be successful. Instead, the defeat will allow Glee the opportunity to move to New York full-time after next week's graduation and focus on original transplants Rachel (Lea Michele), Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Santana (Naya Rivera) as well as new city residents such as Blaine (Darren Criss), Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Artie (Kevin McHale). "We're charging forward into this new section of the show, which is much more New York-centered," Falchuk says.
"We're just ready to start telling adult stories with these kids. They've grown up and they are going to keep growing up. There are stories you can tell for 20-, 21-year-olds that you can't tell for 16-year-olds. I think people love those characters and they want to see where they end up and what happens to them and see how they react to the world, which is different to how they react to high school."
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The change of scenery will not only lead to more mature story lines, but also new dynamics and pairings, like Kurt and Sam, and Rachel and Blaine. "That's what's so interesting. They have to count on each other in different way, and it's nice to have that camaraderie. It's nice to see that group and the kind of combinations that happen that are sort of unexpected in terms of who is supporting who," Falchuk says. "You have the kids that have been there for a couple years and they're being sophomores a little bit in that world and them trying to teach these new kids."
One particular relationship that will be explored more is the one between Blaine and Kurt now that they are finally living in the same city after having gotten engaged months earlier. "I like seeing that relationship get tested and strengthened and sort of the adult version of those characters having real conversations about stuff and really making adult choices," Falchuk says. "They're really having fun together."
After being one of the few cast members to travel regularly between the Lima and the New York packs this season and last, Criss is happy to see Blaine settle down in the big city. "It's exciting. It's a new start for everybody," Criss adds. "That's not to say I'm not going to miss everybody else that's there [in Lima]. That seems like more of a natural, easier progression to move on with those guys."
But what will happen to those glee clubbers being left behind? It is not yet known what kind of stories Glee plans to tell in its sixth and final season, and just how much the narrative will include younger New Directions recruits like Jake (Artist), Marley (Melissa Benoist), Unique (Alex Newell), Ryder (Blake Jenner) and Kitty (Becca Tobin). "We don't know," Artist says. "At this point we just have to have faith in our incredible creative team." Adds Tobin: "We might still be in Lima, and the cameras might just not be rolling."
That same uncertainty is echoed by original stars, McKinley High stalwarts Mr. Schue and Coach Sue (Jane Lynch). One is busy prepping for a baby and the other has her hands full as principal, but Morrison remains optimistic about their futures on the series. "I can't see them not using myself or Jane for the whole rest of the show, but we'll see what happens," he says. "I honestly don't know."
Falchuk hasn't completely shut down the idea of one or both teachers heading to New York at some point. "We'll see," he says. "We don't want to look backwards too much right now, but never say never."
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Fox. Will you miss McKinley High?