[WARNING: The following contains spoilers from Glee's swan song. Read at your own risk, and preferably with Glee: The Music, Volume 1 soundtrack as mood music.]
Here we are! After more than 700(!) performances, nearly 120 episodes and too many of Sue's evil schemes to take down the glee club to count, it's time for the final two hours of Glee. Who's ready?!
Will walks through the door and greets his "honey," which unfortunately turns out not to be Emma, but Terri armed with a glue gun. Is there anything more terrifying? No. Sue may be mean, but Terri is legit put-her-in-the-straight-jacket cray. He tells her he's taking over the glee club and the screen then reads "2009," so we're right back when this ride all started. We then cut to Kurt walking down the halls of McKinley High as a very sad and very isolated sophomore. After getting bullied by Puck and the rest of the football team, he briefly looks at a pamphlet about suicide before being confronted by Miss Pillsbury. She then goes to talk to Burt, who gives Kurt an ultimatum: join a team or he loses his sewing machine.
Kurt attempts to make friends by sitting with a bang-less, less tan Rachel Berry at lunch. She is a little intense but offers him to help him explore his vocal range so that he can join the new glee club. They do a great duet of "Popular" from Wicked, but when Kurt insinuates they're going to audition together, Rachel gives him the whole "eat or be eaten" speech and exits stage left. Kurt then introduces himself to Mercedes Jones, famous for her vocal dazzling in her church choir. He tells her he wants to be just like her - how did she not know back in the day that he was gay? - and asks for her help in picking out a song to sing. Kurt auditions with "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago and makes the club. Burt is less than enthused about Kurt's team being glee club but he can see Kurt's genuine enthusiasm shine through, and that wins out. "Thanks for showing up for yourself," Burt says.
The focus turns to Mercedes. The minute she signs up for glee club, Rachel is unsurprisingly all up in her grill about her impressive confidence and her diaphragm and says she wants to be friends. After all they both have black dads! (Rachel's reasoning, not ours). But Mercedes is wary that Rachel is trying to manipulate her. Rachel shows up at Mercedes' church to see her sing and prove her good intentions, but a very defensive Mercedes still isn't having it.
Next up is Tina aka "Wu-Tang Witch" according to Puck, who proclaims how happy she is to be anti-popular, and anti-conformity and faking a stutter. She's already friends with Artie, who says he's in love with her because she sees beyond his wheelchair and treats him like a real person. After dumping their disgusting lunches on Rachel and Kurt, Artie and Tina's prickly clique dares them both to try out for the glee club. Did anyone else forget how friggin' awesome but hilarious Tina's audition song of "I Kissed a Girl" (slap!) was? Will writes down "angry" in his notes and underlines it, which now explains Tina's entire Season 4 arc. As per usual, Artie takes the cake with the perfect audition song, "Pony" by Ginuwine. It's hard not to associate this song with Parks and Recreation after Season 6, but Artie is the perfect mix of humor and soul.
It takes two minutes into the first glee club meeting for Rachel and Mercedes to start fighting over solos. Terri is already nagging Will about being too distracted by glee club because she's worried about becoming an ignored wife. [Vomit]. Will reassures her that "you are the love of my life" and that nothing is going to take her away from him. [Choking on said vomit]. Back at school, Rachel gets the first solo much to Mercedes' frustration. Her mom finds her crying at church and tells her that Rachel's drive will actually help push her to do better and be better, and predicts they'll become good friends. Don't worry, Mercedes, we didn't see that one coming way back in Season 1 either.
The evil in Sue's eye starts to twinkle when she hears about the glee club and laments to Principal Figgins that her Cheerios won't be the stars of the school anymore. It turns out that pre-New Directions, Sue and Will played basketball once a week and actually - shock! - got along. But Sue squashes that when Will refuses to drop the glee club. He considers changing his tune when he learns that Terri is "pregnant" so of course Rachel goes to Sheets-N-Things to talk Terri out of talking Will out of his job at McKinley.
There is also drama because Finn has since joined glee club, but then he quit, and then he rejoined and is now bossing everyone around according to Kurt. Kurt says he doesn't trust Finn and thinks the star quarterback is going to push them out. (Mercedes unknowingly bumps into Blaine — surprise! — at the Lima Bean coffee shop while talking to Kurt about New Directions.) It's a little surprising to think that it was Kurt, who had a crush on Finn and went on to become his stepbrother, tried to get Finn ousted. But Artie comes to his defense at an emergency meeting by recalling the entire incident from the pilot when Finn rescued him from the porta-potty and wheeled Artie all the way home after the fact. Rachel argues that they shouldn't start excluding people the way that they have been excluded for so long simply for being different. "We should be proud for what we did and who we included" when we look back on our time here, she says.
They all agree to keep Finn, and the episode ends with the original performance of "Don't Stop Believin'" from the pilot with the late Cory Monteith front and center. Mr. Schue is successfully convinced to stay at McKinley and everyone at home watching is now full on ugly-crying. (If you're not, it's time to send a search party for your soul.) It's a really beautiful way to pay tribute to Cory by showing what will always be one of Glee's most memorable performances, and to honor what he and his character meant to Glee and the glee club, respectively.
The second hour begins by flashing forward back to present day. Will, Rachel, Kurt and Blaine are at Nationals where... yup! New Directions wins the top prize. Back at McKinley High, Will gets a visit from Superintendent Harris, who tells him that McKinley High is becoming a performing arts school because it turns out cutting out the arts didn't help test scores all that much. It's all thanks to Will, who never gave up on the arts, and the glee club specifically, and is now going to be Principal. Suck it, Sue! (Insert necessary "Will rapping" joke by Emma here. Sigh.)
Miraculously, the new school starts seemingly overnight and Mr. Schue announces that in addition to New Directions, there will be several glee clubs, including a JV version. He won't be coaching any of these glee clubs, but that doesn't stop him from singing to everyone with his ukulele. (I personally would have preferred some dope rap verses but I know I'm alone in that.) So who is going to coach New Directions?
Because McKinley is now an arts school, Sam is out of his job with the football team. Although Blaine tries to persuade him to move to New York City into a spare room with him and Kurt, there are too many sports teams in New York for Sam's taste and instead, he - drum roll please - takes over as the leader of New Directions! It's a little weird considering co-creator Ryan Murphy revealed not so long ago, his original plan for the series finale of Glee was to have Finn take over the glee club. But Sam at least stays true to himself: he starts off with a Matthew McConaughey impression and writes "country" on the white board. And let's not forget his sweet, sweet dance moves from his "White Chocolate" period. Mercedes also has exciting news: She's opening for Beyonce effective immediately! She says goodbye to her friends with an energetic performance of "Someday We'll Be Together" in the auditorium.
Klaine catches Sue in Schue's new office, apparently after she peed all over the place. They thank her for getting them back together, and Sue actually, really, truly thanks Kurt for teaching her things about herself she didn't even know. However, she still "doesn't really get" Blaine. So order is restored to the universe. She has a sweet and beautiful reunion with Becky in the hallway and then runs off for one last duet with Will in the auditorium to the tune of ABBA's "The Winner Takes It All." Who would have thought back in Season 1 that the most consistent twosome on the show would be the adults with weirdly strong feelings about a high school show choir. I will miss Sue and Schue. They hold hands but before Will can say anything, Sue leaves the room.
The show flashes five years into the future, and now Becky is a Secret Service agent to... Vice President Sue Sylvester, VP to Jeb Bush. (Does this mean she uses that terrifying Sue puppet on the tricycle to terrorize members of Congress into doing what she wants? Just curious.) In the future, Blaine and Kurt are just coming off the first LGBT production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at Lincoln Center. They are invited to speak at Harvey Milk elementary school in New York City and perform "Daydream Believer" for a bunch of adorable youngsters. Hey, it beats Blaine's puppet duet partners from Season 5, right?! Spoiler alert: Future Blaine uses a lot less hair gel. It's a bouffant miracle!
It's already time for Rachel's last solo ever, "This Time," which shows her taking the auditorium stage one last time. The camera cuts to a photo of Finn with the flowers below it, as if everyone isn't already crying enough. Sniffle! Five years in the future, Mercedes is super successful, Artie and Tina are together - peace out, Mike Chang! - and Tina starred in Artie's new movie that is going to Slamdance. They are all in NYC to see Rachel, who is nine months pregnant with... Kurt and Blaine's baby! (She's a surrogate.) And she's married to Jesse St. Sexy, uh, we mean James. Curious to see what the fans will think about that, but it's good she ended up with someone who knew her before she was famous, but can appreciate her drive. Their kids are going to be such solo hogs though! Rachel and Jesse, now a director, attend the Tony awards, where Rachel wins Best Actress in a Musical for Jane Austen Sings, beating Willow Smith and Anne Hathaway. Ugh. Rachel is beaming with joy, and she thanks her husband, her friends at McKinley High, and above all, she singles out Mr. Schue for everything he taught her. We see Mr. Schue, Emma, Sam, Sue and Will and Emma's many, many children watching at home in Ohio, and Will is rightfully brought to tears.
Sue returns to McKinley High and gives a very moving speech about how it turns out she was wrong about trying to take down the glee club time after time. She apologizes and thanks the grown-ups behind the group: Will, Emma, Kurt's parents, Terri for some unknown reason, for showing her the true power of the glee club, and glee. She re-dedicates the auditorium to be named Finn Hudson Auditorium and all of the glee clubbers from over the years come together on stage to perform a joyous version of "I Lived." The episode ends with a plaque showing the auditorium's new name under the year 2020 and with the quote "See the world not as it is, but as it should be."
And that's a wrap for Glee! Forever! Tears! So. many. Tears. What was your favorite part of the finale? Are you shocked Rachel ended up with Jesse? Do you think the finale paid proper respect to Finn and Cory? Sound off with all your thoughts and emotions in the comments below!