7:07pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Glee' Stars on How the Series Ended: "No One Got Out Without a Happy Ending"
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series finale of Fox's Glee.]
It's the end of an era: Fox's Glee closed the book on McKinley High on Friday with a two-hour series finale that revealed not only the origins of New Directions but the futures for its respective alums.
The two-part conclusion — written by creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan — also paid its respects to former leading man Cory Monteith, who died in 2013 at age 31, with a scene that put the spotlight on Finn's huge heart for one final time and included a performance of "Don't Stop Believin'" from the pilot.
As Murphy previously revealed, his initial plan for Glee's ending was to have Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) return home to Ohio to reunite with love Finn Hudson (Monteith) — now the coach of New Directions — after finding career success but not quite fulfilled.
Instead, McKinley was turned into a performing arts school under the guidance of its new principal, Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), after New Directions won Nationals, making his dream come true. The glee club greets him with a heroes welcome and auditions for the following season begin — only under his leadership, there will be multiple glee clubs at McKinley with Sam (Chord Overstreet) taking over as coach of New Directions and following a trajectory that started when Finn took on the job.
For Overstreet, much of the final season for Sam had been spent romancing Rachel and rooting for her to go back to college while he juggled working with Sheldon (Dot-Marie Jones) to support McKinley High's football team. After his football job all but vanishes after McKinley is transitioned to an arts school, Sam takes over New Directions and passes over a move to New York to live with Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss).
"It's such a massive journey; it feels like you don't know where it's going to go until it goes there but the writers did a good job," Overstreet told THR. "I feel like everybody was happy with it. It's a fitting ending for Sam. I don't really know where else you'd go with it, unless it's back on the pole at Stallion's doing his thing! Other than that, I feel pretty good about it."
Mercedes, meanwhile, says farewell to the original group with a huge announcement: she's officially been picked up to become the opening act for Beyonce's new tour — and won't be seeing her friends for a long while but vows to keep in touch in a scene that speaks for the cast as a whole. She parts ways with a song: Diana Ross' "Someday We'll Be Together."
Original star Amber Riley was pleased with where Mercedes' journey went. "It ended the way it's supposed to — with Mercedes working hard toward her dream, and that's what her journey was: finding her confidence through the high school and when she finally goes for it, she's still working hard."
As for Jane Lynch's glee club foil Sue Sylvester — who has spent the bulk of the series trying to dismantle and destroy New Directions — the series finale not only explained the origins of her hatred for Will (Matthew Morrison) but also saw the character turn a pretty major about face. Following a heartwarming scene where Sue praises Kurt for his courage to come out, overcoming the bullying that dogged him, she thanks him for expanding her mind before reconciling with her one-time best friend Will via a duet to Abba's "Winner Takes It All." Cut to five years later and Sue — serving her second term as president Jeb Bush's vice president — announces her candidacy for president of the United States in 2024.
"They pulled out all the stops," Lynch told THR of Sue's fate. "She's a warrior, and instead of listening to her higher angels, she's gotten herself in some trouble over the years and in five years finds herself in a position where she can actually do something good and maybe not fight so much."
For star Darren Criss, Blaine and Kurt's conclusion was perfect. After the couple moved back to New York, they ultimately become Broadway stars — performing together — and wind up spreading the message to dream big and be yourself with a duet to The Monkeys' "Daydream Believer" for a group of young students at the Harvey Milk school.
"No one got out of Glee without a happy ending," Criss told THR. "It's sweet and it's a picture-perfect, happy little ending for the two of them. It has a lot of promise but it has a lot of conclusion. It's a nice mix of both and I think the fans will be happy with it. It's something where if we left Kurt and Blaine there, we'll feel good about it."
That left only Rachel's future to explore. With tears in her eyes as she performs "This Time," (which Criss wrote specifically for Michele to sing in the Glee finale) Rachel leaves McKinley one final time, ready to return to New York and take on the world after bailing on Broadway for her failed TV pilot.
Read more 'Glee': What's Next for the Stars
The five-year time jump reveals that Artie — now (finally!) a couple with Tina — has had his film accepted to the Slamdance film festival, with Mercedes signing on to lend her music to the production. Rachel, meanwhile, is pregnant and serving as a surrogate for Kurt and Blaine's baby. She's now married to her Tony-winning director, Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff), who watches as his pregnant wife wins a Tony Award.
In her acceptance speech, Rachel thanks Carmen (Whoopi Goldberg) at New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts for giving her a second chance at her degree and dedicates the win to Will, who is watching from Ohio with Sam (who has a new girlfriend), Sue — and his growing family.
The final scene takes place in 2020 when Vice President Sue returns to McKinley to dedicate McKinley's auditorium as the "Finn Hudson auditorium" and deliver an impassioned speech, in which she calls glee club the bravest thing anyone could do for creating a world in which the "quarterback becomes best friends with the gay kid."
Following the dedication, Will joins various members of New Directions past and present for a final performance to One Republic's "I Lived."
The series closes with a shot of a photo (similar to the one above) on a plaque on the wall that reads, "See the world not as it is but as it should be" hanging between framed images of New Directions' original coach and Finn.
"I'm so happy [with how the series ended] and I really think that Ryan, Brad, Ian and the rest of the writers had a difficult task in wrapping up everyone's storylines and making sure that everyone was happy," star Michele told THR. "And in making sure to honor Cory and do all of that in one episode, they really did a great job being respectful of everyone's storylines and making sure that the fans were happy."
Are you satisfied with how Glee ended its run? Share your thoughts in the comments below.