On Wednesday, Glee creator Ryan Murphy confirmed something that had been guessed at for a while–that Glee’s sixth season will be its last–and added something that was probably evident since last summer: that with the death of Cory Monteith and the writing off of Finn, the show’s ending will have to become a very different thing. As TV Line’s Michael Ausiello wrote, Murphy said:
The final year of the show, which will be next year, was designed around Rachel and Cory/Finn’s story. I always knew that, I always knew how it would end. I knew what the last shot was – he was in it. I knew what the last line was – she said it to him. So when a tragedy like that happens you sort of have to pause and figure out what you want to do, so we’re figuring that out now.
Six seasons seems enough for Glee–more than enough, probably. Like a lot of high-school serials, it’s been showing its age, trying to keep up with its original characters while cycling in fresh blood, some of the new characters so obviously similar to the first generation that last week’s tribute to Monteith/Finn joked about it, with principal-turned-janitor Figgins saying (in reference to second-gen character Bree), “New Santana Lopez is right, Old Santana Lopez.”
With the series’ ending, Murphy planned–again, as many such serials do–to return to its beginning. And Glee, from its “Don’t Stop Believin’” beginning centered on Rachel and Finn and their love story. The loss of Monteith and Finn took that away, and much of the show’s emotional core with it.
But it could also force Glee, after a long erratic journey, to ask itself: what, beyond all the bells and whistles and Beatles-tribute episodes, is this show still about? My answer: dreams, and what they cost you, and how they are not always recognizable when they come true. And since Glee can’t close on the story of Rachel and Finn, it would make sense to refocus on the platonic, but also important and complicated, story of Rachel and Kurt.
From the first season, Rachel, Kurt, and Finn were really the triangle that supported most of the show’s emotional themes. With Rachel and Kurt–deep friends as well as intense competitors–the show was about what it was like to be young, talented, ambitious, and scared; it’s no accident that much of the best material in season 4 went to New York with the two of them. Since their first-season rivalry (the “Defying Gravity” duel in “Wheels” is still one of the show’s most memorable moments) through NYADA, they’ve fought and made up, supported and pushed each other.
They’ve often gone off on separate tracks (now Kurt even has his own engaged-too-young storyline), but on some level they knew each other better than Finn and Blaine knew them. They’re each bitten by the same bug; they each know what it is to have dreams so potent you have to chase them even when it hurts.
Glee has an impossibly large number of storylines to service now, and it’s not like Ryan Murphy is going to listen to me anyway. But I’d love to see a season six that leaves McKinley High behind as much as possible and refocuses on Rachel and Kurt beginning their adult lives in New York.
Glee could do that and still have an ending that, as Murphy says, “honors” Finn. He, after all, is a person that both of them lost—a part of their youth, their hometown, their family—on the way to becoming whatever they’re going to be. But the show’s forced change of strategy could give it a chance to end not as another teenage love story but as a show about how the arts can change lives, and how the song sometimes outlasts the singer.