‘Glee’ Recap: Two-Hour Finale Ties Up All Loose Ends In The Past, Present & Future, And Pays Homage To Finn Hudson

While it’s no secret that Glee had taken a dip in popularity these past two seasons, Ryan Murphy and the cast and crew truly delivered with Friday night’s two-hour finale. In a stirring first-hour flashback episode, we learn more details about the origin story of the original New Directions members, culminating with a beautiful tribute to the late Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson on the Fox series.

The first half of the episode starts with Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) back with his first wife, Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig), tipping us off that this is a flashback. From there, we launch into Kurt Hummel’s (Chris Colfer)  first day at McKinley High. For a flashback, Puck (Mark Sallig) is looking pretty old as a mean jerk, taunting Kurt in the hallway.

Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays) introduces herself to awkward Kurt and she notices he was eyeing a suicide pamphlet. From there, she brings his father, Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley), in for a meeting to discuss her concerns. Afterwards, Burt meets Kurt in the basement, where he’s sewing. Burt expresses his concern over Kurt, and gives his sensitive son the ultimatum to join a team, or else!

The next day, Kurt sits with Rachel (Lea Michele) at the lunch table. Seeing her with her understated makeup, pronounced eyebrows and crazy intense manner of speech reminds me how much I miss the old Rachel. From there, the two of them kick off their first duet ever, “Popular” from Wicked.

Despite the fact that they perfectly blend together, Rachel reminds him that she’s a solo artist. Hoping to find a friend, Kurt spots Mercedes (Amber Riley) in the hallway and tells her he wants to be just like her and finally manages to convince her to help him.

Cut to Kurt’s original pilot-episode audition with “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago. We now get to see Will scribbling positive notes while Kurt sings. Back at home, Kurt rushes to dad to let him know he joined glee club. Despite wishing that Kurt had picked a sports team, Burt’s just happy to see his son’s joining some sort of team.

From there, church-singing all star Mercedes signs up for glee club auditions. Rachel approaches Mercedes in her awkward, old-school Rachel way. Mercedes rushes her off, but then Rachel offers to come to Mercedes’ church, and then sees her sing “I’m His Child” with the power of an entire choir behind her.

After her performance, Rachel approaches Mercedes to tell her how she can envision her as an R&B star, which Mercedes takes as a slight and a challenge. From there, we see their rivalry really begin.

Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz) talks in voice-over about how she’s a goth and still rocking the fake stutter. At this point, she’s flirting with Artie (Kevin McHale), who meets her while wearing some super-awkward suspenders. They move right into Tina’s very first audition with “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry with a titillated Artie in the background. After that, Artie sings “Pony” by Ginuwine for his tryout.

Will assembles Kurt, Tina, Rachel, Artie and Mercedes. Rachel argue for the first solo, which goes to Artie. I definitely miss old, crazy Rachel, arguing for the lead, clashing with Mercedes.

At home, Will works late on the glee club and his wife gets annoyed that his sperm might be stressed. She worries about the future of their relationship and, as we all know, she’s right to do so. Hindsight is 20/20, you know.

Rachel abruptly runs into Will before she’s attacked with a Slushee by Puck. After apparently cleaning herself off, Rachel and Mercedes bicker over getting to sing the female lead of “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease. Rachel gets the part, and Mercedes cries, but gets some good advice from her mother. It’s very inspiring.

Finally, we see Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) for the first time, talking to Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) and asking about glee club and Will Schuester. She’s dubious about the club’s intentions.

Next, a decidedly friendly Sue plays some one-on-one basketball with Will. After their game, Sue tells him to drop the glee club or end their friendship. Will drops the basketball and the gauntlet on her.

We get a glimpse of Rachel in her room on her elliptical and dabbling in becoming famous on MySpace, being her typical Type-A overachiever self. A pregnant Terri Schuester hangs out on a bed at her job at Bed Bath and Beyond, where she guilts a co-worker into doing all her work. Rachel approaches to ask Terri not to get in the way of Mr. Schuester coaching glee club, but they arrive at an impasse.

Mercedes and Kurt talk about Finn at the coffee shop. There’s a coincidental passing interaction with Dalton Academy Warbler Blaine (Darren Criss), who was originally introduced in the second season of Glee.

Some brief in-fighting happens among the fledgling glee club about Finn, after which we zip to a flashback of Finn wheeling Artie home after the Port-o-Potty attack in the pilot. Rachel argues for them to accept Finn into their group, despite their initial concern over his motives and popularity.

Emma Pillsbury manages to snag a video copy of the 1993 show choir championship, featuring a young Will Schuester. After his trip down memory lane — and before he can leave McKinley High to become an account, at his wife’s insistence — Will fatefully overhears the original six members beginning to sing Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believin'”,  with a young, innocent Finn and Rachel belting the leads. It’s the original footage from the very first episode, and at this point that I’m not afraid to admit that I started to ugly cry.

After this emotional flashback, we return to present day in hour number two, with New Directions at nationals. Will, Blaine, Kurt and Rachel are now coaches and awaiting results with the rest of the New Directions members. All at once, they learn that they are victorious.

Superintendent Harris (Christopher Cousins) tells Will at a sit-down meeting that he’s going to make William McKinley High School a school for the performing arts. The final cherry on top is that Will is going to be principal of the school. Will is worried he’s not up to the task, but Emma gives him a pep talk. After that, Will announces the news to New Directions that there will be multiple glee clubs at the new school and plenty of roles for anyone.

He picks up a ukelele to sing “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills & Nash. It brings Rachel, Tina and Mr. Schue himself to tears by the end.

In the boys locker room, Sam blows up footballs. Blaine shows up to chat with him and talk about how much he misses their friendship. From there, we learn that the new coach of the New Directions is Sam, who assigns them the theme of “country” for their first week.

Back in the auditorium, Mercedes announces that she’s been picked to be Beyoncé‘s opening act for her world tour. And she’s chosen to say goodbye with a song. For her farewell, she sings “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross and The Supremes. When she blows them a kiss, Artie says, “Mercedes Jones has left the building.” You really get the impression this is the actors themselves, not their characters, bidding farewell.

Kurt and Blaine show up in Sue’s office. They thank her for getting them back together. She gives them a lovely speech about how, despite her prickliness, she truly cares about them.

Then, we see a reunion between Sue and Becky (Lauren Potter). They barrel through the halls to run toward each other to meet with a big hug. Sue next meets with Will in the auditorium, where they proceed to sing a duet of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All.” At the end, in a classic Sue move, she kicks the seat from under piano player Brad on her way out.

Briefly, Geraldo Rivera returns for a final chat with Sue. It’s five years later, and the onetime Cheerios coach is on as a guest, since she’s been elected Vice President of the United States. On air, she announces her future presidential campaign. And, clearly, I’m voting Sue Sylvester.

Kurt wears half a sweater as he goes through his locker nostalgically. It’s not clear why he still has a locker, but I’ll give this to them. From there, we quickly segue to Kurt and Blaine five years later (during which time Blaine’s hair gets a million times better looking) at Harvey Milk Elementary School, where they sing “Daydream Believer” by The Monkees.

Rachel takes to the stage in the auditorium for an emotional solo, “This Time,” an original song written by Darren Criss. Unsurprisingly, tears stream down her cheeks for her entire performance. It’s crazy to think how much the show has been through through all these years.

Mercedes arrives In NYC to see everyone for a big reunion in the future. Lo and behold, Artie and Tina are dating again.  Rachel is pregnant as a surrogate for Blaine and Kurt and getting ready for the Tony awards. Her husband, Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff), accompanies her to the Tonys, where she’s nominated and eventually wins for her role in Jane Austen Sings. Rachel accepts her Tony and gives a tearful speech, thanking all her McKinley High friends and, especially, Will Schuester.

Back at McKinley, Sue takes to the stage and makes a beautiful speech about about what glee club has meant to her, and to dedicate the newly renamed Finn Hudson Auditorium. And when she gets teary-eyed to dedicate it to be the Finn Hudson auditorium, I nearly lose it again.

From there, she introduces the New Directions — literally all of them. Will joins them on stage for a rendition of “I Lived” by OneRepublic. Eventually everyone joins them on stage, including Satana (Naya Rivera), Brittany (Heather Morris), Quinn (Dianna Agron), Mike (Harry Shum Jr.) and everyone else you can think of who’s been on the show. The last two to the stage are Sue and Becky.

With the final notes of the song quietly fading, just like that, it’s over. It’s been a long and memorable six-year ride since that very first episode aired in May 2009. Farewell, Glee — we’re going to have a lot less music in our hearts without you.

What was your favorite part of the series finale? Let us know below!