Easily the show's rockiest run yet, Season Three of Glee has seemed to take a long time getting to where it always wanted to go: which is here. So, for all the peripheral characters stealing screen time from longstanding faves and all the story strands that didn't amount to much, Goodbye offers up an ending that may not satisfy all dedicated Gleeks but at least attempts to give the graduating members of Glee club a good send-off.
The misty-eyed, bittersweet tone of the episode is established in the first scenes as Mr Schue writes the word 'Goodbye' on his trusty whiteboard after witnessing 'the originals' perform a take on 'Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat', a song that harks back to the very first episode. Throughout the finale, we are delivered several grace notes that will likely be appreciated by any longstanding fan; for instance, Kurt's dad performing his son's celebrated rendition of the 'Single Ladies' dance in tribute, Quinn and Puck sharing a one-off kiss for old times' sake, and Mr Schue struggling to sign Finn's yearbook before the two have a final heart-to-heart. They are all moments that reaffirm the show's inherent goodwill towards its characters and treat this for what it is: an ending. It feels like a series finale because, for some hardcore fans, it really is - without Rachel, Mercedes and co. Glee will never be the same.
So, who's leaving? Well, without being too spoily for any of you long-time Gleeks who don't have Sky and don't hunt episodes down on the net, the final ten minutes of the episode act as a swan song for Rachel Berry and Lea Michele. Needless to say, all her hard work turning around Carmen Tibideaux pays off (as if it ever wouldn't have!) and so she boards a train to NYC, belting out a big emotional ballad as only she can. The question is though, is she joined by Finn and Kurt? Let's just say there's lots of tears, and Michele reminds us she's pretty good at this acting lark in a teary car scene alongside Corey Monteith. If you're a fourteen year-old girl (which means you have more of a right to watch this show than I probably do) then you may want to load up on tissues at the halfway point.
Elsewhere, other goodbyes are being said. Santana is doubting whether to go ahead with her cheerleading scolarship and has her future thrown into further disarray upon learning that Britanny's '0.0 grade average' means she will be repeating her senior year; will the college money provided by mommy Santana (played by a guesting Gloria Estefan - obviously) go towards a bigger, brighter future? As for Kurt, he's not only saying farewell for now to dad but to first honey Blaine, while a 'back on top' Quinn is looking forward to a bright future at Yale and aids ex Beth-babydaddy Puck in passing his all-important, graduation-worthy geography test.
Where this episode falls down is the fact that 45 minutes is not enough time to wrap everything up for these characters. Mercedes and Mike Chang both score exciting opportunities that are dealt with so briefly and with so little of the deserved weight that I'm not going to repeat them here - at the very least, Amber Riley should have gotten as much attention in this episode as her original co-stars. Sue gets an effective but fleeting scene with Quinn, but it would have been nice to have Jane Lynch interact with the other founding Glee members one last time. If this really is the last time Rachel, Finn, Kurt, Mercedes, Quinn, Puck, Santana and Mike are gonna be around for a good long while (that's eight characters, FFS!) then have their exits mean a lot to a lot more people - while Sue only says her goodbyes to Quinn, Mr Schue himself only sings a crusty old Rod Stewart song in his students' honour and then reserves his real goodbyes for Finn and Rachel. Why no young-love 'what now?' scene for Sam and Mercedes or Tina and Mike? Where's Becky for one last slanging match with Santana? And Emma only gets to present the kids with their diplomas?! Maybe a two-hour finale would have really ticked all the boxes.
Regardless, Goodbye does a decent enough job of saying 'bon voyage' to some of its main players, while reminding us all that the show must go on. The red velvet curtains may have closed on some of our characters' stories but developments here are perhaps more open-ended than last week's episode suggested, with some dreams not coming to fruition as expected. The fact that there are sure to be criticisms of the last show simply means the fans still care and probably point to the wider issue that the season as a whole slipped up in places; if time had been used more wisely earlier on, then all the missed opportunities that feel like gaping holes in this hour might have been fulfilled. Hopefully, some of the graduating class will return and further resolution will be achieved down the line. As it stands, Goodbye is a fitting end to what will probably be the most remembered era of this show's legacy - now what needs to happen for it to survive is to shake and reboot next year without doing a Skins and effing it all up royally. Until September, then!