Glee – Transitioning – Review

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‘Transitioning’, the seventh episode for Glee’s final season – and consequently the halfway mark, as the final season will only air 12 episodes rather than 12, with ‘2009’ included as a bonus feature on DVD/Blu ray boxsets – felt old school. And for all the right reasons.

Yes, surprisingly, Glee has done it again and produced a truly memorable, warming episode. Some elements did feel forced and contrived – I’m looking at you, Rachel, and your problems with leaving home – and paled in comparison to the stronger elements, but overall it was exactly what Glee should be – put multiple characters into a similar situation to se how they all deal with it.

‘Transitioning’ ultimately is about transitioning (no, really?) and change. Will wants to change Vocal Adrenaline and make it more tolerant, whereas the group, lead by Clint (the only word I can use to describe him also begins with ‘C’…) are having none of it. They want to win, and want none of the camaraderie. This leads to Jayma Mays returning as Emma, and though her role was reduced, it was brilliant to see her back. She was an integral part of the shows beginning and her and Will are brilliant together. I hope she returns at least once more before the end of the show. But her return convinces Will to do what fans have been clamouring for since the beginning of the season.

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Yes, Will quits Vocal Adrenaline and returns to the New Directions. Cheesy? Yes. Glee? Down to a tee! AS IF anybody would just quit their job like that! It’s totally preposterous, but it is Glee after all…

Now onto Rachel. They’re really forcing her and Sam on viewers so I’ve decided to just go with it. I don’t like them as a pairing, but I’ll just have to accept it, really. Her issues of her fathers’ selling her childhood home really just felt like an excuse to see some duets, which is fair enough. Blaine and Kurt kissing was inevitable and I’m glad that Blaine and Karofsky have finally ended – now we just need to get Walter out of the way, though if the trailer for the next episode is anything to go by, that may happen sooner rather than later!

This episode, unsurprisingly, saw the return of Coach Beiste, now going under the name of Sheldon. His return was much more accepting than I anticipated, but I’m glad it was. It wasn’t sensationalised, as Ryan Murphy could quite easily have done and, aside from a few snide remarks from Sue (but that’s just Sue, right) Sheldon is unanimously accepted.

Until Vocal Adrenaline dub ‘Coach Tr*nny’ on his car, that is.

That was a genuinely upsetting scene to see and Dot Marie Jones manages to convey the pain with genuine skill. It’s surprising that it’s Vocal Adrenaline who hurl the transphobia at Sheldon, and not the students of McKinley, but I have a feeling Sue wouldn’t stand for such bullying. No, thankfully she has squashed it out entirely.

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But of course the transexual issues of ‘Transitioning’ lead to the return of Wade ‘Unique’ Adams, and whilst I don’t normally comment upon the songs in these reviews, I’m going to here. Firstly Unique pairs up with Will to sing Macklemore’s seminal ‘Same Love’ and boy was it effective. That song is pretty much everything that Glee stands for. But it wasn’t until Unique sang ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ at the episodes close where everything fell into place.

That performance was, to me, the best performance ever on Glee. Alex Newell has such a gorgeous voice and he gave it his all for that song. I suspect that he, like Dot, wanted to give justice to their respective characters and Alex managed this extraordinarily. Unique is joined on stage by over 200 transpeople to welcome Sheldon to the fold and whilst yes, it may have been cheesy, it was incredibly heartwarming too to see Sheldon singing along. It was typical Glee by showing the power of music, but I think it was needed. Perhaps if Glee’s final season was longer they would be able to show both sides of Sheldon’s trans issues to highlight that the transition isn’t easy and accepting for everyone, but what they have done for this final season should be commemorated.

As Unique so justly put it, Sheldon is special, not because he is a trans male, but because he is brave enough to be exactly who he is. The conversation between Sheldon and Unique was stunning, and it had a lot of heart. Unique asks whether the surgery hurt, possibly because Unique will ultimately undergo it at some point, but again this element isn’t sensationalised. The surgery is only one part of the transition story that many people go through. So Sheldon says that it hurt, but that it was entirely worth it. Dot, Alex and everybody else involved in this story should be commemorated.

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I just have a few asides. Firstly, the make-up job on Dot was brilliant. Her breasts have been squashed down to give the impression they have been removed, and a smattering of stubble has been applied to her face, but what really sold this transition to me was Dot’s voice. She had a adopted a deeper resonance which really felt genuine to me. And secondly, Sam’s stammering of pronouns felt, not disrespectful, but completely real. He wants to support his friend, but he wants his friend to chose exactly how he should be addressed so as to not offend, and this is something which I think would genuinely happen in real life. But ultimately, all of this came together to produce something that felt grounded and real, and for that Glee’s final season will be remembered. For the right reasons.