Let the Glee mystery begin!
Creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy has dropped quite the unexpected little bomb about the Fox hit's sixth and final season:
It won't be New York-centric. It will jump forward in time. And it will directly involve only a handful of core characters—although Murphy insists that for the final year, "anybody who wants to come back can come back."
"Everything sort of builds to a head [in the current season's finale]," Murphy explained to a small group of reporters Monday. "I would say explosion is too harsh of a word, but something big happens and then the final season is the aftermath of that."
Tonight's episode, "Tested," gives fans a flavor of what the new "young adult" era of Glee is about: The storylines are heartfelt, intimate and at times, funny, and center on more mature topics, like STD testing, and complex relationship drama for Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer), and Sam (Chris Colfer), and Mercedes (Amber Riley).
Murphy admits the current season of Glee has had its kinks, but believes the show is undergoing a significant creative resurgence in the next few episodes.
"When Glee first started out, there were six kids in glee club as I recall," Murphy told reporters. "At one point, I felt like it was a cast of thousands, and the Lima stories were all supposed to be through the prism of Cory [Monteith]'s character, and that didn't work out. So you know, we had to punt for a little bit but I think once we got our bearings back, the idea of let's concentrate on six people that we know and love and really work hard on their evolution I think has really served the show well. And that's where we're going."
Murphy also revealed that writers are still grappling with the question of whether Rachel (Lea Michele) should get a new love interest after the tragic passing of Finn (Monteith), saying, "To be quite honest, we just haven't been able to crack it," and adding that he will once again look to Lea for direction. "She's always been so sensitive and so wise in how to handle that stuff," Murphy says.
Murphy also answered definitively whether there were any plans for a spinoff of any character after Glee ends, what fans can expect from the episode that Chris Colfer wrote (and how he might direct next season), and what Murphy is now planning for the very final scene of the series. Read on for the full scoop and conversation….
Can you talk about the decision to move away from McKinley High and move the show to New York?
RM: The big idea, the big plan, of what the series was going to be and how it was going to end was radically changed when Cory passed away. His character Finn was going to take over the Glee club and Rachel was going to be off in her New York adventures, but Cory passed away and part of the story, as we had imagined it, it didn't make sense anymore really, and it felt sad to be quite honest. And I think we collectively, Brad [Falchuk], Ian [Brennan] and myself, made a decision that the freshest thing to do would be a complete clean start. So we really accelerated all of those New York stories and I think that was the right choice, and I think it sort of gave the show a burst of new energy. It feels like a new show to me, and it's much more young adult than it's ever been, this week's episode being the perfect indication of that, but that's the plan, that's why we did it.
What happens to the new kids at McKinley?
RM: I think at some point before the show is concluded, we will definitely catch up with those characters again. We really loved all of those actors and I think they did a great service to the show, so I think at some point before we're done with next year's run, we'll see many of them again, and sort of find out where they are and check in with them and how being part of that glee club legacy affected their lives, as we do with our original characters.
Can you talk about the rest of this season and how it leads into your idea for next season?
RM: Well you know, Brad and Ian have done such a good job of really, really working on these stories, particularly the New York stories in the past six episodes from 14 through 20, and really what we're sort of zooming in on is what's going to happen with Rachel's Funny Girl debut. Is it going to be a huge success, is it going to be a flop, and if it is any of those things, where will that turn her? Will it make her want to stay and do more New York shows, will she want to do something else? So that's the main thread of this New York run, and we also follow many of our relationships that we've been… You know, the fact that we have fewer characters now means that we have more time to tell those stories, so for example, you've seen a lot more of the Kurt and Blaine relationship, and we're heading toward what's going to happen to them, you know, and they're pretty much having trouble every episode. We're also going to be dealing with the Sam and Mercedes relationship, so all these things are sort of building to a head in episode 20, a sort of big, natural… I would say explosion is too harsh of a word, but something big happens and then the final season is the aftermath of that.
Are these NY episodes a preview of what the final season will look like?
RM: They're really not. I mean the final season is really its own story and its own location and while the New York stuff will be alive, the final season is really not New York-centric at all, and you know, Brad is probably going to start talking about that come June. I think we want to have these episodes play out and then he's going to talk about that. But it really is a lovely, fitting season that really dwells on the original people that were on the show and what happens to them and how they give back. That really is the last season, but I'm not going to say more…but we'll revisit some of the new kids that came and went, and there's a return of the Jane [Lynch] and Matt [Morrison] characters in a big way. It's a really interesting, very sweet, satisfying ending to the story.
Is the idea of Kurt going to Russia still in play? Or is that no longer under consideration?
RM: I don't want to say, but you know, the Kurt/Blaine saga is definitely a part of that last year in a big way.
Is the plan for the final season still to be 22 or 24 episodes?
RM: Well this year, we did 20 episodes and the reason we did 20 is because basically, we had three weeks delay with our production because of Cory's passing, and there was no way to physically produce those episodes and get them on the air in the month of May, so that's why the order was sort of truncated, so now basically what we're left with is 24 episodes and I think, you know, I can't speak for other people, but for me, doing a straight run-through of 24 episodes just doesn't seem to be viable. It doesn't feel right. So we're looking at how do we take those 24, and do we divide them? What do we do? We're sort of looking at that right now, but I think the main thrust of them will be a final farewell to all of our characters that we've known since season one.
There is a nice moment where we see in this episode that Rachel is not ready to move on past Finn. How much discussion has there been about Rachel's love life?
RM: We talk about this in the writer's room all the time, and I think that that's, you know, it's a really hard, very painful, very difficult thing for the show. I've said it before with even in Cory's eulogy that that was always the ending of the show for me – these two star-crossed lovers getting together and having a happy ending and them both getting their dreams, so the fact that that can't be is a big pain in all of our hearts. So, we have to sort of pause and think, well, what are we going to do with Rachel? So this year what we decided to do was to remove the equation of anybody coming in and taking Finn's place because I don't really think that's possible. And I think that worked out quite well and I really like dwelling on Rachel the careerist again, who's going to be a star no matter what it takes and with her friendships, but as for the future, there's a lot of discussion. And it's something that I think we'll consult with Lea about and to be quite honest, we just haven't been able to crack it, because I feel like it's such a sensitive topic and I think the fans have such an idea about it. I think half of them feel like yes, Rachel should go on, and I think half of them probably feel like no she shouldn't, and I probably think, you know, we'll follow Lea's lead as we have so many times this year. And she's always been so great and so sensitive and been so wise about how to handle that stuff, so we have to make that decision in the next couple weeks if not months. Is Rachel going to have another romance or are we going to end it with her… Does Rachel's second half romantically happen when Glee is over, but that's something we're debating. It's hard.
Do you have another idea for a final scene for the show now?
RM: Yes, I mean we do have a final idea that we're working on that I think is very powerful, and moving and you know, it's about Rachel and Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) and it sort of returns them to their origins and their roots about how they felt about each other and when they were all much younger and everything was idyllic. But I think you gotta get back, the ending has to be a reflection and a celebration of how far all those characters have evolved, and more than that. I mean we were just talking today in the writer's room about how the world has evolved. I mean, if you look at the changes that have happened in the past five years since Glee has been on the air, with the movement towards more gay civil rights with DOMA and gay marriage and the anti-bullying campaign. It's just an amazingly different world that we or these kids live in than they did when we started, and I think the show should end up in some way talking about that, so that's something we're working on right now.
Are you looking at a time jump for next season? Who will be back as a regular?
RM: We are going to do a time jump, and that's really all I'll say. My feeling about the last season of Glee is very clear, and that is that we will be reaching out to all of the regulars on the show, that original group of Glee club members and the teachers, and anybody who wants to come back can come back. Anybody who wants to be a part of the show, we welcome them. I know people are always saying well why isn't Heather [Morris] on the show now, and things like that and the answer to some of these questions from the fans is well, Heather is a new mother, she has a young baby, she came and she did four episodes and she really loved it, and I think she would be willing to come back and do a couple, but right now, Heather wants to focus on being a mom. But the fun thing about the ending of the show is that there's room for everybody to come back and be a part of it, and I hope they all want to. I think they do. When we just had our big 100th episode celebration I spoke to many of them, and everybody in that cast seems to look back on the show with such fondness and nostalgia and everybody I think wants to come back and end that story correctly, so that's our answer. Anybody who was a part of it who wants to be in that ending, we would love to have you. So I don't ever look at it as if we're inviting these five people back. Some of their characters' stories will be obviously much heavier, that's the way it's always been. Lea has always been predominantly heavy, Darren has been heavy, Chord has been heavy, but anybody who wants to be in it can be in it as far as I'm concerned.
What about the original people? Matt Morrison, Jenna Ushkowitz, Harry Shum Jr., Mark Salling…
Yes, all those people. All those people will be involved in our last season, and even for our upcoming big episode… Not Tuesday, but the one after that, you know, all these characters do keep coming back. Sue goes to New York, Will goes to New York, Tina shows up for Rachel's opening, Santana makes her triumphant return, Mark, Harry, they're all involved and they all wanted to be there. So they do come into the show again.
Can you talk about what you felt has worked or not worked this season? What have you learned from this season?
RM: I think what's really worked and what we really liked is sort of a return to… You know when that glee club first started out, there were six kids in glee club as I recall. At one point, I felt like it was a cast of thousands, and the Lima stories were all supposed to be through the prism of Cory's character, and that didn't work out, so you know, we had to punt for a little bit but I think once we got our bearings back, the idea of let's concentrate on six people that we know and love and really work hard on their evolution I think has really served the show well, so I think in the next year, that's the formula that we will be using, and I think that people really want to follow these people. They want to end the journey with the people they started the journey with.
What can you say about Chris Colfer's episode that he wrote?
RM: Well, I think this came about because Chris is obviously a very talented writer and we just thought, wouldn't it be interesting for somebody like Chris who does have a knack for writing and storytelling to be able to do something fresh on the show, and we've always had that tradition, you know, we've always had that open door that if you were interested in directing… Matt Morrison was interested in trying out, and we let him take an episode that he did so well on. So that's always been something to me that if anybody has said oh, I'm interested in trying that, let's do that, and Chris obviously has an interest and a knack for writing, so we gave it a whirl, and it turned out really, really great. I think they're still shooting some of the episode. I think there's a couple more days on it, and I know he talked about the casting so I don't need to, but it was fun. He was very involved in all that stuff which I think was interesting for him. It was an interesting thing to have an actor, playing a character, getting to write an episode about that character, so it turned out really well and I think everybody's really happy with it, and I hope next year that he would want to do another one. I think it would be great, and maybe he would even want to direct it.
Can you say anything about the location of next season? Will we see McKinley again?
RM: You might see it again in some very nostalgic way, yes, but I don't want to talk about the location of it…I don't want to say too much because Brad's going to talk about it in June.
Are you still talking about a spinoff for any of the characters?
RM: No, the spinoff thing was something that, you know, if we were going to do a spinoff what we were going to do was do the New York stuff as a spinoff, but we ended up not doing that, so not it's not a spinoff idea.
Glee airs tonight on FOX.