Following the somewhat screwball Props, this penultimate episode (which practically acts as a warm-up season finale to next week's actual finale) gets right down to business in title and content. It's Nationals everybody - and not just that. Nope, this is the last Nationals where all of the 'original' New Directions will be together, which ups the stakes considerably. Will they win? If you don't want to know, then you should probably be aware I'm not going to keep it a secret; but then again, if you're a fan of this show, surely you know what to expect?! Of course they win! We haven't watched them lose only to pick themselves back up again and again to get to this point and witness a crushing defeat. The writers know this, and so they deliver an episode that ticks the boxes and acts as an unapologetic crowd-pleaser ahead of next week's big Graduation episode.
Of course, we go through the motions of pretending there's a chance the trophy isn't theirs: Mercedes gets food poisoning, Vocal Adrenalin has a Unique weapon, and the presence of Carmen could cause Rachel to choke once again. As Sue puts it, this is 'The Hunger Games of showchoir competitions'.Throw in the psychological tricks of Jesse St James and the fact that this thing is being judged by Perez Hilton and Lindsay Lohan (!), and you might have a recipe for disaster. But, of course, the New Directions do a worried Will proud - and Sue too who, if you remember, has her Cheerios career riding on this. A Trouble Tones rendition of Gaga's 'The Edge of Glory' is followed by Rachel's dazzling vocal display during a Celine Dion solo, and then a vintage-themed Meatloaf extravaganza shows off each member's talents.
A third act performance by Vocal Adrenalin tries admirably to make the viewer doubt our heroes' inevitable win, and Alex Newell obviously has a blast as boy-in-a-dress diva Unique (although, please God - or Ryan Murphy, whatever - do not make him a regular next year). Nicki Minaj and The Who make for a pretty decent double bill, but LiLo comes through for once and our gang get the trophy. Celebrations take place in the form of confetti slushies upon the friends' return to McKinley, while Will and Emma celebrate in their own bed-bound horizontal way.
If a long-awaited fumble with his future wife wasn't enough to make him the happiest man alive, Will is awarded a teaching honour at the school's end-of-year assembly and - but, of course! - gets a very special thank you in the form of his kids singing 'We Are the Champions', possibly the only Queen song this show hasn't dusted off and covered. It's a sweet, full-circle moment and, in harking back to the early Season One days of 'Somebody to Love', does make you realise you may miss these characters more than you thought you would. Bring hankies next week, ya big Gleeks!