Glee was a cultural phenomenon that first premiered over 12 years ago to critical and commercial success. With each season, the show became bigger and more ambitious, however, the reviews from critics and audiences eventually began to ebb and flow from extremely positive to downright panned.
With the show’s growing level of characters and storylines, it meant that the season finales had the heavy task of tying it all up in a satisfying way that would not only please critics but also appease fans. According to IMDb, some of the show’s finales have the highest ratings of any Glee episode. While it’s hard to definitively say which season of Glee was the best, it’s clear to see which finale was the best in terms of fan ratings.
6 Season 5: “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project” (7.0)
The season finale of season five entitled “The Rachel Berry Project” follows Rachel and her friends in New York making life-altering decisions about the trajectory of their futures. From Mercedes going on tour to Sam quitting modeling and moving back home to Lima, the episode moves a lot of characters’ arcs forward into new environments.
Although the season was filled with a lot of great episodes, many storylines in the final felt rushed and unrealistic, especially Rachel’s sudden decision to star in TV pilot, which was very untrue for the character. Santana’s absence from the episode felt odd, especially considering her character was a big part of the season. There were some touching moments throughout the episode including Blaine and Kurt reaffirming their love and a wonderfully staged performance of “Pompeii,” but sadly it wasn’t enough to appease the Gleeks.
5 Season 4: “All Or Nothing” (7.5)
Season 4 wrapped up with “All or Nothing” which focuses on New Directions as they compete in Regionals, which have moved to their high school auditorium. Supporting storylines involve Brittany being offered admission to MIT and Rachel auditioning for her big break on Broadway. The episode concludes with the long-awaited nuptials of Will and Emma surrounded by their loving students.
With most of the beloved characters having graduated in the previous season, the glee club received an influx of new members, much to the chagrin of loyal Glee fans whose favorite characters became sidelined. The episode failed to bring the pizazz of its previous finales, even with the inclusion of a Regionals performance and the Schuester wedding. The Brittany pierce storyline involving MIT was also a bit perplexing given the history of the character, while the college storylines saw a downturn in Glee’s quality.
4 Season 2: “New York” (8.2)
“New York” saw New Directions in the Big Apple for Nationals. Finn, Rachel, and the rest of the group explore the city and take in the sights while also trying to write original songs for their upcoming performance. This episode also features a cameo from Broadway legend, Patti LuPone.
The new setting for this finale resulted in many beautiful and inventive set pieces including the episode’s opening musical number. The New York location also organically gave Rachel and Kurt a way to realize their true aspirations without it feeling forced or repetitive. The group’s final performance was adequate, but the original songs were a repeated storyline that had been executed better earlier in the season.
3 Season 3: “Goodbye” (8.6)
With the senior members of glee club graduating, the group comes together and reflects on their amazing past moments. When Rachel decides to defer for a year after Kurt and Finn are rejected, Finn makes the hard decision of telling her to leave for New York anyway. Initially she resists, but Finn reveals that he has enlisted in the army (widely considered to be Finn’s worst decision in Glee), which gives Rachel the push to leave for New York.
The season 3 finale was able to beautifully wrap up departing characters’ storylines in an emotionally satisfying way. Taking a trip down memory lane with New Directions was a wonderful way to remind audiences of how far the show has come, while the ending expertly teases where the show is going. Many also note that the final scene involving Rachel and Finn arguing about their futures is one of the best-acted scenes in the series.
2 Season 6: “Dreams Come True” (9.0)
The season 6 finale, “Dreams Come True,” was not only a season finale but the series finale as a whole. Bringing the entire six seasons to a close saw McKinley High becoming a performing arts school and Mr. Schue becoming its principal. Jumping five years into the future, Rachel Berry wins her Tony Award, finally achieving her lifelong dream. In one of Sue Sylvester’s most heroic acts, she returns to McKinley to rededicate the auditorium to Finn Hudson. To commemorate the event past and present new directions return to bid farewell.
An emotional rollercoaster, the episode does an admirable job concluding the storylines for the main characters in sweet and believable ways. It’s heavy lean into the nostalgia of the show never comes off as pandering but as a celebration of the show’s impact. The five-year flash forward was something new for the show, but it allows audiences to see that their beloved characters are going to be okay. Seeing all the past cast members reunite for a final performance ends the show on an energetic and gleeful note.
1 Season 1: “Journey To Regionals” (9.1)
New Directions have finally made it to Regionals after a tempestuous journey involving faked pregnancies and long-lost mothers. After a fantastic medley of Journey’s biggest hits, the group is heartbroken to find out that they did not place at the top and the glee club will be disbanded. Fortunately, Sue has a change of heart and convinces Figgins to give them one more year to prove themselves.
It’s no surprise that this finale has the highest score, as Glee’s first season is often considered the best season of the series. The episode, which is considered one of the best Glee episodes overall, does a great job of not only tying up many of the season’s storylines but does it without losing any of the show’s trademark humor and charm. There’s also an electrifying sequence that intercuts Quinn’s delivery with Vocal Adrenaline’s performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which is easily one of the best moments in the episode.