The worst tragedies occur when people are taken from us too soon. Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, died last summer from a combination of heroin and alcohol. The show that made him famous aired their tribute episode and, although we stopped reviewing Glee and I stopped watching Glee years ago, this episode was one that I felt I had to watch.
It was not easy. The cast were obviously still deeply mourning their friend and it was clear that the tears were real.
The show was careful to show the various phases of grief and, for anyone who has grieved, many of the beats were dead on. The anger that the person you love has left you, the absolute conviction that you can’t cry because you have to be strong for everyone else, the fear that once you start crying you won’t be able to stop, the dread of having to live your life without the person you loved so much, the regrets of all the things undone and unsaid were all addressed through the various characters.
Although most of the scenes were terribly sad, the show managed to keep them from becoming maudlin. Even the show’s saddest scenes, Kurt cleaning out Finn’s things with his parents, the always acerbic Sue wiping away tears, and the final scene where Will finally breaks down, were genuinely heartbreaking and not over the top.
The show managed to find some humor to lighten the mood. At one point, Tina goes to talk to Emma about the fact that she hates the fact that she has to wear black because her goth phase is behind her. The ever present pamphlets Emma hands to her were perfect: “It’s Not About You,” “When to Stop Talking,” and “Wait, Am I Being Callous?” I laughed out loud.
Interestingly, the show never tells us how Finn died. I missed that fact the first time through the episode and only picked up on it during the re-watch, probably because I was crying a little less. Kurt tells us at the beginning that it doesn’t matter, but it does. If Finn died in a horrible car accident, there should be an element of railing at God or whomever one blames at times like this. If Finn died as Cory did, there should be an element of railing at him for allowing something like this to happen. For a show that used to be brutally honest, the absence of an explanation felt off.
The reason that I stuck with Glee for as long as I did was the music. This episode reminded me of what I had liked so much. The show opened with “Seasons of Love,” the great song from Rent. I didn’t recognize many of the faces, but the rendition of the song was simply wonderful. After the song, the camera panned across the kids to a shot of Finn in his football uniform, lingered and then faded to black as the title card came up.
Although I was surprised they opened with the best, the other songs were all beautifully sung and chosen. They ranged from Bob Dylan to James Taylor with stops at the Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen and The Band Perry. Every song was appropriate and they managed to sing them from the heart. I can’t imagine how difficult that was with tears pouring down their faces.
This was not the show I expected. I thought there would be a lot more clips of Finn and more songs that he had sung. Instead, he was remembered in broad strokes and the various characters’ memories. It worked. This was a lovely tribute to a very talented young man who died too soon. I think both Finn and Cory would have loved it.
I certainly did.
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.