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Glee: The Quarterback

“We honor Finn Hudson by taking care of the people he loved, and the way we do that is by helping them to move on.”

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.


  1. Lovely review, Chris, and you said exactly what I was thinking. I haven't watched Glee in awhile, but I watched this one and it was just excellent. They hit just the right note, pun intended, with acknowledging the tremendous grief everyone was feeling without getting in the least bit maudlin. I was particularly moved by Finn's mother, Kurt, and Kurt's father going through Finn's things and breaking down.

    It was definitely a bit off that they never discussed how Finn died, but I get why they wanted to concentrate on how the characters were feeling, and not on the tragedy itself. I also liked that the focus was on the original cast members instead of the new ones, because that made sense.

  2. I haven't watched Glee since the beginning of season two, but like you guys, I felt I had to catch this one. It felt very real to me. They didn't overdo the emotional scenes, which I was a bit afraid of. I think it helped that Rachel was not at the forefront for most of the episode. What made me cry (mostly) was not the script, but the knowledge that the cast was really grieving and how hard this episode must've been for them.

    "Seasons of Love" is one of my favorite songs of all time and I definitely think they did it justice.

    It was a shame Dianna Agron couldn't make it back for the episode. I assume she was busy doing press for The Family or something. Too bad.

    Unlike you guys, I felt it was totally appropriate that Finn didn't have a cause of death. It was like an acknowledgement that the episode was about both him and Cory. I really doubt that Finn died of a heroin overdose, but if they'd given him another cause of death it would've felt false and a little arbitrary.

    Thanks for the review, Chris. It was lovely.

  3. This reminded me quite a lot of early Glee. The episode was completely heartbreaking due to Cory's death, but from a writing standpoint they actually gave the adults something to do! This is the first time since when? Episode 13 of Season 1?

    It was genuinely funny at times, too.

  4. I haven't seen this episode yet, I was trying to decide if it was too morbid to tune into a show I hardly ever watch for this one. But I like that Finn wasn't given a cause of death. In some cases it's OK - when The West Wing had this problem, the character and actor had similar medical backgrounds and issues, so it was easy to give the character the same (natural) cause of death.

    But an overdose is a story that would need to be developed and followed up on within the series, while anything else would feel weird when we know how the actor died - plus Finn is so young that a sudden death of natural causes would be a very shocking and surprising event and again, a story in itself. So it sounds to me like they made the right decision.

  5. Despite it's many (manymanymany) flaws, I've stuck with Glee so far, and I was so afraid of them doing this tribute episode. I'm obssesed with some of the characters, and I love the music, but the show has been such chaos and nonsense for the past two seasons that it felt to me that they were going to go overboard with this.

    Thankfully, when this show takes a little bit of care of itself, it hits the nail right in the head. They still manage brilliance occasionally, and I could tell that there was love behind this script. It was painful to watch, but there was no way around that.

    Like most of you, I'm happy they didn't give a reason for Finn's death. He hadn't been present for the last few episodes of season 4 due to Cory Monteith being in rehab, so suddenly mentioning anything would have felt out of the blue, and somehow fake. Cory did die of an overdose, but I believe the show is making a point of celebrating his life, rather than anything else.

  6. I don't know how many tissues I went through while watching this episode... I think the hardest moment was definitely watching Finn's mom fall apart and saying how she's still a mom but she isn't...

    Hell, I teared up again just reading this review! It's all so sad, and pointless! (death by drug/alcohol combo, not the episode, that was beautiful)

    I too appreciated the fact that they didn't address how Finn died, and them starting it 3 weeks after his death allowed for them to do that. Had they shown the news being broken to everyone it would have been an unavoidable topic, and any answer would have felt contrived. Finn on drugs? Doubtful. Finn dying some other way knowing as we know Cory's story? Would have felt fake... So I think they definitely made the right choice!

    I've kept watching the series, or I should say listening to it, and part of me is wondering how much things are going to change because Rachel-Finn were so crucial a part of it. They've even said they were going to end the series on the two of them, now they have to rethink everything. Can't be easy.

  7. I was going to say why I thought it was the right choice not to talk about why Finn died, but sunbunny nailed it. It was about the grief, not the death, which was exactly right. I cried from the opening bars to the credits. What a tragic waste of a life.


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