TV: ‘Glee’ says goodbye to its “Quarterback”

By Meryl Gottlieb| mg986611@ohiou.edu| @buzzlightmeryl
Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox
Rating: 4/5

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When it was announced that Glee would continue after star Cory Monteith’s death in mid-July, many wondered how the show would handle his passing. How would they kill off Finn? How will the other characters react, especially Rachel (Lea Michele)?

Tonight, we finally got our answer.

In a very Glee fashion, they decide to honor Finn — “The Quarterback” — with song. The episode opens with the new and the original New Directions members singing “Seasons of Love,” which ends with the club turning to Finn’s football portrait.

A trend of late, many of the Glee performances seem more camp than anything, but tonight, the emotion was raw and real, and the performances hit home. Tears flowed in every song, from the performer, from the rest of the glee club and even I found myself tearing up quite often. I haven’t said this in awhile, but all of the performances were well performed, well done and worthwhile.

BQRyAEaCAAAM0WW.jpg-largeI especially loved the Glee title they used. Creator Ryan Murphy tweeted that design back in late July saying, “A talented fan made this and I thought it was really moving.” I’m glad they used it.

Kurt (Chris Colfer) acts as a narrator, telling us that it has been three weeks since Finn’s funeral. Most importantly, he says how tired he is of people asking how Finn died, that it doesn’t matter how he died, only how he lived. In other words, they gave no reason for Finn’s death.

Overall, I think this is best. Having him die in the way Monteith did seemed completely out of the question to me. It would have been incredibly unbelievable for Finn to die of an overdose, and if they had done that, it would have turned the episode into another soapbox moment where they preach about how addiction can claim anyone. Instead, they focused on the man and his life, and I think the fans will appreciate that. I also like that the episode wasn’t about them dealing with the news and going to a funeral. In some way, they jumped time like I had hoped.

Mercedes (Amber Riley) sings “I’ll Stand By You,” which, if you’ll remember, Finn sang to the sonogram of his supposed baby in season one. I loved this throwback. Riley is a powerhouse whose vocals never fail to amaze me. This was the song in which it was the hardest to fight back tears. I don’t think Riley has ever had a more perfect performance on the show, other than “And I Am Telling You” of course. But I also loved how I could remember Monteith’s version of this song. In the back of my mind, I could hear him singing this song as well.

Artie (Kevin McHale) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) sing “Fire and Rain,” whose lyrics were perfect for the moment. However, of all the performances, this was my least favorite. It was still very well done, but I would have preferred a flashback to Monteith or a scene between other characters instead of just another song.

Puck (Mark Salling) struggles with the death of his friend — the one who always showed him the man he could be and helped point him in the best direction. Now he is lost without his quarterback to show him the way. He and Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) have a nice couple of moments in the episode as she tells him he needs to be his own quarterback now.

While Salling may have struggled acting wise, the storyline his character went through was very much real and beautifully tailored to Puck and Finn’s relationship. Puck sings “No Surrender” to an empty chair in honor of Finn. It was a great emotional vocal performance, however I found it very distracting that he stared down the chair the entire time.

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I have to especially point out the conversation Puck and Beiste had about the line between the dates on Finn’s memorial. “Have a good line” Beiste says to Puck as he gets ready to leave. That line is your whole life. Make it count.

In the end, Puck decides he is going to join the Air Force.

The most touching moment of the night came when Finn’s mom Carole (Romy Rosemont), Burt (Mike O’Malley) and Kurt went through Finn’s belongings. Burt lamented how he should have hugged Finn more while Rosemont gave an absolute Emmy-worthy performance. She fights through flowing tears as she wonders how she can still be a parent without a son.

Even against Michele, I’d still say Rosemont gave the best performance of the night.

Santana (Naya Rivera) has a hard time as well. She feels ashamed to admit her feelings even though she is hurting. However, she still manages to pull off those zingers that had us all laughing in between moments of ugly crying. Rivera’s performance of “If I Die Young” was riveting. Her voice is beautiful, and I love that song.

Even Sue (Jane Lynch) had trouble expressing her true feelings. At first she refused to allow a “spectacle of sadness,” but in the end she expressed how sad she was that Finn died thinking she hated him and how unfair it is that she won’t have the next 30 years to rake on him as he teaches at McKinley and leads the glee club. “There’s no lesson. … He’s just gone,” she says.

The monologues in this episode were so well written. They were so true and they speak so accurately to how people feel when someone they love passes.

Rachel comes back in the last act, wearing her “Finn” necklace. She sings the song they used to sing in the car together: “Make You Feel My Love.” Michele is known for crying in every performance, but this time, it wasn’t annoying. Michele is so vocally talented and the emotion she brought to the song was heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

She brings with her a plaque with Finn’s picture and a quote: “The show must go… all over the place… or something.”

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And don’t think that Will (Matthew Morrison) has been ignored this entire time. Santana was on a mission to find Finn’s varsity jacket after it was taken from the nurse’s office when she was having a “grief siesta” — zing. It turns out that Will took the jacket, and after withholding tears for so long, the episode closes as he cries into the jacket.

I am glad they didn’t ignore Will as they have for the past two seasons. He and Finn were essentially best friends, as weird as that may be, and this loss has to be hard for the character.

Overall, the episode was a nice tribute to Monteith. The constant crying may have left me depressed for the hours following the episode, but there was no other way it could have been done. The depression is there because the emotion wasn’t just good acting, it was real.

Well folks, that’s it. Do you need a Xanax? How about a hug? Let me know what you thought of the tribute to Monteith @buzzlightmeryl

Glee won’t return until Nov. 7 so in the mean time, check back here for info on the series plus reviews of other shows and movies and for other fun pop culture things.

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