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Glee’s Sad and Beautiful Finn Hudson Tribute

finn-tribute-glee“Honestly, what can you say about a 19 year old who dies? Everyone wants to talk about how he died, too, but who cares? One moment in his whole life. I care more about how he lived, and anyone who has a problem with that should remember that he was my brother.”

These words from character Kurt Hummel opened up the Glee tribute episode to Finn Hudson, and made what creator Ryan Murphy had said previously very clear: how Finn died wouldn’t be addressed. This episode would be about grieving loss and celebrating life, and for the better part of an hour, that’s how it went down.

[videopost src='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLpMcXh-ew8&feature=share&list=PL0cVfmrNmtrqJkvTwchDrwBsiBKzkP1o2']

The worst thing about “The Quarterback,” the Glee tribute to Finn Hudson, was that it had to happen at all. Cory Monteith, the actor who played Finn, died in July of a drug overdose. Following that real life loss, Murphy and the rest of the show’s team had to decide how to handle it on screen.

The best thing about “The Quarterback” is that the Glee writers and cast took this sad task and did the best thing that they could possibly do with it, which was to turn it into a gorgeous, devastating, and musically rich hour of television. Everything about the episode — the way the characters coped individually and together, the return of original cast members, the writing, and especially the music, hit the perfect spot of mourning the death of a young person gone senselessly and too soon, no matter how that happened. Every relationship in the glee club was built and grew out from a foundation of sharing and making music, and this goodbye to their captain reflected it.

[videopost src='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yq-XDtNV8w&feature=share&list=PL0cVfmrNmtrqJkvTwchDrwBsiBKzkP1o2']

Anyone looking for heavy-handed storyline about drug addiction or an hour-long public service announcement was disappointed. Although Monteith’s real life presence was definitely felt — how do you ultimately separate the actor and the character, after all? — this episode was definitely about Finn. Although Monteith died as a result of a relapse into a drug addiction that he had battled for many years, Finn was not an addict. Drugs and alcohol can certainly take lives of people who try them once or who experiment but it’s rarer than deaths from chronic addiction issues, and this outcome wouldn’t have made sense for the direction Finn’s character had taken. He was working seriously on his education and towards his goal to teach at McKinley; he had gotten over some of the worst confusion he experienced when his brother and the love of his life left small town Ohio for New York City.

The toll of drug addiction and its role in Cory Monteith’s death is not avoided, although it is never tied directly to the events of the show or to Finn Hudson. The Glee cast appear in a series of public service announcements, one of which aired at the end of the show. Each deals with a different aspect of addiction, with the underlying message to viewers being to seek help if they or a friend are affected.

[videopost src='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBntiB3fagQ&feature=share&list=PL0cVfmrNmtrosSntpELkZmggSJ9H1D91K']

“Our friend Cory didn’t look, or act, like an addict. He was happy, successful, and seemingly had it all,” said Jane Lynch. “Addiction is a serious disease that can hide in plain sight, but no one needs to fight it alone,” continued Matthew Morrison, Glee’s Will Schuester. Lynch also acknowledged Monteith’s struggle with drugs while she honored him on the Emmy Awards, saying “his death is a reminder of the rapacious and senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction. We remember Cory for all he was and mourn the loss of all he could have been.”

A scan of the #RememberingCory Twitter hashtag alone showed that fans were grieving Finn and Cory together in many cases. Even Lea Michele, Monteith’s real-life girlfriend who also played his girlfriend Rachel on Glee, said it was a double loss.

“I feel like, for me personally, I’ve lost two people: Cory and Finn,” she said.

Murphy says that the show isn’t done talking about Finn.

“We’re picked up through season six and we had to get back on the horse after episode three,” Murphy said. “I just made a decision; we keep mentioning Finn, we don’t just say this is done and we’re never going to go back to it. [Finn's death] resonates throughout the year.” Proceeds from downloads of “The Quarterback” and its songs will go to benefit Cory’s favorite charity, Project Limelight, a project that supports involvement in the arts for kids in his East Vancouver hometown.

I have watched Glee since the beginning, and I loved Finn. He was that big guy who was popular but also kind, who would cross social lines to befriend you even if he didn’t always necessarily have the right words. I’ll also admit that as a glee club kid, I’ve always had a soft spot for the notion of the quarterback joining up and taking the crew to a national championship. This dual identity and how Finn evolved is what this sad and beautiful tribute episode ultimately honored.

I don’t know where the show will go without him, but I do know that faced with the impossible task of remembering him in a creatively excellent and personally meaningful way, Ryan Murphy and his cast and crew succeeded. As for Cory Monteith, while I certainly did not know him beyond his weekly presence on my TV screen, I am sorry for his loss because it’s clear that he had a major — and positive — impact on his colleagues, his loved ones, and certainly his legion of fans. A scan through Twitter and Facebook shows me that thousands of kids all over the world looked to Finn as a crush and a role model, sometimes both, and that his loss has been significant for “Gleeks” everywhere. I hope that these kids get the message, in some form, that a death like Cory’s is preventable, but that sometimes even in spite of our best efforts, things happen in life that don’t make sense, even to the good guys. It’s important to live right while you can and to leave things better than you found them.

That’s the message I took away from this, anyway, along with a few other lessons that I’ll share as well. Well done, Glee. I think you did Finn — and Cory —proud.

 

  • "Remembering Finn" 1 of 10
    finn-collage-glee
  • People grieve in different ways. 2 of 10
    santana-glee

    Santana got angry. Mr. Schue couldn't cry. Puck drank and finally raged. Sue defaulted to her critical (if hilarious) remarks about everyone and everything. The school planted a tree in Finn's honor. 

     

    "The Quarterback" did a great job of showing the range of emotion from every cast member and how they were grieving the loss of a classmate, son, brother, student, friend, or significant other. Grief is rarely predictable, and how people behave on the surface doesn't always reflect how they feel inside. It takes time. 

     

    Image credit: YouTube

  • "You gotta be your own quarterback." 3 of 10
    puck-glee-finn

    Finn's best friend Puck (and Monteith's off-screen buddy Mark Salling) raged and drank his way through the days after Finn's death. That is, until he found himself in the football locker room seeking help from a mentor who told him he had to carry on. 

     

    Puck: "What chance do I have of not being an idiot and hurting people, without him around to remind me who I really am?"

     

    Coach Bieste: "You gotta do that for yourself now. You see yourself how he saw you...I'm telling you this straight cause that's how you and I talk. He's dead, and all we've got left is his voice in our head. I'm sorry, but it's time you gotta be your own quarterback."

     

    Salling's performance of Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" was a moving highlight of the episode. 

     

    Image credit: YouTube

  • Personal mementos aren’t everything, but they do matter. 4 of 10
    finn-rachel-football

    Finn's varsity jacket was a big part of the episode, changing hands from Kurt to Santana to, finally, Mr. Schue at the end. The jacket represented his relationships to each of these characters and who he was to them. At the end of the show, Will had it in his lap as he finally broke down in sobs over Finn's death. I'm guessing it'll turn up again as the season goes on. 

     

    Image credit: Facebook

  • You don’t have to say much at all to be a support system. 5 of 10
    new-directions-glee-finn

    The newer cast members had little, if any, dialogue but they were very much a part of the musical numbers and of the show. They were physically present to support Finn's closer friends the whole time.

     

    The intro number, "Seasons of Love" from Rent, was absolutely beautiful, and set a somber, reflective tone for the whole episode. 

     

    Image credit: YouTube

  • Say what you feel, while you can. 6 of 10
    kurt-dad-glee

    Burt Hummel, Kurt's dad and Finn's stepfather, appears in a sad scene at their family home with Carole, Finn's mom, and Kurt, as they sift through Finn's belongings in his room. Burt talks about how he wishes he'd shown Finn more affection, that he wishes he'd hugged him instead of fist-bumping him, that he wishes he'd told him more often how he felt. While Carole tells Burt that Finn knew he loved him, it's true that once someone is gone it's impossible to show it again, so it's important to do it while we can. 

     

    Finn's performance of Bruno Mars's "Just the Way You Are" for Kurt at Burt and Carole's wedding is a series highlight. Carole's breakdown in this scene is one of the best, and possibly the saddest, in the episode, and Burt, as usual, is right there with her. 

     

    Image credit: Facebook

  • Show people who you really are. 7 of 10
    santana-finn

    One of best scenes in "The Quarterback" is between Kurt and Santana in the auditorium, when she runs out after performing a gut-wrenching version of "If I Die Young." Santana tells Kurt that Finn always looked out for her, and she wanted to say nice things about him to the group, but when it came down to it, she couldn't, and defaulted to her sarcastic, critical personality. 

     

    "If there's one thing I've learned from Finn dying, it's that shame is a wasted emotion," Kurt said. "I'm sure Finn had secrets, but who cares now? Do you you really think one day on your deathbed, you're gonna think, "Oh good, no one knew I was kind?"

     

    Before Kurt leaves the auditorium, he passes Finn's varsity jacket on to Santana, in a gesture of this kind of kindness.

     

    Image credit: Facebook

  • You definitely need a support system in difficult times. 8 of 10
    finns-friends-glee

    While Kurt packs to go back home to Lima for Finn's memorial, he says in voiceover:

     

    "Being together is hard. It makes it more real. But I also need my friends right now."

     

    Mercedes's performance of "I'll Stand By You" has a similar message: Your friends are there for you in your darkest hour. 

     

    Image credit: YouTube

  • Love is the only thing that matters in the end. 9 of 10
    rachel-finn-necklace-glee

    Lea Michele's performance of "To Make You Feel My Love" is the final musical tribute to Finn in "The Quarterback," beautifully sung, terribly sad, and reflective of a well-loved character, as well as a real-life romance. 

     

    "I loved Finn and he loved me, and he loved all of you guys, I know he did," she says to her friends. "We liked to sing in the car, and before Finn I used to sing alone and this was the first song that I sang with him when we would drive around together. So, this is for him."

     

    Image credit: Twitter

  • The show must go on. 10 of 10
    rachel-singing-glee

    This episode was not without humor, and Finn was a funny, sometimes goofy, guy. At the end of the show, Rachel gives Mr. Schue a plaque with Finn's picture on it, engraved with "The show must go on...all over the place...or something," a quote from a previous episode. It was typical Finn — we'll show them, we'll keep singing, we'll win — and it seems appropriate to think of his picture hanging in the choir room for new glee kids to see when they come in. 

     

    Image credit: YouTube

 

Image credit: Facebook

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