Photo Credit: Courtesy of FOX
Everyone was stunned when Cory Monteith died on July 13, at just 31 years old. As his fans and friends around the world mourned the loss, the question became: What would Glee do about his beloved character, Finn Hudson?
Rumors swirled: Would Finn just leave town? Would they kill him off the show? Soon, creator Ryan Murphy revealed the character would die. But rather than focus on the tragedy itself, he said the episode would be a tribute episode to honor both Cory and Finn and focus on how young people grieve such a loss. Last night, the episode finally aired.
And without a doubt, it was the saddest episode of television that we have ever seen. Viewers weren't just watching a fictional storyline where a young man dies, because the actor really did pass away. Titled "The Quarterback", due to Finn's starring role on the football team and Cory's leadership role within the Glee family, the cast put their raw emotions out for everyone to see, with real sorrow and tears appearing onscreen. And in every scene, you could see just how hard the episode was for these actors to get through.
The show opened with a dark stage as the cast, old and new, gathered together, all dressed in black, to sing "Seasons of Love." It soon transitioned to a Kurt (Chris Colfer) voiceover as we watched him, in New York City, pack his suitcase as he prepared to return home for a memorial service for Finn, whose funeral had taken place three weeks earlier. Kurt reveals that Rachel (Lea Michele) refuses to leave her room and travel back to Ohio with him. Kurt, too, is having difficulty dealing with his grief, refusing to speak about what happened to his step-brother. Through the entire episode, no one would talk about Finn's death.
As the glee club gathered together in the choir room, Mr. Shue (Matthew Morrison) stood as a pillar of support for everyone, offering them a chance to say goodbye to Finn in song. Mercedes (Amber Riley) kicked it off with an emotional rendition of "I'll Stand by You," a song that Finn has previously sung to his supposed unborn child in the first season. You couldn't help but flashback to those early moments of the show.
If fans' hearts weren't already broken, the tears were unstoppable when the scenes moved inside the Hummel-Hudson house. Kurt, his father Burt (Mike O'Malley) and Finn's mom, Carole (Romy Rosemont), tried to pack up Finn's belongings, expressing their regrets and sorrow the entire time. Burt teared up over not hugging Finn enough, Kurt cradled himself in Finn's letterman jacket, and Carole sobbed over how she no longer had a child. It was gut-wrenching.
Back at McKinley, the cast continued to show off the rawest of emotions -- Santana (Naya Rivera) refused to give in to her feelings before finally taking them out on Sue (Jane Lynch); Puck (Mark Salling) struggled with how to go on without his best friend; and Sue broke down after realizing how much Finn actually meant to her. But some emotions overtook others, like when Kurt lends Finn's letterman jacket to Santana -- and it soon goes missing.
In the midst of all the tears, we were also treated to some amazing musical performances. The most heartbreaking of all was given by Rachel, Finn's girlfriend -- and Cory's real-life love.
Lea gave the most beautiful speech about everything Rachel had planned for her future with Finn and how she doesn't know what to do now. The performance was so real that you really knew you were watching Lea talking about the future she had planned with Cory. And for Lea to put on such a brave front and film this episode just weeks after losing her boyfriend, she showed what amazing strength and courage she has.
As Rachel shakily sang "Make You Feel My Love" while tugging on her Finn necklace, tears streaming down her face, we were crying right along with her and the rest of the glee club.
As the show drew to close, we saw Rachel present Mr. Schue with a memorial plaque of Finn for the choir room; Puck planting a memorial tree for Finn with the help of Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) -- and announcing that he was joining the Air Force in his buddy's honor -- and Schue breaking down at home, revealing that he had taken the letterman jacket because he just wasn't ready to let go of his friend.
What Glee best showcased was the different ways that people grieve: from Santana trying to act cool and collected while she was breaking inside, to Kurt pouring out his emotions, to Mr. Shue attempting to remain strong for everyone else, to Rachel eventually emerging from the shadows to face the fact that she had lost "her person."
As sad as it is, Sue was the one who said it best: "There's no happy ending. There's nothing. He's just gone." An unfortunate truth for both Cory and Finn.
RIP Cory Monteith. You will be missed.
To purchase the music from this episode, visit Itunes. All of the proceeds will benefit Cory's favorite charities.
See Lea's full performance of "Make You Feel My Love" below:
The cast of Glee shared their love and support for Cory throughout the night:
Dearest Gleeks, saying goodbye is terribly difficult- we at #glee have had our time. Tonight's ep is not just for Cory, but for all of you.— Darren Criss (@DarrenCriss) October 11, 2013
Tonights Glee was made out of a lot of love & a lot of tears by our incredible crew, cast & creators for our friend Cory. We miss you Cory— Kevin McHale (@druidDUDE) October 11, 2013
Very proud of the Glee family and the heart and soul they poured into tonight's episode. We're honoring a wonderful guy tonight.— Becca Tobin (@becbecbobec) October 11, 2013