“Glee” aired what is arguably the most emotionally intense episode in the history of the series, “The Quarterback,” on Oct. 10.
We waited, bracing ourselves. Looming around every corner of The Beatles tribute episodes was the knowledge that our beloved “Glee” cast was mourning the death of their friend, Cory Monteith. The tragedy of it hung there, like a dark cloud in the face of Rachel’s (Lea Michele) most important victory: Winning the role of Fanny Brice in the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl.”
Has there ever been a single episode of television that the world so desperately needed, feared, awaited and then held their collective breath between periods of heaving sobs while viewing besides this one?
Absolutely not. We didn’t watch this episode. We felt it. We experienced it.
Generations of people mourned the death of Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, and Princess Diana. But they never felt intimately connected to their friends’ and family’s grief.
Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan gave us a huge gift with the script they penned: They gave us an outlet for our grief and a chance to connect with Cory’s friends and other grieving Gleeks around the globe. We attended Cory Monteith’s memorial as the McKinley High gang bid their tearful goodbyes to Finn Hudson. We cried with them and for them.
People say funerals are for the living. That they bring closure.
“The Quarterback” not only graciously grants us this closure, it reminds us to remember and celebrate Cory’s life as we knew it – the energy and beauty and smile he gave so freely in his portrayal of Finn and to all of his family, friends and fans. We remember the songs he shared from his soul.
We're also reminded that Lea, Chris, Darren, Amber, Kevin, Mark, Matthew, Jenna, Harry, Chord and the rest of the “Glee” cast and crew may be celebrities, but ultimately they are people, like us. They laugh and cry. Hurt and heal. Make mistakes and learn from them. Love and lose loved ones.
“Glee,” very respectfully and unobtrusively offers up two important truths like bookends at the beginning and the end of this heartfelt tribute: Our lives should be measured by the love we give and addiction can have tragic consequences.
The image of this vibrant group of young actors dressed in black to honor their friend in song is instantly sobering. Their "Seasons of Love" anthem is exceedingly beautiful and tears automatically start and don’t stop until probably thirty minutes POST the end of the episode.
First impression: These people, who obviously share a close bond, are incredibly brave for opening themselves up during such a difficult time.
Their message is loud and clear: Remember the love. Remember with love. Remember to love.
There are several standout moments in this unforgettable episode, including Kurt (Chris Colfer) sorting through Finn’s things with his dad and Carole (Romy Rosemont).
Anyone who’s lost someone knows what an emotionally grueling task this is. When someone leaves us, we keep tangible items as a way of keeping a piece of them with us after they’re gone.
The whole scene with Kurt, Burt (Mike O’Malley) and Carole in Finn’s bedroom is heartbreaking. Burt feels guilty for not hugging Finn enough and Carole, as a mother is racked with grief. The parting shot of Burt and Kurt huddling around Carole, who is sobbing, is incredibly real and sad.
Naya Rivera gives one of the strongest performances she’s ever given as Santana deals with grief and guilt over the way she treated Finn while he was alive. Her tribute song, “If I Die Young,” is vulnerable and moving.
We’re shocked, frankly, when she lashes out at Sue (who truly seems to deserve it) to the point of shoving her into the filing cabinets. Things come full circle when she returns to apologize and we’re hit with another truth: A loved one’s death often forces us to examine how we live our own lives.
Mark Salling/Puck and Shannon/Dot Marie Jones
Puck has always been a rebel, never really gotten too close to anyone and counted Finn as one of his closest friends. In fact, his best friend. He takes his death hard and acts out by stealing Finn’s memorial tree.
Puck and Coach Bieste have a really tough conversation as she tries to draw him out to express his feelings over Finn’s death. Mark Salling and Dot Marie Jones do some incredible work as Puck and Shannon both fight against their gruff exteriors to show their true feelings.
Right after Cory’s sudden, tragic death, Ryan Murphy credited Lea Michele as being one of the strongest people he knows. Lea Michele lost the love of her life and at the same time, “Glee’s” fate, as a series, seemed to rest on her shoulders.
Talk about pressure. But, she handled it with poise and grace. She decided the best thing for everyone would be to be back together and get back to work.
Rachel appears in the last segment of the tribute, wearing a gold necklace that says “Finn” in place of her “Rachel” necklace. She tells everyone how much she loved Finn and that he loved her, and all of them Tears are streaming down her face as she sings an incredible and emotional version of “Make You Feel My Love.”
Our tears, which have been building to this crescendo, are uncontrollable now. Yes, Kristin Dos Santos from “Eonline.” we are ugly crying now!
Rachel brings the plaque with Finn’s picture to the choir room and shares her dream of their perfect “happily ever after" with Mr. Schue. We know, like Rachel, Lea’s got to do “something different” and our hearts and prayers go out to her.
Finn’s quote beneath his picture puts a bittersweet cap on an emotionally draining but heartwarming episode: “The show must go … all over the place … or something.”
What Can We Do?
It’s a cold, hard fact: Death leaves a void in the space of time that a loved one used to occupy in our lives. The phone calls, lunches, Sunday drives, silly times, and quiet conversations are gone. We are left with memories and empty time on our hands.
So, what can we do? We can live our lives with purpose. We can follow our dreams and help others to follow theirs. We can help those in need and seek ways to make a difference in the world around us. We can climb outside of ourselves, take our eyes off of ourselves and reach out to others.
Above all, we can love unconditionally without restraint. Love is what living is about. It’s the one thing that never ends.
Sales of “Glee” song downloads from “The Quarterback” will be donated to Project Limelight in Cory Monteith’s memory.
If you are struggling with addiction or have a friend who is struggling with addiction contact SAMSHA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Administration) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
“ Glee” airs in Flint on WSMH FOX66.