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Glee 5.03 "The Quarterback" Review: It's Not How You Die But How You Live That's Important

     The October 10th episode of Glee, “The Quarterback,” paid tribute to actor Cory Monteith who played Finn Hudson. Monteith, of course, died tragically just before filming was to start on season five of the show. The episode was written by Brad Falchuk (who also directed), Ryan Murphy, and Ian Brennan, with help from Lea Michele (Rachel). Michele was also Monteith’s real life girlfriend.

    I know that I was not alone in wondering how the show would deal the character’s death. How would Finn die? In the end, in what felt like a perfect solution, the show never says how Finn died. Kurt (Chris Colfer) says, “How he died... who cares?” It doesn’t matter how either Monteith or his character died. What matters is that a young man is gone too soon and has left a gaping hole in the hearts of all those he touched with his life, his art, and his music.

    I won’t say that the entire episode was a perfect success. The odd mix of music, comedy, and drama that is Glee did not seem the perfect vehicle for this subject matter and the action felt a bit forced and awkward at times. I think that the episode might have been more cohesive if for once they picked a single genre – drama - to carry the thread of the story through. There would still have been opportunity for comedy as humor is one way that people deal with grief.

    The musical numbers all rang true, however, and it was fantastic to see almost the entire cast back to pay tribute. The only cast member that I really missed was Diana Agron (Quinn Fabray). Glee has used music throughout the five seasons to help tell its stories, so it felt appropriate for music to play the largest part in helping both viewers, characters, and actors to find some comfort. New Directions – Kurt, Puck (Mark Salling), Sam (Chord Overstreet), Artie (Kevin McHale), Mercedes (Amber Riley), Santana (Naya Rivera), Blaine (Darren Criss), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), and Mike (Harry Shum Jr) - begin the tribute by singing “Seasons of Love.” Mercedes sings “I’ll Stand By You” by The Pretenders which was one of my favorite songs that Montieth did on the show. Artie and Sam perform “Fire and Rain” and Santana performs “If I Die Young. Puck performs No Surrender, and fittingly Rachel has the last song, “Make You Feel My Love.”

    There were a number of powerful scenes. Most notably the scene in which Carole (Romy Rosemont), Burt (Mike O’Malley), and Kurt try to deal with packing up Finn’s room. Rosemont and O’Malley’s performances in particular are heart-wrenching as Finn’s parents try to come to terms with their son’s death. Burt may not have been Finn’s biological father, but he was always a father to him in every way that counted.

    At McKinley, both students and staff struggle to deal with Finn’s loss. Santana and Puck, as those closest to Finn, struggle the most. Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) is there to help Puck, and Kurt supports Santana, even giving her Finn’s letterman’s jacket. Everyone wants some kind of tangible remembrance, and Finn’s letterman jacket becomes a symbol for the importance he played as the Quarterback in everyone’s life. He was a natural leader and provided Puck with guidance and support perhaps most of all.

    The teachers are also struggling. Emma (Jayma Mays) is providing grief counselling but isn’t actually seeing anyone come in for it. In one of the scenes that really just didn’t work for me, Tina comes to see Emma and is concerned that she is reverting back to her Goth look. Once again, I felt badly for Ushkowtiz being stuck with a stupid storyline.

    Everyone grieves differently and in their own time, however, and it takes Santana and Mr Shue (Matthew Morrison) a little longer than the others to come to terms with their loss. Santana lashes out at Sue (Jane Lynch) for beginning to dismantle Finn’s memorial. For once, Sue is actually acting like a responsible adult in helping the students to move on. Sue expresses some of the same sentiments as Burt – regret at what wasn’t said or done when last in the presence of Finn. The message is clear: let those you love and respect know how you feel before it’s too late.

    Emma is concerned that Will hasn’t let his feelings out and cried. It is completely consistent for him to put the kids first, however, and his music lesson for the week is for the kids to come to terms with their own grief through song. Fittingly, the episode closes with Will sobbing in Emma’s arms in the privacy of their home.

    I wasn’t able to find any information on exactly what Michele’s contribution was to the episode. I would hope that she would have had some input into the songs chosen. Rachel’s feelings of loss rang very true, and I have to wonder if perhaps many or all of them are a good indication of Michele’s own feelings.

    What did you think of the episode? Was it a fitting tribute? Did it help you come to terms with Monteith’s death? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Glee is now on hiatus until November 7.