Last night’s third episode of the fifth season of Glee was the one fans of the show have been both anticipating and dreading, as it was the long-awaited goodbye episode for the late Cory Monteith. These characters who express their every waking thought through song managed to give their beloved Finn a musical sendoff that would certainly have made him smile, while making the rest of us reach for the tissue box repeatedly.
“The Quarterback” opens with the entire cast decked in black, in stark contrast to their usual brightly-colored outfits. We learn that it’s been several weeks since Finn’s funeral, with the original Glee gang returning to school to help Will put together a memorial for their departed friend. Despite Principal Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) doing her best to crack wise, it’s clear the cast is having a difficult time getting through this episode. Oh man, this is tough to watch. Especially when Puck (Mark Salling) tears out the tree planted in Finn’s memory out of anger and sadness.
Together, the entire gang sings “Seasons Of Love” from Rent at the prompting of Will (Matthew Morrison), in order to pay the first tribute to their late friend. He tells them, “Memorialize him the way we only way we know how – by singing.” For the rest of the episode, each original cast member has an opportunity to memorialize Finn with a song or a moment alone.
Mercedes (Amber Riley) says she hasn’t been able to stop crying since the funeral, which is understandable. She volunteers to sing one of Finn’s favorite tunes, “I’ll Stand By You” from The Pretenders. It’s lovely and heartbreaking at the same time.
The next tear-inducing moment isn’t far behind as we see Finn’s mom, Carole, and stepfather Burt, going through Finn’s things. Burt cries as he tells Kurt that he should have given Finn more hugs while he was still alive. Kurt too starts to cry while trying on Finn’s letter jacket. He says, “Seeing him coming through the hallway wearing this, it was like Superman had arrived.” Seeing the cast shed very real tears (most scenes were shot in one take) is an added punch to the stomach for any viewer whose heart isn’t made of stone.
The letter jacket then becomes a source of contention when Puck asks to buy it from Kurt, who refuses to sell it. This frustrates Puck, who is left searching for a token by which to remember his friend.
The next song is “Fire & Rain” by James Taylor performed by Chord Overstreet‘s Sam and Kevin McHale‘s Artie. Once again, the poignant lyrics punctuate the very real tragedy under the surface. Santana (Naya Rivera) is upset by the gravity of the situation and leaves feeling quite emotional. In this state, she sees the huge memorial of photos and other mementos covering Finn’s locker. However, she grows even more upset when she notices that it’s being cleared away per the orders of the impossibly evil Sue Sylvester.
In response, Santana storms into Sue’s office demanding that the memorial remain. Sue, however, is immovable and this causes Santana to tell Sue how much she always hated her before physically pushing Sue into a file cabinet and leaving the office in a huff.
We see Will’s struggle to process his feelings, while overwhelmed with the responsibility of tending to his mourning students. Puck seems to be taking the death of his friend the worst, arriving at school drunk and confessing to Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), “If I start crying, I’ll never stop.” At this point, he is overcome with tears. He manages to make things right by agreeing to give back the tree in exchange for the school agreeing to retire Finn’s number.
The next performance is from Santana, who sings “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry. Overwhelmed with emotion, she tears out of the room in anguish and makes her way to the auditorium, followed by Kurt. As the two of them talk, she remembers Finn fondly, gushing about what a good person he was. Kurt drapes Finn’s letter jacket over her shoulders as he leaves her.
It’s now Puck’s turn to sing for his friend, and he does so with Bruce Springsteen‘s “No Surrender.” This brings the other cast members to tears as the camera pans to the empty chair in which Finn used to sit. The song ends and Santana accuses Puck of taking the letter jacket while she took a moment to rest. While it’s not looking good for Puck, he claims he’s not the culprit.
At this point, Santana decides to apologize to Sue. Much to her surprise, Sue is just as upset as the rest of the Glee gang. She laments that Finn will never know how great of a person she believed he was. When she cries, it’s almost too much to bear.
However, the night’s most heartbreaking moment is when Rachel (Lea Michele) finally shows up and pays her respects to Finn’s memory. She gives a short monologue, and with tears streaming down her face, sings “Make You Feel My Love” (originally by Bob Dylan, covered by Adele) with a very real sadness. Any restraint the rest of the cast was able to exercise is completely lost at this point, as they openly sob.
Santana continues to search for the missing letter jacket. Puck replants Finn’s tree and announces that he’s joining the military. Rachel shares an emotional conversation with Will, asking how he’s faring. This leads into a discussion about Finn and their relationship. As he hugs her, she cries, “He was my person.” Their interaction ends with Rachel giving Will a plaque with Finn’s picture on it and his quote, “The show must go…all over the place…or something.”
At home, Will is finally able to cry, and he does so into Finn’s jacket.
All in all, it was a beautiful tribute that was, however, incredibly difficult to watch. Rachel’s worry that she’ll ever forget the sound of Finn’s voice will hopefully never come to fruition as he has been immortalized on the show that made him so loved by so many.
May he truly rest in peace.
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