Glee’s tagline for this episode was ‘The hardest word to say is “goodbye”.’ And it’s true.
While Cory Monteith and Finn Hudson were two separate entities, this episode contained emotions that were very much real and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that minimal acting was involved because of the raw sadness radiating from the screen. Throughout the episode, I was overcome with utter sadness multiple times. It really hit me that I had grown to love a character so much that his death had affected me so drastically.
I’m writing this while listening to the mini-album from the episode and I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to express everything correctly.
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?
– “Seasons of Love”
The episode starts off with “Seasons of Love” which is a beautiful choice for two reasons: the gorgeous lyrics and the fact that Cory Monteith loved RENT.
It was the perfect choice. I cannot stress that enough. Every lyric spoke to how they desperately wanted Cory/Finn to be remembered. They wanted us to remember him for everything he was, because despite his faults, who he was as a person was an amazing, loving, kind-hearted man who wouldn’t have wanted to be remembered any other way.
There was a certain kind of haunting nostalgia as the newer/younger members of New Directions parted to make way for the ‘original cast’, which consisted of Naya Rivera, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., and Mark Salling. It was reminiscent of the Thanksgiving episode from last season where the graduates reunited on stage amidst smiles and hugs, but this time there was a key player missing and an irreplaceable one at that.
The episode does not state in any explicit terms how Finn passed away, but rather focuses on the individual characters’ grieving processes. Whether it was Santana’s lashing out, or Mr. Schuester’s inability to fully grieve and cry until the very end, each character gave in to their sadness in a unique but equally heartbreaking way.
We made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, no surrender
– “No Surrender”
There’s no way to measure grief, but if I were to label one storyline as the most heart-wrenching, I’d say it was Mark Salling’s portrayal of Puck. Puck and Finn had a messy history and at times they appeared to dislike each other, but the fact remained that Finn and Puck would be brothers and best friends forever.
Puck’s grief dealt with the fact that he no longer had Finn telling him what to do. He had relied so heavily on his best friend, his quarterback and he had no idea how to deal with the sudden loss. In an emotionally-heavy scene between Puck and football coach Beiste, she tells him (and us):
“He’s dead and we’ve got left is his voice in our head. You’ve got to be your own quarterback now.”
It was a terrible sadness and it left me reeling once more at how real everything was. I had experienced immense sadness when I had first heard of his death back in July, but seeing everything laid out in a very concrete way made his death more tangible to us as an audience more so than before.
The characters’ gradual acceptance of Finn’s death becomes more and more apparent as they each express their feelings in the way they know best and the way that Finn/Cory would have wanted: through song. The anticipated performance of the episode was Lea Michele‘s and whether or not she’d bring me to tears. Which she did. Rachel doesn’t show up until the very end of the episode where she sings Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”, which was so agonizingly beautiful that I wished desperately I could have paused just to take a breather.
The little moments in the episode were the most powerful though. Finn’s mother’s parental grief, the subtle reminders of events from past episodes, the way Finn’s letterman jacket looked as if it would have still smelled like him – as if he could have been there hugging each character that put it on. They were all reminders of the loss of a great man and a great character. Finn had many issues, but despite my complaints about him, I had never hated him because it was just impossible to do so.
The episode closes with Mr. Schuester crying into the letterman, clinging to last tangible memory he has of the boy he had come to love like a son (and who loved him like a father he never had). He clings to that memory just as we can cling onto Finn Hudson.
Cory and Finn come together at last. His voice truly does live on in the many songs and laughter he’s provided for us through four seasons as The Quarterback.
Rest in peace Cory.