The Grief of Glee
Watching Glee has always put me in a good. How can you not smile at the joy the cast radiates when they’re belting out a tune? There’s nothing gleeful about grief, however. Grief is the price you pay for love, and we all loved Finn – and by extension the actor who played him, Cory Monteith. The actor’s death hit me surprisingly hard. I should probably note that my little brother passed away in May. At the time I heard the news about Monteith, I wasn’t even close to recovering from my own loss. I’m sure this contributed to my investment in this episode.
I watched “The Quarterback” episode for the first time alone, because I was certain that I’d be emotional. I also wanted to preview it, before deciding whether or not to let my kids (ages 12 and 9) watch. As expected, I pretty much cried throughout the episode, although I still loved it. I think the producers made the right move by not addressing the cause of Finn’s death, because ultimately it would have been too distracting, given that we all know how Monteith died. Having Finn die in any way other than an overdose would perhaps have suggested that the show was passing judgment on the manner in which the actor himself died. Yet I’m also glad they didn’t betray the history of the character by having him die from drug use. That would have changed the focus of the episode to addiction, which can be polarizing (as proven by the uproar over Monteith’s special tribute at the Emmys). I’m not saying it isn’t an important and valid topic, but like Kurt, I didn’t care how Finn died. I just wanted a chance to mourn him.
Grief is brutal and no one processes it in the same way. The show did an amazing job of demonstrating how differently we all handle these situations. The performances in the episode were spectacular and some blew me away. I read that Ryan Murphy (the show’s producer) said that most scenes only required one cut. The kids of McKinley High were grieving the loss of their beloved Finn, but those very actors were also mourning the passing of a friend, who by all accounts was a great guy. In my second viewing, I found myself studying the actors as they were listening to their costars sing. Their grief was so evident. Poor Chord Overstreet looked like he was on the verge of breaking down in almost every one of his scenes.
There were two nonmusical scenes that really resonated with me. The first was in Finn’s bedroom with Bert, Carol and Kurt packing up Finn’s belongings. There’s a haunting surrealism to sorting your loved one’s things. Who gets what? Should we give it away to charity? What should be discarded? It’s heartbreaking. All this…over stuff. It was so sad to listen to each of them voicing their regrets about things unsaid, while trying to reassure one other that “he knew how you felt about him.” That’s one of the tragedies of sudden death – you have no control over that last time you saw or spoke to the deceased, because you didn’t know it would be the last time. I get that, and it sucks. There is nothing anyone can say to make that ache go away. Watching Finn’s mother break down into tears was almost unbearable.
The second scene was with Santana and Sue (the non-confrontational one). I have no idea what Jane Lynch is like in real life, but we know Sue and she’s not a cry baby. We wouldn’t have bought her crocodile tears. So it was powerful when Sue’s emotions betrayed her and just a few tears rolled down her cheeks as she described how pointless it all was. “All that potential – pft.” On so many levels we understand and it hurts.
As always for Glee, the music was the best part. When the show opened with the cast signing “Seasons of Love,” it set the tone. This was going to be about love and loss. The new kids opened, but then they took a back seat, after turning over the reins to the original members of Glee, who all looked shell-shocked. Most of the gang got to sing goodbye to Finn in song. WOW! Those were some goose bump inducing performances. I just can’t do it justice with a description. You must download the episode, if you haven’t seen it. Vocally, each one hit it out of the park, but it was the expressions and the gestures that made me cry. The anguish was so hard to watch, especially poor Lea Michelle. Personally, I don’t have any earthly idea how she got through it. It was beautiful. She had to have had a little help from above.
I decided to let my kids watch the episode and was surprised by how grown up they were about it. We had a conversation about grief. My daughter, quite poignantly, stated that she now understood what I must have been feeling in the last few months. Then we cried. To quote Sue Sylvester, “There’s no lesson here, there’s no happy ending. There’s just nothing. He’s just gone.”