Glee took on the almost impossible task of having to say goodbye to one of its characters, who was played by an actor (Cory Monteith) who died in real life. Actors leave shows all the time and their characters are killed off, but rarely are writers forced to deal with the onscreen death when the actor dies. Cheers dealt with it when Nicolas Colasanto passed away (they never really acknowledged the death, but had a nice moment in the series finale) and 8 Simple Rules dealt with it when star John Ritter passed away. It’s a difficult situation.
For the death of Finn Hudson, they decided not to say how he died, but start the episode 3 weeks after his funeral. Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) decides that they need to grieve for Finn through song (of course). The episode opened with the new cast singing “Seasons Of Love” from Rent, and then revealed Santana, Mercedes, Kurt, Puck, and Mike (Mike is back!) joining them on stage.
From there, various characters got to sing solos to grieve, like Mercedes (Amber Riley) singing “I’ll Stand By You”, Sam and Artie (Chord Overstreet and Kevin McHale) singing “Fire And Rain”, and Puck singing “No Surrender”. It’s powerful watching these actors dealing with their grief onscreen through their characters, but it also didn’t work at certain points. This might have been too close to home for the writers to tackle and too difficult for some of the actors to handle. Scenes with Puck (Mark Salling) and Coach Beiste (perennial Emmy nominee Dot Marie Jones) were filled with over-the-top acting and cliched dialogue, while Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) talking to Emma (Jayma Mays) lacked true emotion. If the backstory of this episode was that an actor had just left the show, and the writers had decided to kill them off, we would have laughed at the mediocrity of the writing, but since we know the true backstory, we give it a lot of leeway.
Obviously this isn’t a case of lack of emotion, but I think it was a case of the writers and actors being so scared of confronting their own feelings that they resorted to corny dialogue and stilted acting.
The moments that did work on the show mostly involved Naya Rivera. Obviously, it was too big of a task for Lea Michele to take on a starring role in this episode, so it mostly fell on Naya to carry the emotional weight as Santana, and she nailed it. Rivera keeps on proving herself as a powerhouse on this show, no matter what the tone, from comedic to dramatic. From her fantastic confrontation with Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) to her beautiful rendition of “If I Die Young” to her heartfelt breakdown as she searched for Finn’s jacket, Rivera was able to work past her own emotions, and therefore, able to bring authentic emotion to her character.
And of course, the moment we were all waiting for, Rachel appearing on screen, didn’t disappoint. Michele didn’t really need to do any acting, and wasn’t afraid of showing her emotion. She gave a powerfully genuine and honest performance every second she was onscreen. “To Make You Feel My Love” will go down as one of the most memorable musical moments on this show.
So Glee got through it. Not perfectly, but they did tackle the momentous task of saying goodbye to Finn and Cory Monteith.
What do you think of the tribute episode?