TV Review - Glee: Season 5 - Tribute to Cory Monteith

Cory Monteith as Finn Hudson as depicted
in 'Glee' in the episode "The Quarterback"
For four years, Cory Monteith starred as Finn Hudson, the football player turned singer in glee club. He was the dream. He was a great athlete but who secretly had artistic-musical aspirations. He was sweet. He was cool. He was funny. Yet, Finn was not without his problems. He was quite macho and was somewhat homophobic, but thanks to his gay stepbrother Kurt Hummel, played by Chris Colfer, as well as to his progressive, aggressively liberal and Broadway-loving girlfriend Rachel Berry, played by Lea Michelle, Finn was able to overcome a lot of his issues. Unfortunately, Monteith who did suffer from addiction and substance abuse wasn't able to overcome his real-life issues. On July 13, Monteith at the age of 31 died from a drug overdose in his Vancouver hotel room.

Yes, so many Hollywood celebrities have died from drug overdoses. Recently, there have been a myriad of actors and musicians from Heath Ledger, Brad Renfro, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. A year or so ago, Monteith appeared on Inside the Actors Studio with the cast and creators of Glee where he told host James Lipton about his addiction. Then, earlier this year, it was reported that Monteith had gone back to rehab. This interrupted his appearances on the TV series for Season 4. Creator Ryan Murphy and his team were able to write around it, but it was questionable how they would handle Monteith's actual death.

They could have gone several routes. The way I presumed was that the producers would compile a clip show where the producers would replay snippets from previous episodes of Finn performing. I figured this tribute, which aired on Thursday, October 10, would showcase the best song and dance numbers by Monteith, but no.

Murphy instead made the episode entitled "The Quarterback" about the core cast members, and about showcasing their talents. The episode was pure catharsis. Because his cast is so large, Murphy is able to depict dealing with grief in a variety of ways and he does so. Different characters handle Finn's loss differently, but the majority of it was getting the characters to a place where ultimately they can release pent up tears. Here there be much crying.

What was great is that aside from crying, there was also anger, and surprisingly humor. Emmy-winner Jane Lynch who plays Sue Sylvester was true to character. She still was throwing insult jokes. Naya Rivera who plays Santana was true to her character. She was still loud, aggressive and in-your-face. Murphy brilliantly put those two together to craft some great dramatic fireworks.

The working premise of each episode going back four years is each week Will Schuester, played by Matthew Morrison, who is the main teacher on the show and who manages the glee club, assigns a category or genre of songs. For this episode, the category that Will wrote on the band room's board is "Finn."

Will simply told the glee club to do songs that were either performed by Finn or reminded you of him. It would have been interesting if the show orchestrated a Natalie Cole / Nat King Cole-style duet, but again the show was more about the living than the dead. The tribute songs were all heartbreakingly done. The second best was Mercedes, played by Amber Riley, singing "I'll Stand By You" (The Pretenders), which Finn did back in Season 1, Episode 10.

The near showstopper and best by far was Rachel singing "Make You Feel My Love" (Bob Dylan / Adele). Rachel confronted the glee club 45 minutes into the episode after not appearing until then, only to blow them all away with that performance, and not leaving a dry eye in the house.

In terms of the story, I had hoped or assumed that the writers would directly address drug or substance abuse. Except, it was odd because the episode is set one month following Finn's funeral, and all throughout the episode, nobody spoke about what actually caused Finn's death. Monteith's cause of death and his passing is still so fresh and raw that the audience has to assume that Finn's death is selfsame, but, for all we know Finn could have died in a car accident or by suicide, which are things that have been depicted on this show.

Instead of making the story about how Finn died or why, Murphy makes the plot about Finn's letterman jacket. We get a scene where Finn and Kurt's parents pack up Finn's room and all his stuff. In that scene, Kurt takes Finn's letterman jacket and wraps himself in it, intending on keeping it forever, but, after seeing Santana's difficulty with accepting Finn's death, Kurt gives Santana the jacket. Yet, Puck, Finn's best friend, played by Mark Salling, expresses that he wants the jacket. When Santana reports it missing, finding the culprit becomes a mystery with Puck as the chief suspect.

This jacket story seems slight, but it's almost perfect because to explain Finn's death equating it to Monteith's death would have required some serious retcon action, but given Finn's absences in Season 4, it could have worked. However, that's not what Murphy wanted this episode or even the two episodes that preceded to be. He wanted this episode to be about the living and not the dead. Murphy may save Finn's cause of death for a later date but right now it's not about how he died but how everyone else is going to go on living.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLV.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Thursdays at 9PM on FOX.
On hiatus until Nov. 9, 2013.


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