Glee Review/Recap Season 5 Episode 3 ‘The Quarterback’: Good Goodbye

Glee S5E3 image

To paraphrase Glee — and Love Story — what can you say about a 19-year-old boy, and a 31-year-old actor, who dies?

In the course of a heartfelt to the point of harrowing Episode 3, “The Quarterback,” Glee said a lot — about loss, grief, regret and resolve. But most of all it spoke to the staggering sadness so many feel in the face of death, and the sharing of emotion which can make it more bearable.

Yes, it was sad, as we watched actors crying more than the characters they play.  But it was also necessary and vital. It was the acknowledgment and closure Glee needed as a family and a fandom after the tragic and shocking overdose death of Cory Monteith July 13, a closure which now allows the show to go on, as a choir room plaque fittingly honoring Monteith’s Finn said in his lovably awkward way.

With mere moments of offsetting mirth, the story also was fitting, set three weeks after Finn’s funeral following a death whose cause wasn’t cited here, and on the eve of a memorial gathering by classmates at McKinley, much as Glee’s cast held a memorial on the studio lot after Monteith’s passing.

Many major characters had no lines this week, but for scenes reportedly shot in one take, they were there, sharing in grief along with returnees such as Harry Shum Jr. And those who got to sing commanded their songs, from Mark Salling’s vibrant unplugged rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s No Surrender to Amber Riley’s wailing, passionate lead vocals for The Pretenders’ I’ll Stand by You, reprising a song Finn/Cory sang in Season 1.

Group number Seasons of Love from Rent was a stirring start, and Chord Overstreet and Kevin McHale’s Fire and Rain, while a cookie-cutter rendition of James Taylor’s song, certainly had class.

For me, the show’s only false note was Santana’s inability to even finish her song, If I Die Young, because she was so wracked with grief. This was the same Santana who’d viewed and treated Finn with contempt for years. And apart from acknowledging “he was a better person than I am,” she didn’t own that scorn the way Sue owned up regretfully to her own belligerence toward a boy she admitted was “such a good guy,” in one of those rare and rich revelations of the compassion beneath her gruff exterior.

Chalk it up to allowing Naya Rivera a grief which her character may not have merited, and let’s move on.

That leaves the final person to sing on this night, Finn’s on-and-off girlfriend onscreen, Rachel, played by Cory’s real-life girlfriend offscreen, Lea Michele.

I knew she wouldn’t be there until episode’s end, but when she suddenly and unexpectedly appeared for a moment at the close of one segment, my jaw dropped. In its own way, it was one of the most dramatic entrances I’ve ever seen.

Michele’s sweetly sorrowful Make You Feel My Love (popularized by Adele, but written by Bob Dylan) was a tenderly tearful ode to the man she and Rachel loved so fiercely.

But again, it was more about the cast than the characters, and my heart went out to Michele for being so bravely vulnerable yet resolute at this toughest of times. She reportedly was involved in this entire episode’s creation, and it felt that way. It felt right.

Other moments also stood out, from Kurt’s weeping embrace of his stepbrother’s letter jacket (and again, why would Santana deserve to get this?) to Will’s unleashing of his pent-up grief while comforted by wife Emma, to Puck and Coach Beiste confronting the jolting finality of their loss.

But most moving apart from Michele was the grief felt by Finn’s mother, played with wrenching sadness by Romy Rosemont, and his stepfather, played by the always soulful Mike O’Malley. I suspect that will be the most emotional scene of any TV series this season, because it was so real.

The show also wound up tastefully, saving for last one of five PSA’s the actors shot to warn against drug addiction and provide a call-center number for help. Then it ended respectfully, with no preview or Fox fanfare music — just silence.

There — now it’s done. And now, as Finn himself said, the show must go on. And it will.

But Glee has lost more than one cast member in a broad ensemble. It’s lost a man whose character I long considered the moral compass of this show, and whom I defended even as haters slammed him mercilessly for reasons I never understood.

Finn always meant well. As Sue and Burt pointed out, he never wanted to hurt anyone, and he lacked a prejudiced bone in his body. He also was a leader — not only as quarterback of McKinley’s football team, but as figurative quarterback of its glee club.

Similarly, Cory was known for his loving and generous heart — and you can’t have a better epitath than that.

For this bold little show of which he was such a big part, and for those who knew and loved him, Cory never can be replaced. He only can be remembered.

But at least we have that.

— Bruce Westbrook

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