Glee, Season 5, Episode 3, “The Quarterback“
Written by Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, and Lea Michele
Directed by Brad Falchuk
Airs Thursday 9pm ET on Fox
Perhaps the most well-acted, well-written and well-executed episode of Glee to date, “The Quarterback” is a fitting tribute to both Finn Hudson and Cory Monteith, the actor who played him. Starting with a big group number and scaling back through the episode all the way to the final scene showing Will sobbing into Finn’s stolen letterman’s jacket is a particularly powerful way to portray grief in its many forms. It is also a reminder to “have a good line” no matter how short or long it ends up being.
Lea Michele’s performance as a brave but distraught Rachel Berry is an obviously thin veil over the actress’ own sorrow, but the writers are careful to let other characters like Kurt and Santana carry the storyline. Rachel’s arrival at McKinley High shows her getting back to basics with her hair and her outfits. Even the way she holds herself allows the New York transplant to slip back into the person she was when she shared her life with Finn, her Finn necklace and Peter Pan collar harkening to a time when things were simple and made sense.
While it was originally stated Finn’s death would be directly correlated to the actor’s untimely overdose, the writers decide to take another direction, instead focusing on a celebration of Finn’s life and the positive impact he had on all the other characters on the show. While there are a few comments pertaining to the way Finn died, the storyline is left mostly to the imagination of the viewer. Kurt’s comment professing the way Finn died didn’t nullify the life he lived and Sue’s comment pertaining to the loss of potential seem directed at Cory’s death more than Finn’s.
The episode touches upon many of the regrets people experience when they lose someone unexpectedly. Sue’s tirade in the teacher’s lounge, followed by the shockingly honest scene she shares with Santana in the principal’s office, addresses the special pain that comes when amends are not made or misunderstandings are left unclarified. Mr. Schuester’s need to be strong and unyielding in the face of overwhelming loss is a mental breakdown waiting to happen, Puck’s tree-stealing drunkenness an example of what happens when you don’t know how to mourn. All these examples of how people grieve gives cast, crew, and fans alike the permission to mourn both Finn and Cory in whatever way they feel is appropriate.
While the entire episode feels authentic, two scenes are particularly poignant. The first is, of course, Rachel’s uncharacteristically uncomplicated version of “Make You Feel My Love”. The second is the scene showing Carole, Kurt, and Burt struggling to clean out Finn’s bedroom. Carole’s explanation of just what it feels like to be a mom without a child is raw and open, Burt’s confession that he should have hugged Finn more a confession of his shortcomings as a parent than anything else and a sign of the immense love he felt for his step-son. And as Kurt slips into Finn’s mammoth jacket and presses his nose to the fabric, I can’t help but think of the scene in season one’s “Ballad”, when Kurt is helping Finn go through his father’s dress clothes and divulges that he often lays on the floor in front of his mother’s dresser with the drawers open because it still smells like her.
What many fans feared would be a train wreck of a public service announcement is actually anything but. The episode is beautifully written, the musical performances are authentic, and the acting, unbearably honest. Now we know what the cast and crew are really capable of. While this episode is heart-wrenching, it is also a benchmark of what this collective group of people can accomplish. Now they have our attention more than ever and, we hope they continue to hold it.
Written by Rachel Brandt