Santana was just learning how to be a good friend, too.
News broke April 29 that Naya Rivera — who’s played Santana Lopez on Glee for the past five seasons — is leaving the show, and won’t even be in the fifth season finale. (For what it’s worth: Rivera’s rep said she wasn’t fired; a rep for the show declined to comment to EW). And in Tuesday’s finale, Santana was nowhere to be found. (The show’s explanation: She was “shooting a Yeast-i-Stat commercial in Iowa for a week.”) While fans will have to wait and see if this was indeed Santana’s last stand, there’s no time like the present to look back at highlights featuring one of McKinley High’s most memorable alums.
Watching recent episodes — in which Santana covered for Rachel on Broadway in Funny Girl (!) — it’s easy to forget that when the show originally premiered in 2009, Naya Rivera’s character was something like its fifth female lead. But fans quickly fell in love with Santana: Her rapid-fire insults, slowly-developing relationship with Brittany, and, of course, her smokey pipes all made her a favorite. She became part of Glee‘s original core eight before really breaking out in the show’s later years, moving to New York with Kurt and Rachel before everyone else decided to do the same thing.
You could argue that Santana’s character — like the show, frankly — has run its course. Still, it’s worth remembering that through Santana, the show gave us some of its best plotlines. Kurt had an accepting father; it was Santana who struggled with coming out to her family. Santana was a bully, but she also learned from her mistakes. When it counted, she could be a good friend — just witness the Finn memorial episode, or her dedication to helping Rachel out with Brody. (Remember Brody?)
But for many fans, Santana’s best moments are musical. In that spirit, below are eight of Naya Rivera’s greatest performances — here’s hoping she’ll have more to add to this list, on Glee or off, before too long.
2.) “Girl on Fire”
3.) “If I Can’t Have You”
5.) “River Deep Mountain High”
7.) “Cold Hearted”
8.) “Nutbush City Limits”