Glee kids both past and present gather to say goodbye to Finn Hudson

By Erin Strecker
October 11, 2013 at 04:36 AM EDT
Fox
S5 E3
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  • TV Show
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In what was undoubtedly Glee’s toughest hour, the Lima, Ohio gang of misfits said goodbye to Finn Hudson last night, with a wholly upsetting but well done episode that featured many of the alums performing heartbreaking solo numbers, as well as group grieving scenes that were hopefully cathartic for everyone missing Cory Monteith — both the actors that worked with him for the past four years as well as fans who only knew him through a television screen.

The show began on a dark auditorium stage as the current McKinley Glee club sang “Seasons of Love.” Halfway through, alums Mercedes, Puck, Mike, Kurt and Santana joined them to finish out the stirring rendition. As the number ended, the camera cut to a huge photo of football star Finn Hudson on the screen behind them, then to the black title card. The gut-wrenching “Farewell to Finn” hour had officially begun.

The episode (co-written by the Glee Power Trio of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan) did two very smart things right off the bat: First of all, Glee picked up three weeks after Finn’s funeral, so viewers were spared the uncomfortable, too-close-to-home realness of watching the cast act out a funeral of a friend. Secondly, the show didn’t say how exactly Finn died; instead, Kurt stated that it isn’t important how someone dies, but instead how they lived their life. And so the focus of the episode was on how exactly football-star-turned-national-singing-champ Finn Hudson lived his all-too-short life: Kindly, sweetly and compassionately.

The premise of the episode involved all the main characters returning to Lima for a special Glee club memorial at the school planned by Mr. Schuester. “We’re all going back, everyone who can. Being together is hard; it makes it more real,” Kurt explained via voiceover. “But I also need my friends right now. People keep asking me, ‘What are you feeling?’ ‘How are you feeling?’ But I have no answers. Honestly, what can you say about a 19-year-old who dies?”

Apparently, very little, so the show instead focused on powerful solo performances by many in the cast. The whiteboard assignment of the week was simply, ‘Finn,’ so one by one the gang got up to sing a song that reminded them of him. And yes, it was just as upsetting to watch as you thought it would be. Mercedes kicked things off by belting, “I’ll Stand By You,” which of course Finn himself sang (to a sonogram, no less) in the early days of the show. Bittersweet memories!

NEXT: Finn’s mom and Santana break down

If Mercedes’ performance didn’t get you choked up, the scene following probably did. Finn’s mom, Carole, was going through Finn’s stuff with Kurt and Burt, and a few items triggered some seriously emotional responses. First, Burt decided he wanted to keep the “faggy” lamp that Finn held onto for Kurt, which led to Burt feeling guilty about how he acted with Finn. “I should have hugged him more,” he explained through tears. “The last time I saw him, he was so bummed out about a test at school, and I just told him to ‘Get back at it.’ It was the perfect time for a hug.”

When Carole placed his letterman jacket in a ‘Donate’ box, Kurt intervened and declared he’ll be keeping it. “Seeing him in the hall wearing this, it was like Superman had arrived,” he explained as everyone re-remembered how great season 1 of Glee was. This set Carole, off, and she gave a heartbreaking speech about how she doesn’t know how parents survive after losing a child. “You have to keep being a parent even though you don’t get to have a child anymore,” she sobbed. The scene was easily one of the roughest of the hour to watch; I’m sure many viewers felt like they were eavesdropping on people’s private grief.

Back at school, things weren’t much better. McKinley had planted a memorial tree (funded by Kurt) but someone (viewers saw it was Puck) had stolen it. Puck was struggling with his grief, first angrily trying to get the jacket from Kurt, then later drunkenly confessing to Coach Beiste, “If I start crying, I don’t think I’ll ever stop.” It was fitting that his honest moment came with Beiste; the two have helped each other through tough situations (like issues with Beiste’s ex-husband) before. In the choir room, Puck sang “No Surrender,” then replanted the tree he stole. He shared that Finn always helped him be a better person, and Beiste told him he was going to have to do that for himself now. Puck agreed, and announced he was joining the Air Force. And with that, Puck hopped on a motorcycle, ready to move on to the next chapter of his life.

People who weren’t ready to move on? Santana. After singing most of “If I Die Young” in the choir room, she got sad, then angry, then ran to the auditorium, upset with herself for not being able to resist making a few jokes prior to her performance. Kurt (clad in Finn’s jacket) went to talk with her, and the two had a very sweet heart-to-heart about the nice things Finn did for her. Side note: I understand this stuff isn’t always possible, but it would have been nice to have Quinn and Brittany mentioned in passing if they couldn’t be in the episode. Their presence was missed, particularly with Santana sharing memories. Before leaving Santana alone with her thoughts, Kurt wrapped Finn’s jacket around her arms.

NEXT: Rachel returns

Santana freaking out had been building for awhile. Prior to talking with Kurt, Santana and Sue got into a rapidly escalating fight about candles in the hallway, which was really about Finn and two very hurt people. It ended with Santana pushing Sue, and when she later went to apologize, an obviously distraught Sue told her she was right. “I was horrible to that kid,” she shared. When Santana tried to make her feel better, and offered that maybe this could be a learning experience about how to treat people, Sue matter-of-factly snapped, “I don’t care about people, I care about him. He was such a good guy, and I’ll never get to tell him…There’s no lesson here, there’s no happy ending. There’s just nothing. He’s just gone.”

That brutal truth really resonated with me, as I’m sure it did for many viewers. The tough-talking Sue was a nice change of pace from some of the other weepy moments. This episode did a great job showcasing — especially for younger viewers — the different ways people deal with death/stages of grief. There was guilt with Burt and Sue, bargaining with Tina, anger with Santana and Puck, and even some denial from Will, who didn’t allow himself to cry and instead felt like his job in all of this was to be strong for the kids.

But Will’s resolve couldn’t last for long, and Rachel, showing up three-quarters of the way through the hour, only made things harder. Rachel first appeared holding Kurt’s hand in the hallway and explained of the growing memorial outside Finn’s locker, “It’s beautiful. I just had to see.” After a commercial break, Rachel requested, “Nobody treat me with kid gloves, okay?” before singing her Finn Hudson Choir Room Memorial Song, “Make You Feel My Love.” She’s crying throughout, and while she obviously sounded lovely, it was heartbreaking to watch. [It should be noted all proceeds from music downloads tonight go to Project Limelight, a charity Monteith supported.]

NEXT: Thanks to a jacket, Will finally grieves

Equally heart-wrenching was her follow-up scene with Mr. Schuester, in which Rachel tearfully shared that all her dreams of her “happily ever after” life with Finn are gone, and she’s just not sure what to do. She had a plaque made with a picture of Finn that Will immediately hung in the choir room — another smart move by Team Glee. It’s a perfect way to remember him and continue to have him around on the show without demanding to be regularly forced into conversation. Like most of the hour, this scene was both brutal to watch and hit the right notes of what viewers likely felt they needed to see as a proper tribute to the character of Finn, Rachel’s Glee-universe soulmate.

Now back to the jacket. After Kurt gave it to Santana, Santana took a nap in the nurse’s office and woke up to discover it was gone. She first thought Puck took it, but he insisted he didn’t. Later, she hung up “Missing” posters all over school, and informed Will she was going to “kick the ass” of whoever took it. I think we all know where this is going… The last scene of the episode was Will going to his apartment, taking out the jacket from his bag, and sobbing into it. (Emma joins him after a moment.)

I’m sure this is a controversial opinion, but, um, that’s not okay? The jacket isn’t his, no matter how much he may want it to be. Sure, people act irrationally in times of grief, and I would certainly be okay if in the next episode we see the jacket back at Santana and Kurt’s place in NYC — perhaps with a note from Mr. Schu explaining he just needed it for a few days. But as it stands right now, Santana explicitly told him she wanted the jacket. I was afraid for a moment we were going down a Mean Girls hole, where each of the main cast was going to get a piece of the jacket to keep with them and remind them of Finn. That doesn’t appear to be the case, so it’ll be interesting to see what — if anything — happens with the famed jacket next.

This also brings up a larger question about the show going forward: Now that this painful hour is behind us, where does the show go from here? Glee is now on a month-long hiatus, and no big plot updates have been announced. Will there be a flash forward, or will we pick up where we left off tonight? A location change? Will Finn be brought up regularly, or will the picture in the choir room serve as the reminder? What would keep you continuing to tune in? And what did you think of tonight’s Farewell to Finn?

No musical grades for this episode, but viewers can listen to all of the tunes here.

Erin on Twitter

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Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.
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