To say that this episode has loomed over Season 5 is a bit of an understatement. Since the news first broke that Cory Montieth had died there was incredible pressure on the Glee writers to make his character’s departure work within the context of the show. There were early talks of mirroring Montieth’s real life over dose to make a statement about addiction, but the idea was quickly abandoned (hopefully because the writer’s realized that Season 3’s twist that Finn’s father was actually a drug addict and not a decorated war would make any drug abuse totally out of character). They instead chose not to focus on how he died, but rather the grief of those he left behind. Because I was out of town Thursday to Monday I wasn’t able to watch the episode live, but was unable to escape the buzz around it. It seemed almost universally positive (unusual for Glee) and I had high expectations for the episode. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, but as Rachel requested I’m not going to treat the show with kid gloves. Like all episodes of Glee somethings worked and somethings didn’t.
Things That Worked
– Limiting the newbies.
I understand that the newbies connected with Finn as a teacher, but let’s be real, the audience doesn’t care about that. What we do care about are the original characters and how they are coping with the death of their close friend. The writer’s innately understood that and the episode was much better because of it. I don’t think I could have handled Ryder crying over how Finn helped him realize he was dyslexic without throwing my shoe at the TV. Does that make me a bad person? Probably.
– Santana Dealing with Grief
Finn and Santana had a rather complicated past – she took his virginity, he forced her out of the closet – so there was no way that she could simply cry over his death and get over it. Instead she grieved true to character, by lashing out and lobbying insults. When she confronted Sue about her treatment of Finn, she was also projecting all the anger she had towards herself about her own treatment of Finn. Naya Rivera did an excellent job portraying Santana’s violent meltdown (though girl needs to eat a sandwich). I was very anti-Finn for much of Santana’s storyline (I mean he outed her to a hallway full of people, because she called him fat), but I thought they did a good job reconciling his faults with his underlying good intentions.
– Sue Dealing with Grief
Similar to Santana, Sue’s relationship with Finn was rocky. Her grief was right on character and Jane Lynch, as always played it perfectly.
– Kurt/Burt/Carole Scene
This entire scene killed me, but extra gold stars to Mike O’Malley and Romy Rosemont. I do wish they would stop downplaying Burt’s reaction to Finn’s initial homophobia, but otherwise the Burt monologue was spot on and O’Malley delivered it with the perfect amount of regret. Carole’s monologue broke my heart into a thousand pieces and then broke those pieces into a million more. I think the gif below speaks volumes.
– A touch of Rachel Berry
I think it was probably best for Lea Michele as a person that her participation was limited, but I think it also worked best for the episode. We know that Finn’s death will forever change Rachel. We will likely see the effects through the end of the show. It was much more interesting to see how Finn’s death affected the characters that he was less intertwined with. However, the amount that she was in the episode was perfect. I don’t know how she got through it, but it was painful to watch. I really hope this somehow helped her grieving process.
– Tina’s Grief Counseling Session
In an otherwise pretty serious episode, this was a lovely comedic break. Also, Tina continues to be the writer’s favorite human punching bag.
Things That Didn’t Work
– Puck’s Storyline
I’m not sure if it was the writing or the acting that was to blame here. Puck’s storyline was the same basic idea of Santana and Sue, people grieve differently and sometimes they do destructive things, but this was just laughable. I actually laughed out loud when he was “drunk” and screaming at Beiste in the locker room. Also, it’s a little awkward that he decided to join the military as a result of Finn dying since Finn’s own Army attempt was a big old failure.
Usually I’m a fan, but, like I said with Puck, everything about this was terrible. Bad acting. Bad writing. Just all around bad.
– Introduction to Rachel not coming
I respected that they established in the first five minutes that they were not talking about the cause of Finn’s death and that Rachel was not coming to Ohio (at least for the first part), but the weird blurry lenses-ed point of view shot made it seem like Rachel was drugged or something. They could have easily had Kurt stand outside the curtain or just shown him and not shown Rachel in bed. Small nitpick, but it bothered me nonetheless.
– Mr. Schuster is an asshole.
I’ve always hated Mr. Schuster (he is weirdly obsessed with his students and he treats his OCD wife like crap, among many other things), but the jacket thing really takes the cake. The fact that he stole the jacket is pretty creepy in and of itself, but two things really push it over the edge to pissing me off. Firstly, he decides that Santana is unworthly of the jacket. Sure he doesn’t stay it out loud, but the fact that he stole it from her then told her to back off and go home when she was putting up Reward posters speaks volumes enough. Secondly, when everyone was accusing Puck of stealing the jacket Mr. Schuster didn’t defend him and then WHEN THEY WERE ALONE basically told Puck that he needed to give the jacket back, because it wasn’t his. Mr. Schuster knew Puck didn’t steal the jacket, because HE HAD STOLEN THE JACKET and yet he went out of his way, when they were alone, to make Puck feel like shit. Right after his best friend died. Way to be a great teacher and all around upstanding guy, Mr. Schu.