It was an episode the fans didn't want to see, an episode the cast didn't want to film and an episode the crew didn't want to make. But The Quarterback, Glee's posthumous tribute to Cory Monteith, and by extension Finn Hudson, was a painful but powerful hour of television.
It opened with the glee club performing Seasons of Love from Rent. One particular section of the chorus served as an outline for the entire episode: Remember the Love, Share Love, Give Love, Spread Love. The focus of the episode was not the circumstances around Finn's passing, in fact the cause of death was never actually stated because this episode wasn't about how Finn died, but how he lived.
Picking up three weeks after Finn's funeral, everyone was returning to Lima for a New Directions memorial service. A week where everyone could perform songs that reminded them of Finn. Songs that routinely ended in tears. For viewers and for the actors. It became crystal clear during Amber Riley's stirring rendition of I'll Stand By You that the actors were, understandably, barely able to keep their emotions at bay.
The Quarterback went beyond acting. We were watching the cast mourn and grieve and pay tribute to their fallen friend the best way they knew how.
Not even 42 minutes of pathos and teary performances properly prepared for the arrival of Rachel Berry and Lea Michele. Absent for most of the episode, she showed up in Lima to honor Finn, and Cory, with a painfully emotionally rendition of Make You Feel My Love.
Creator Ryan Murphy recently opened up to reporters about how difficult the episode was to create, conceptualize and capture. "When we wrote it, we wrote it because we loved Cory. The episode is about how all those people loved Cory and find it hard to go on with the show, so to speak. It was incredibly difficult to work on and incredibly difficult to shoot. People are still not over [his death]. It was very rough for Lea, but I'm very proud of [the episode]. I think the performances are stunning."
"Almost everything in the episode is from the first take of every performance because the actors and the crew had a really hard time shooting it. What you're seeing is not just what they felt about Finn, but Cory. Those actors and [the crew] really loved Cory. The episode is called The Quarterback and Cory really was that to those people. That group of kids went through the limelight and became real famous at a very difficult age and many of them really struggled with it; Cory obviously very much struggled with it but never on the surface and I think that's why everybody loved him. He was the most kind, the most generous and never had a bad word for anybody.
So where will Glee go from here once it returns from a brief hiatus? Murphy reveals, "We keep mentioning Finn. We don't just say this is done and we're never going to go back to it. It resonates throughout the year; we're trying to be sensitive but trying to go back to some more optimistic stories. He always loved that about the show."
Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.