Since Corey Monteith’s tragic and untimely death of a drug overdose in July, many wondered how Glee would deal with the sudden disappearance of one of its main characters, Finn. Glee responded with this poignant, earnest episode, “The Quarterback”, dedicated to Corey, but ostensibly about Finn. Although many may have hoped for a special message embedded in Glee’s tribute episode, warning its young audience of the dangers of addiction, the show’s writers chose to avoid the issue entirely.
In all fairness, for Finn to die of a drug overdose would have been pretty illogical and incongruous with his character, so the writers’ decision to sidestep an explanation for Finn’s death is understandable. Kurt, Finn’s stepbrother, informs the audience in an opening narration that “everyone wants to talk about how he died, but who cares?” It seems fair to give Glee some credit for sidestepping the opportunity to sensationalise the young actors death, especially given the show’s tendency toward public service announcement style episodes in the past. “The Quarterback” is a more subtle acknowledgement of grief that doesn’t give into tabloid drama.
The episode takes place weeks after the characters death, and follows Finn’s family and friends as they attempt to come to terms with their loss. Mr Schuester (Matthew Morrison) offers the students a chance to pay tribute to Finn and manage their grief through song; the episode is filled with moving performances, but the standouts have to be Santana’s (Naya Rivera) “If I Die Young” and Monteith’s girlfriend and fellow actress Lea Michele’s tribute, “Make You Feel My Love.” Though the characters may have been mourning Finn, their pain and loss felt very real, with the lines between reality and television blurring in a more genuine way than is common. As Sue (Jane Lynch) pointed out in an important scene in “The Quarterback”, there is no “happy ending” to be taken away here. Glee chose to offer no big message; just loss, and maybe some acceptance.