“Glee” recap 5.03: Grief Siesta

 
 

Mercedes honors Finn with a solo of “I’ll Stand By You,” and of all the miracles Amber Riley has made with her voice over the years, this performance is her most earth-shaking. Artie and Sam lead New Directions in an acoustic performance of “Fire and Rain” that is as poignant as it is appropriate (“I always that that I’d see you again…”). Mark Salling gives us Springsteen‘s “No Surrender” and never makes eye contact with the camera or anyone else in the room.

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And Santana. Santana whose heartache causes her to rush out during the middle of “If I Die Young,” a scream of anguish tearing itself from inside her. She takes all of her anger and rage at herself out on Sue, who graciously accepts it. And even she can’t make sense of the huge awfulness of losing someone with a heart like Finn’s. More than anyone else, they really counted on the full spectrum of Naya Rivera and Jane Lynch‘s abilities in this episode, and they crushed it. “Grief siesta” and “No me gusta” landed actual laughs, the physical and verbal assault on Sue was both shocking and real, and their collective inability to be vulnerable in front of the group rang really true.

And then there’s Rachel. Rachel shows up near the episode’s end to see Finn’s memorial and to perform “To Make You Feel My Love.” It was the first song she and Finn sang together in the car. How Lea Michele managed this, I’ll never know. The whole time she was singing, I was thinking of the phoenix song from Harry Potter, about Fawkes singing his beautiful, terrible lament and Harry marveling that the music was inside him, healing his soul somehow, speaking directly to his grief. I was thinking about Dumbledore saying, “Ah, music! A magic beyond all we do here!” And I was thinking Lea Michele knew all that, and this was her gift to the people who loved Finn and Rachel, and who loved Cory Monteith. It’s one of the bravest, most selfless things I’ve ever seen.

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Rachel and Mr. Schue hang a Lillian Adler-esque photo of Finn in the choir room, with one of his own quotes engraved on it: “The show must go…all over the place…or something.”

Finn’s letter jacket is the only real plot of the episode. Kurt rescues it from Carol’s donation box, wraps himself up in it, wraps Santana up in it, and then it goes missing. It is Mr. Schue who has it, of course, and the episode closes with him clutching it and sobbing.

The reason I mentioned my cousin at the beginning is because of how she reminded me what it’s like to watch TV with pure, undiluted emotion. And because she was one of the people who needed Lea Michele’s phoenix song. And because sometimes I forget that Glee doesn’t exist to provide a perfect platform for moving the queer cultural conversation forward. And because my extended family has never accepted the fact that I’m gay. They’re mostly super-conservative, right-wing Christians who think I’m a deviant at best and demon-possessed at worst. It sounds silly, but in rural Georgia it’s not all that uncommon. When my cousin’s mom saw how animated her daughter was talking to me about Glee, she decided to watch it so she could connect with her kid too. She met Kurt, she met Santana, she met Brittany and Blaine and Unique. She liked them. She knew them. She finally understood that whole lesbian thing. She hugged me and cried and told me so.

All because her daughter fell in love with Finn Hudson.

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Cory Monteith quarterbacked a show that has completely altered the landscape of LGBT television. He hosted the GLAAD Awards and talked openly and often about gay rights. And he was, by all accounts, a warm-hearted, soft-spoken, people-loving man who truly understood how much his character and his music meant to millions of people. He changed so many lives — and for all the shit I’ve given Finn over the years, it turns out Cory changed my life too.

What did you think of “The Quarterback”?

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