It’s easy to hate Glee. Very easy. The writing is questionable, the acting so-so, the general quality of the show something that has been resoundingly mediocre for about three seasons now. But that doesn’t change the fact that there was a time when it was a very important piece of television, for a host of different reasons. It was one of those generation-defining series, this decades The O.C. or Dawsons Creek. The type of show that comes out of nowhere, catches everyone by surprise and takes its audience on a ride – full of ups and downs, highs and lows.
Say what you will about the quality, but its significance in the television landscape is one that can’t really be argued. At one point or another, it mattered to a lot of people. A few months ago, leading man Corey Monteith lost a tragic battle to addiction – and so, the face of the show was inevitably changed forever. It’s a story the world has watched unfold through a certain amount of disbelief. It has seemed surreal, that such a prominent public figure to have his life cut short so early. Not long after news broke, talk turned to his role in Glee. How would the show handle it? Would it even be able to go on?
Tonight, they aired an episode in tribute to Monteith – and while there was discussion it may seem exploitative, or uncomfortable – especially given the closeness of the cast (Monteith was dating onscreen love-interest Lea Michele), it will come as a relief to fans that such fears were unfounded. What the show presented to its audience was a moving and poignant memorial to the character, and in turn the actor. It was an examination of grief, the way it reshapes our lives and shakes us to our core. When you lose everything that matters to you, how do you keep going?
The hour opened with cast members – both past and present, performing a stunning rendition of Seasons of Love, before moving from scene to scene in a way that allowed all those closes to him to have their moment to mourn. Other musical numbers included Fire and Rain, If I Die Young, I’ll Stand By You and No Surrender – with the hour closed by Lea Michele on a breathtaking rendition of Make You Feel My Love.
However, it wasn’t just about the musical moments here. It seems trivial to even comment on the acting in this episode, given how raw the grief on display was. The cast need to be commended on their sheer ability to even show up on set, in the wake of what happened. Every single person that graces the screen knocks it out of the park – and there’s a scene where Finns mum Carole (Romy Rosemont) faces the devastating question of how a parent is able to go on without their child – that is so upsetting to watch, I actually had to pause the episode for a moment. A similar thing occurred as Santana (Naya Rivera) breaks down midway through a musical number and sprints off sobbing – and by the time Rachel (Lea Michele_ makes an appearance, towards the episodes end, its almost possible not to feel the heartbreak that’s emanating from her.
The Quarterback was one of the most moving hours of television I’ve ever seen. I tip my hat to the cast and crew for their bravery, on what would have been an incredibly difficult hour of TV to produce. They paid tribute to a lost friend in a tasteful, and at times, simply beautiful way. Death isn’t easy. It’s random, its tragic, and nobody is ever ready for it – but it happens, and when it does, we grieve, and then we’re faced with the knowledge that life goes on. So thank you, Glee, for giving audiences a chance to grieve, in the face of what would have seemed an impossible task. Hopefully we can all start moving on too.
Review by HARRISON CARTWRIGHT, a Sydney-based writer in his final year of a combined Media and Creative Arts degree. Follow him on Twitter here.