How Glee Got Grief Right

How Glee Got Grief Right

As I watched Glee last night, their memorial episode for Finn, I had little flashbacks of my mom’s death, her funeral and the weeks immediately following it. Glee’s cast had a tough load to carry. They were bringing closure to a character arc and memorializing a friend. I salute them for how much they got absolutely pitch perfect.

 The Jacket. This was my favorite note in the whole show. Kurt claims Finn’s letter jacket from the donation bin and wraps himself inside it. The jacket becomes the flashpoint for the characters and the barely audible whisper of a plot. Puck wants the jacket, telling Kurt that he has nothing to keep of Finn’s. Coach agrees to frame the jacket on the walls of the locker room. Kurt covers Santana in it when she breaks down. After the jacket goes missing, everyone blames Puck for stealing it. And, finally, the show ends with Mr. Schu sobbing into it.

I don’t know if every death sets off these chain reactions, but I know my mom’s did. People want something, some icon, some shred of something that can be a stand in for the person gone. Family members usually have something to hold and keep, but there are so many people in the life of one person who care and who suffer. Finn

 The Varieties of Grief. From Coach Sue’s inappropriate humor to her eventual break down, from Puck’s impassioned cover of Springsteen’s “No Surrender” to Rachel’s haunting cover of Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love,” Glee displayed a broad range of reactions to death.

This was no after school special wherein we all learn an uplifting lesson. Glee packed in regret, fear, hopelessness, bitterness, emptiness, raw pain, and love, the whole gamut of  emotions that grief throws down.

The Music. Glee is mostly about music, and this episode was a simple, stripped down testimony to that theme. The music was chosen to focus attention on the event of Finn’s death and not on spectacle. Mercedes got to belt out raw emotion and there were still the improbable cellos and violins. But the heart of this episode was a guitar, a piano, and voices. Puck’s “No Surrender” was, for me, the best of the bunch. More powerful still was the absence of drums. Without Finn, no drums were possible.

The Decency and Respect. Glee made its boundaries clear. This was not going to be a show about drugs or addiction. It would not be a time to tell secrets and uncover mysteries. This was a memorial that seemed to say, this is a time to grieve and not to judge. Rachel was spared anything but a beautiful song and brief interactions. Santana, Puck, and Kurt did the heavy lifting, beautifully carrying the show from scene to scene and character to character.

Glee did everything it needed to do tonight. It honored its actor and character and gave its audience some closure. That it did so with such grace and class was a gift.

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