Whatever you felt just seemed to come, scene by scene, as everyone found a way to articulate their grief

By Tom Gliatto PEOPLE TV Critic
October 11, 2013 08:30 AM
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Glee said goodbye to Finn Hudson and Cory Monteith Thursday night with an hour that was very moving – how could it not be? – but also very kind.

Kind because a viewer’s buttons were never pushed. Whatever you felt just seemed to come, scene by scene, as everyone found a way to articulate their grief. And, of course, to sing.

Monteith, who was only 31 when he died July 13 from a mixture of alcohol and heroin, had already shot appearances in the season’s first two episodes – those, a salute to the Beatles, were re-edited leading up to last night’s memorial. They constituted one of the most melancholy salutes to the Beatles I’ve ever heard, with Monteith’s death coloring everything.

Thursday’s episode, which opened with the cast dressed in simple black and singing “Seasons of Love” from Rent, began with a kind of narrative gulp: We learned that three weeks had passed since the funeral of the now deceased Finn, the strapping, sweet-natured jock. His survivors – everyone – were congregating at McKinley High.

There was no explanation of why or how Finn had died. “I care more about how he lived,” said Kurt (Chris Colfer) at the start.

This turned out to be a succinctly dignified approach: Not specifying the cause or events in effect acknowledged them without denying them. The emotions, like the musical selections that are the heart of the show, were allowed to cut through the accumulated media clutter around and about Monteith.

There were no video clips or flashbacks – just one image of Monteith at the start, and one at the end – and that absence managed to make Monteith/Finn’s presence more strongly felt.

“He’s dead,” said Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), “and all we’ve got left is his voice in our head.”

RELATED: The Glee Cast: Life after Loss

The episode was mostly vignettes of grief alternating with solo performances, or solo performances alternating with vignettes of grief. Their weights were equal.

Lea Michele, who had been Monteith’s girlfriend, arrived in the last quarter hour. Openly crying and with her arms folded, she sang “Make You Feel My Love.” This was in the old tradition of Judy Garland’s A Star Is Born, but without any bathos. Like the rest of the show, the performance was effectively focused and, even with the tears, contained: a precise touch of the right chord.

Then she said the perfect little line: “He was my person.”

And now, to quote Finn, “The show must go all over the place or something.”