Past and current New Directions members commemorate the late Finn Hudson
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Brad Falchuk|
|Written by||Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan|
|Original air date||October 10, 2013|
"The Quarterback" is the third episode of the fifth season of the American musical television series Glee, and the 91st episode overall. Written by all three of the show's creators—Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan—and directed by Falchuk, it first aired on Fox in the United States on October 10, 2013. The episode features the death of character Finn Hudson, and a tribute to Finn and to actor Cory Monteith, who played Finn starting with the show's pilot, and who died on July 13, 2013. Though the episode's plot is centered on the death of Finn, it also focuses on the impact on the characters, specifically Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), Noah Puckerman (Mark Salling), and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele).
The episode has been received positively by critics, though some commented negatively on the show's not revealing a cause of death for Finn. Upon its initial airing, this episode was viewed by 7.40 million American viewers and garnered a 2.9 rating in the 18–49 age group. The total viewership and ratings for this episode were up significantly from the previous episode. It was the show's highest rating since the fourth season episode "Britney 2.0."
Old and new members of New Directions perform "Seasons of Love" in the auditorium at Finn Hudson's funeral. Three weeks later, they reunite at McKinley High, where glee club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) invites them to honor Finn through song, as their personal memorials for him. Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley) performs "I'll Stand By You", a song Finn previously sung when he believed he was going to become a father. Principal Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) allows the students to turn Finn's old locker into a memorial, and plants a tree in his honor, which is later stolen. Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) helps his parents to sort Finn's belongings, keeping Finn's letterman jacket and giving Burt Hummel (Mike O'Malley) Finn's lamp and football. Carole Hudson-Hummel (Romy Rosemont) soon breaks down in grief and the family comes together to comfort one another.
The next day, the glee club meets in the auditorium, where Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) and Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale) lead them in a performance of "Fire and Rain". Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), unable to cope with her grief, leaves early and visits Finn's memorial, only to find Bree (Erinn Westbrook) leading a group of Cheerios in taking it apart on Sue's orders. Santana confronts Sue in her office and accuses Sue of hating Finn, shoving her into a bookcase in anger before leaving. Later, guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), Will's wife, tells him she is worried that Will is slighting his own feelings in order to provide emotional support for the others. Will claims he is fine and returns to glee club, where Santana sings "If I Die Young", only to break down and leave halfway through the song. Kurt finds her in the auditorium. Santana regrets not being nicer to Finn, but Kurt reassures her that Finn cared for her deeply and knew she was a good person. Before leaving, Kurt gives Santana the jacket.
Football coach Shannon Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) notices that Noah "Puck" Puckerman (Mark Salling) is continuously drunk following Finn's funeral and leads him to the locker room, where Puck breaks down and confesses to Beiste that he is scared that if he starts crying he may never be able to stop and that he feels lost without Finn's guidance. Beiste tells Puck that he'll have to trust that Finn's memory and his own instincts will be enough to guide him going forward. Beiste also reveals that she knows Puck stole Finn's tree, which he promises to return. Puck later performs "No Surrender" at the choir room, where Santana accuses him of stealing Finn's jacket, which Puck denies.
New Directions places drumsticks in Finn's memorial, where they meet Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), who has gathered enough strength to return. She performs "Make You Feel My Love". Santana later apologizes to Sue, who reveals she is heartbroken Finn died believing she hated him, while she actually respected him and looked forward to having him as a colleague. Santana also speaks to Will and tells him that she doubts she will return to Lima, as it is filled with painful memories for her. Will says he's proud of her and respects her decision. Puck replants the tree and tells Beiste he's joining the Air Force to keep himself on the right path and honor Finn's memory. Beiste wishes him luck and tells him to be safe as he drives off, smiling as she discovers Puck had carved the word "Quarterback" into the tree.
Rachel later speaks with Will in the choir room and confesses that she still talks to Finn and is scared that her memories of him will eventually fade. She is uncertain of what the future will hold now, as she always planned to have a successful career on Broadway before returning home and reuniting with Finn so they'd be together for the rest of their lives. Will asks her if she ever told Finn her plan and Rachel explains that she didn't have to as he already knew. Will reassures her that, although her life might have a different outcome than the one she planned, it might be even better than she expects, though Rachel disagrees, as Finn was her soulmate. Rachel then gives Will a plaque she had made with a picture of Finn and a quote from him that reads: "The show must go...all over the place...or something". Will hangs it in the choir room.
Later, at home, Will pulls Finn's jacket out of his bag, having taken it himself, and finally allows himself to cry. Emma comes home to find Will weeping while holding the jacket, and comforts her husband as he grieves.
Shooting for the episode, which is set in Lima, Ohio, began on August 23, 2013, in parallel with the previous episode—the second of two Beatles tribute episodes—which had started shooting earlier in the month and continued into the following week with scenes featuring new recurring cast member Demi Lovato.
The episode is written by all three of the show's creators—Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan—and directed by Falchuk. Murphy said that "almost everything in that episode is from the first take of every performance because the actors and the crew had a really hard time shooting it." He added, "I've never seen a crew that you can't continue shooting because they've left the room sobbing." Many cast members called to request that they be included in the episode although they weren't under contract to do so, including Iqbal Theba, who plays Figgins on the show, and appears in the episode. The episode was finalized for broadcast—"locked"—on October 3, 2013. The broadcast episode was followed by a dedication: "Cory Monteith 1982–2013".
Cory Monteith, who played Finn, was set to return to Glee for the fifth season after having missed the last few episodes of the fourth season while undergoing drug rehabilitation treatment from late March through late April in 2013. However, Monteith died of a drug overdose on July 13, 2013. At Monteith's request, Finn was to have been featured prominently during the fifth season, so a number of the planned story arcs need to be revised or replaced.
Fox President Kevin Reilly told the Television Critics Association on August 1, 2013, that Finn would be written off the show in the fifth season's third episode, and also that the contents might include previously unused footage and outtakes involving the character. The death of Finn is to be established as the episode begins, though Murphy has said that the cause of death is deliberately not mentioned.
The filming of the episode has been "incredibly hard" according to Matthew Morrison, who plays glee club director Will Schuester—"We've mourned Cory, but now we're mourning Finn. So it's kind of like two people in that one person." Kevin McHale, who plays Artie Abrams, noted that some in the cast are finding it "weird" when they "are having to play reactions that they obviously would not feel in real life"—for example, a number of the characters "aren’t dealing with the loss of Finn" and are in denial, unlike the actors who "were all very much dealing with it."
Reilly said that a series of public service announcements dealing with the topic of drug addiction would be filmed by the Glee cast and creators for airing during this episode. In addition, a fund in Monteith's name would be started using the proceeds from the music contained in the episode.
Recurring characters in this episode include former glee club members Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley), Noah "Puck" Puckerman (Mark Salling) and Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.), Finn's mother Carole Hudson-Hummel (Romy Rosemont) and stepfather Burt Hummel (Mike O'Malley), McKinley guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), football coach Shannon Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), McKinley janitor and former principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba), cheerleader Bree (Erinn Westbrook) and McKinley freshman Dottie Kazatori (Pamela Chan).
Six songs from the episode have been released under the title The Quarterback, and the cover of the release features Monteith's face. The six songs are "Seasons of Love" from Rent performed by members of New Directions past and present, The Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You" sung by Riley, James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" performed by Chord Overstreet and Kevin McHale, The Band Perry's "If I Die Young" sung by Naya Rivera, Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" performed by Salling and Adele's cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" sung by Lea Michele.
"The Quarterback" drew in 7.4 million viewers and a 2.9 rating among adults 18-49, Glee's best rating in about a year (the show's highest rating since September 20, 2012). It was soaring up 40 percent from season five premiere episode "Love, Love, Love" which drew in 5.06 million viewers. And it was up 75 percent from the previous week episode "Tina in the Sky with Diamonds," which drew in 4.42 million viewers. Including DVR viewing, the episode was watched by 10.54 million viewers, and received a 4.3 18-49 rating.
In Canada, the episode was watched by 1.38 million viewers, placing fourth for the night and twenty-first for the week.
The episode was received positively by most critics. Miranda Wicker of TV Fanatic gave the episode a 5 out of 5, saying "There's really only so much to be said about this episode. It was, in a word, heartbreaking. But it was also sort of perfect in the way that Glee can be when faced with tough moments." She also praised the writers, who in her opinion "met that challenge in the best possible ways."
Allison Keene of The Hollywood Reporter gave a positive review to the episode saying "Ultimately, "The Quarterback" was respectful, and was successful as the cathartic memorial—for both the cast and viewers—that it was intended to be. But beyond anything else that happened in the episode, the real sadness that stays with us about Monteith was said the best, as so many things usually are, by Sue: "It's just so pointless ... all that potential." While noting that (Lea Michele)'s performance was the best, she said that "the most heartbreaking scene was without singing. Kurt, his father Burt (Mike O'Malley), and Finn's mother Carole (Romy Rosemont) all talked about the sadness and tragedy of losing a family member, and the moment when the three of them huddled together on the floor to cry and comfort one another was truly the episode's show-stopper." She also commented positively on Santana's performance of "If I Die Young," calling it "genuinely moving."
Lauren Hoffman of Vulture gave the episode a 4 out of 5 saying that "If you want to distill last night’s Glee down into two sentences, those (spoken to Puck by Coach Bieste) might be the best...It’s tragic. There’s no other word for it." She praised the episode's opening number stating "“Seasons of Love” is the perfect choice to open the episode...It’s the most lovingly mixed track Glee’s produced in quite some time...It’s an offering. And a beautiful one at that."
Katy Kroll of Rolling Stone acknowledged the emotional strength of this episode and that "even if you were just a casual viewer or tuned in for the very first time to rubberneck, you probably shed a tear during the emotionally charged special episode". However, she criticized the way the writers left the cause of Finn's death. Rae Votta of Billboard praised the way Glee was able to deal with grief right upfront in a way other TV shows are not able to do. Also stating "There's no perfect way to do this sort of an episode, but Glee gave Cory and Finn a heartfelt send-off the way they knew best." 
Hank Stuever of The Washington Post was more critical of the episode, noting the show's "erasing Finn," and that the lack of previous footage of him during the episode "undermined the episode's strongest scenes, including one in which Finn's mother, Carole [...] broke down in tears while packing her son's bedroom. It also left a little hollow spot in the final minute when Will Schuester [...] sobbed in Finn's varsity letter jacket." He did, however, comment positively on the episode's transition from comedic to serious; its song choices; and its overall effect, which "was indeed a sense of finality, particularly as it relates to the fleetingness of fame."
Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly also criticized the episode, specifically the show creators' choice not to address how Finn died, calling it "the most conspicuous and debatable choice made by the Glee creators." He then commented positively on Santana's role and song; and Mike O'Malley and Romy Rosemont's scene; but he was critical of Will Schuester's role in the episode, saying
I had trouble connecting with Will throughout this episode, and I wondered if Morrison did, too — which, by the way, would be understandable, given the circumstances. (How difficult this thing must have been to make for everyone!) Or maybe disconnection was exactly the emotional point: The irony of Will was that he had been denying his agony even as he was trying to create room for everyone else to enter into theirs. And so he, too, summed up an episode of good intentions and mixed success, that was less a story and more of a loosely structured narrative space to contend with the theme of grief, messy and hard.
Robert Bianco of USA Today gave the episode mixed reviews, saying "perhaps it is best to think of Thursday's broadcast as a labor of love, and to presume it worked best for those who are most devoted to the show and its often heady blend of musical flash, after-school-special preachiness and high-and-low humor. It could not have surprised anyone that the episode whipsawed between clashing tones: A scene with Sue spewing out no-one-would-ever-say-that insults crashing up against a that's-how-it-must-feel monologue from Finn's mother about the loss of her child. And if people behaved even more irrationally than usual (would an adult really steal a dead teenager's letter jacket), you can chalk it up to their not being in their right minds." He then concluded "It's almost impossible to do a story about the death of a teenager that doesn't induce tears, particularly when the plot is tied into the real-life loss of a well-liked young actor. One just wishes the writers had put a bit more trust into that natural response, and not tugged at our heartstrings quite so strenuously."
Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times also commented on the absence of an explanation for Finn's death, saying "teens and young adults often die for highly preventable reasons much like Monteith did, and while a drug overdose would have been too on the nose, any of numerous other explanations — from drunk driving to other risky behaviors — would have made this not just a somber sendoff, but a teachable moment to the younger quadrant of the program’s audience."
An extended play, The Quarterback (Music From the TV Series), was released on October 7, 2013, featuring the six songs performed on the episode. On October 16, 2013, it debuted at number 7 on the Billboard 200, selling 47,000 copies. This is the franchise's first album to chart in the top 10 in the US in nearly two years; the last Glee album to chart in the top 10 was Glee: The Music, Volume 7, which charted at number 9. This album is also the fourteenth to chart in the top 10. All the grosses from the downloads on iTunes in the US and Canada were destined to Project Limelight, a charity that Monteith supported.
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- "The Quarterback" at Fox.com
- "The Quarterback" at the Internet Movie Database
- "The Quarterback" at TV.com