Thursday night, Glee's Season 5 premiere airs on Fox and with it comes a host of Beatles covers complete with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: McKinley High Edition and as enough campy costumes to put on an elementary school Christmas pageant. All the while someone will be missing: the late Cory Monteith. And while Monteith's Finn wasn't in every episode last season, his presence will be more than conspicuous now that the actor has passed. It would have been far better for Glee to deliver us closure and mourning for Finn and Monteith up front, instead of torturing us with two episodes of fun dance numbers in the face of tragedy.
And sure, the show's writers were crunched for time. Fox is after all a corporation, and they need their product, which they've already sold to advertisers during upfronts. Glee's writers and producers had no choice but to fashion some sort of shift in the story so that the show could go on, but it seems that in their hastiness they missed one crucial element: until fans get to say goodbye to Finn, it will be as if the first two episodes never happened. They'll simply be a blurry wash of color and bright tones, taunting viewers when all they want to do is say goodbye to a character and an actor who touched them.
For Glee fans, there's a sort of liquid barrier between Glee characters and their real life counterparts, aided in great part by the fact that onscreen couple Finn and Rachel were played by offscreen couple Monteith and Lea Michele. Add to that Ryan Murphy's penchant for allowing Glee actors' real-life fame inform pieces of the storyline (case and point, the first episode of Season 2 in which Jacob Ben Israel, a.k.a. all the bloggers and paparazzi, followed the Glee club around like the stars the show's actors had become) and McKinley and reality are inextricably linked. The series is built to play off of real life, so why, in its first two episode is it determined to avoid that harsh, but real circumstances?
No matter what occurs throughout episodes one and two of Season 5, there will be a black cloud hovering over everything. If Finn's name is mentioned, it will sting viewers who miss the former quarterback. If his name isn't mentioned, the episode will feel uncomfortable, as the avoidance of even a mention for two episodes would be far too unnatural for the characters. There is simply no way to win now that Monteith and Finn are gone. Rather that take the audience on a magical mystery tour, Glee should have made episode three, "The Quarterback," the first episode of the season.
It's not exactly a network's dream to have a flashy, colorful series like Glee start off its season with a tragedy, but it's the reality that the show's fans are living. Glee fans everywhere are forced to deal with the fact that a beloved character will never again return to McKinley or their television screens. This is not an easy truth to handle; TV characters, for better or worse, become a part of fans' families. Finn, for example, inspired acceptance and the ability to defy social norms. Of course, viewers know he was just a character, but that doesn't change the fact that his impact was real. How can they enter this season of Glee without first addressing that impact?
It seems almost morbid to think that it will take that long to get to Monteith's tribute. The waiting period creates a natural sense of anticipation around the episode by virtue of delayed gratification. While that delay makes business sense, it doesn't make sense for actual human emotions. Monteith tragically passed in July, so naturally, we were going to have to wait for Glee's contribution to his legacy. However, building it up this way and pacifying fans' emotions with "All You Need is Love" for two weeks before finally allowing them to receive the collective catharsis they need just isn't right.
The people behind Glee were undoubtedly shaken by the loss of Monteith, so perhaps their goal was not to pacify fans and create garish anticipation for Finn's farewell. That doesn't, however, change the fact that unfortunately, that's exactly what they've done.