But the show's tribute to the young actor who played Finn strained to avoid the maudlin.
SPOILER ALERT: This review incudes details of Thursday's Glee tribute to actor Cory Monteith and his character, Finn Hudson.
We all grieve in our own way.
There seems to be little question that the cast and crew of Glee are sincerely mourning Cory Monteith, the young actor who played Finn on the Fox series – and whose death from a drug overdose left a hole in their lives and their show. And clearly many fans of the show are grieving with them, and expectedGlee to both mark the occasion and to provide an emotional release for them.
That's a lot to ask from an entertainment program that has frequently trafficked in bad taste and has always had trouble avoiding the maudlin and the manipulative. But Glee is where we met Monteith, and it makes sense that Glee would be where those who loved him said goodbye -- and that the show would do so in its own way.
So 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.
Walking the line between fact and fiction, tribute and exploitation, the episode was set three weeks after Finn's funeral, with his friends gathering for a special memorial. The cause of Finn's death was dismissed by Kurt's "who cares," while the cause of Monteith's death was dealt with in a public-service message that may have provided some of the hour's best moments.
You were meant to believe that grief and anger would cause Santana to finally tell Sue what everyone had been thinking about her, and you no doubt did. But you were also meant to believe that Finn's loss left everyone who knew him, young and old, in a state of complete emotional collapse, and that may have been harder to buy.
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.
But that's how they chose to grieve. If it brought them -- or you -- solace, that may be enough.