Over the summer, the Glee family had to say goodbye to Cory Monteith following his tragic death, and now, the show will take the opportunity to do the same for the character of Finn Hudson in tonight’s episode “The Quarterback.” Watching this evening is sure to be an emotional experience for fans who have loved Cory/Finn with an unrivaled passion for these last four years, ever since they saw the audition video of that energetic guy with a sweet smile rocking out with pencils and drumming on some Tupperware.
That audition video embodies the enthusiasm, unpretentiousness, and charm that Cory Monteith brought to Finn, giving the character an unassuming simplicity that made viewers instantly love him and want to know him. Personally, when Glee was just beginning and I decided I might as well give this phenomenon a try, Finn was the character that impressed me the most and originally kept me coming back for more episodes. While Monteith was among the oldest members of the student cast, he brought a youthful realism and uncertainty to Finn that made him so utterly believable as a high school student: completely confused and desperately eager to figure out who he was while trying to manage all these new adult decisions.
So, as a way of remembering this character and the tremendous actor behind it, here are a few of the moments and a few of the qualities that made Cory Monteith– and by extension Finn Hudson– so memorable. Consider this only the beginning of a list. For as many people as watch Glee, there are that many personal connections with each of the characters, so we encourage you to add your own favorite Finn moments to the conversation.
“Don’t Stop Believin’”
Monteith’s Finn was unique among the charter members of the Glee Club because he didn’t see himself as a grand singer or performer and wasn’t belting out ballads for the world to hear on his way to an inevitable Broadway career. He was just a guy singing in the showers with a nice, normal human being’s voice. That modest rawness exemplified everything Glee is about because it took the existence of a Glee Club to recognize his talent and give him an outlet to express it. The Glee Club served to support Finn and discover for him what he would never have discovered for himself.
When Finn committed to the club at the end of the first episode and sang “Don’t Stop Believin’” with them, it was that very rawness that turned him, the popular football player, into a underdog along with the rest of the group. He was completely unsure of himself in that context, yet still open enough to the new experience to choose to become just as much of an outcast as the rest of them.
“I’ll Stand By You”
During season 1, Finn’s primary story revolved around Quinn’s pregnancy and his own innocent gullibility and lack of basic understanding about where babies come from that led him to believe he was the father.
A recurring subject in Finn’s story was his powerful desire to do the honorable thing. He often did not fully comprehend everything that was going on around him and would take several wrong turns along the way, but in time and often with a little help, he would gravitate toward the right, difficult choice instead of the wrong, easy choice. In the case of Quinn’s child, after a period of confusion and panic, he saw the ultrasound and came to his “I’ll Stand by You” conclusion. The song provided the first chance in an individual setting for Cory Monteith to show off his vocal chops and his knack for inspiring empathy through emotional connection to a song. It remains one of his strongest and most striking performances.
The attempt to tackle religion in “Grilled Cheesus” certainly made for one of the more controversial Glee episodes, but the episode has now become notable for giving a starring spot to Finn and showing off the full range of characteristics that made him such a strong figure in the Glee world. At first, the episode centered on Finn’s wonderful goofiness, innocence, and humor with his insistence that Jesus appeared in his grilled cheese sandwich and his belief that it was a genie that could grant him boob-related wishes.
But on a deeper level, it revealed how lost Finn was and how eager he was for guidance and for something bigger than himself to latch onto. As the episode darkened and Burt was hospitalized, Finn began to doubt. He was wrenched out of his simple cheese bubble, and the performance of REM’s “Losing My Religion” ranks, for my money, as his very best, the perfect song for his voice and character.
The Finchel times
Because of their dueling on-screen and off-screen histories, Cory/Finn and Lea/Rachel will always be linked, and it’s impossible to think of the most memorable Finn moments without thinking of Rachel. Theirs was the central tale, the story of the ambitious singer and the football player who loved her and was only sometimes scared of her. His confused and momentarily panicked facial expressions whenever he was confronted with the newest incarnation of Rachel’s crazy were always the great little unheralded Finn tidbits.
For any showmance with the scope and longevity of Finchel, there are dozens of unforgettable moments to choose from that reflect both their ups and downs, but the season 1 finale performance of “Faithfully” was probably the most joyfully expressive. Finn and Rachel had just made Finchel official with some “I love you” action, and the little smile they shared before going onstage was a beautifully sentimental moment even to those of us with cold, cold hearts.
His truly terrible dancing
Sometimes, a seeming weakness can turn out to be greater than any strength, and such was the case with Finn’s dancing. That he could not maintain any kind of rhythm or body control became a running gag throughout his four seasons on the show and ultimately one of the defining features of the character. “Can’t Dance” even appeared on his shirt during the “Born This Way” number, and it was truly among his most endearing qualities, the way he would try so hard and still never get it, and the way he would still attack the dance every time with that puppy-dog enthusiasm.
This goes back to Finn’s being a brilliantly raw character. It was never about pre-packaged, triple-threat talent with him. He danced like most people dance, like we would expect a football player who is suddenly a good singer to dance, and there was such beauty and charm in those rough edges.
“Just the Way You Are”
The Finn and Kurt dynamic was not always a smooth one, and perhaps the events of “Furt” became more memorable because of that. As their parents prepared to get married, an affection, understanding, and friendship solidified between Finn and Kurt, and at the wedding, Finn gave a speech communicating his true excitement to be part of a family and his commitment to brotherly protection of Kurt. He followed his speech with “Just the Way You Are,” a jubilant expression of his love for everyone close to him.
Most of all, the song showed Finn as a character with a tremendous heart, eager to include Kurt, his mom, and Rachel inside it as he danced with each of them in turn. In keeping with his character, Finn never had too many moments where he fervidly expressed his deep feelings through solo, so when he did, these moments carried a bit more weight and felt that much stronger. It’s hard to imagine Glee without that big heart.