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Glee kicks off its fifth season Thursday with two Beatles tributes, a notably upbeat start that will likely shy away from addressing Cory Monteith‘s death, which instead will be the focus of the third episode.
The actor’s July 13 death at the age of 31 will cast a shadow over the first two episodes of the season, which had to be updated to write Monteith’s beloved Finn Hudson out.
While the focus of the first two hours will see Kurt and Blaine ponder their future as well as Tina running for prom queen, talking about spoilers pales in comparison to what really matters. Instead, it’s important to remember during these two happy episodes what Finn meant to Glee.
While Finn was by no means perfect, ultimately the New Directions captain and former star quarterback typically learned from his mistakes — enriching the lives of those near and dear to him. Here are five of Finn’s most valuable lessons — and why Glee fans should never forget them.
1. Never count the underdog out. Finn — and perhaps Rachel — best represent the underdog, which at its core is what Glee is about. It’s impossible to keep track of the number of times New Directions had its back up against the wall and turned to Finn to lead the team. Even after graduating, Finn ultimately returned to New Directions to find his path in life (teaching) and in filling in for Mr. Schue, helped save the club from elimination. Right now, Glee itself may be the underdog as fans new and old wait to see how the series that has meant so much to so many reboots itself following Monteith’s tribute episode. If we’ve learned anything from this series, it’s to never stop believing — or bet against a good underdog.
2. Be able to admit that you were wrong. Finn initially took issue with Kurt’s sexual orientation when he learned that his step-brother-to-be’s father would marry his mother. After first denouncing Kurt’s homosexuality, Finn manned up and admitted he was wrong with a cover of Bruno Mars‘ “Just the Way You Are” that ranks as one of Monteith’s best Glee performances. The late actor’s ability to effectively play both sides of this story without overcompensating either one of them made Finn’s turnabout that much more poignant.
3. Own who you are. Finn has always been a champion for those around him, encouraging others to be proud of who they are. Granted, Finn outing Santana in the middle of McKinley may not have been the most tactful way to do it (the duo were fighting at the time), but he ultimately helped Santana be honest with herself and turn a new page. The star quarterback learned in the pilot that he’s much happier accepting himself for who he is — even if involves quite a few ’80s ballads. While Santana’s slap was one Finn deserved — coming out is an extremely personal decision — he knew she was unhappy. Further proof: Seeing Santana accept herself for who and what she is helped fuel her romance with Brittany. Glee is at its best when its characters behave consistently with who they are as individuals. Finn may have been the most consistent (yet flawed) character yet.
4. Do the right thing, even if it sucks. When Finn ends his engagement with Rachel, he sets her off on the journey she was meant to take: following her Broadway dreams. It was the last thing that he really wanted to do but a decision that was wise beyond his years and a testament to just how much he really loved Rachel in that he refused to stand in her path to stardom. Sometimes putting other people first can be a hard lesson, but it’s one that Finn understood better than anyone.
5. A little laughter and humility go a long way. Finn may not always have been the sharpest tool in the shed, but at least he never took himself too seriously. For a guy who was nearly immediately discharged from the Army — which, you’ll recall, he joined as a tribute to his father — he was always able to laugh at himself. Just look to Finn’s quote from the graduation episode as a prime example of a guy with a good sense for when to crack a joke. “I’d call my high school career a total success. I mean not in terms of grades and stuff, but I won a state title in football and a national championship in glee club — and it turns out I never actually accidentally got anyone pregnant.” Finn provided an excellent example of Glee‘s need for characters with the ability to have fun at their own expense — even if it’s in the most dramatic and sentimental moments. And when you get a storyline about a guy who believes in a hot tub immaculate conception, humor is a must.
It’s unclear just how Finn’s passing will be handled on the show and just how Glee will go on with the rest of its fifth and sixth seasons, which likely will be its last. While producers have been rebooting the vision that likely earned them the two-season renewal, one thing is certain: Glee will never be the same without Finn, the charismatic Journey-loving singer who struck a chord with millions of viewers and helped turn the series into a global phenomenon.
Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox. Leave your thoughts on what Finn meant to the series in the comments below. In the meantime, check out the promo poster for the Monteith tribute, which co-creator Ryan Murphy released via Twitter.
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