A less-than-'Glee'-ful goodbye

It should be no surprise that "Glee" responded to the death of Finn Hudson the way it responds to everything: by singing, from the opening group number, "Seasons of Love," from "Rent," to individual performances that included "I'll Stand By You," "Fire and Rain," "If I Die Young" and "No Surrender."

But since Finn wouldn't be gone if Cory Monteith wasn't, the tears in Thursday's episode probably weren't just acting.

The surprise -- for those who hadn't encountered spoilers, at least -- was what the show that's converted nearly every imaginable issue, small, large and in between, into A Very Special Episode of "Glee" managed to avoid trying to construct an explanation for Finn's absence that would somehow mirror the sad truth of Monteith's death from an overdose.

"What can you say about a 19-year-old who died?" said Finn's stepbrother, Kurt (Chris Colfer), in an internal monologue that echoed the opening line of "Love Story" but  dismissed the possibility that one thing that might be said was how that 19-year-old died.

"There's no lesson here...he's just gone," said Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), who also told her fellow faculty that they could honor Finn "by not making a self-serving spectacle of our own sadness," a line only undercut a little by Fox's decision to splash the Twitter hashtag #RememberingCory across the screen. (Not surprisingly, it was trending long before the end of the episode.)

Opening three weeks after the character's death, the episode reunited current and past members of McKinley High's New Directions show choir and probably reunited more than a few former "Glee" fans with the show that's shed many of its viewers in recent seasons. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who wasn't expecting to see Sue  as school principal -- or the former school principal working as a janitor.

Maybe it's because I'm a mother myself, but the moment that choked me up most wasn't a musical one, but came in the scene when Finn's mother (Romy Rosemont)  talked about how losing a child didn't mean she'd stop being his mother.

Lea Michele, Monteith's girlfriend offscreen and on, appeared in the episode's final 15 minutes, with a tearful performance of  "Make You Feel My Love," followed by a quiet scene between her character, Rachel, and glee club adviser Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) that was both heartfelt and intermittently humorous.

The episode ended not with a showstopping number, but with Will's wife, Emma (Jayma Mays), returning to find her husband on the couch, crying.

Only then, as the credits rolled, did members of the cast address Monteith's addiction, pointing viewers who might need help to a phone number.