Glee 5.03, “The Quarterback”

Warnings and Disclaimer:  This entry is riddled with spoilers for the episode, and is talking about death quite a lot.  Be aware, I’m only focusing the episode itself (with a couple of asides regarding performances), not the real-life tragedy around it.


I thought, going in, that this episode of Glee was either going to be good, or a total trainwreck.  And I was so glad it was good.

(And yes, I cried.  As soon as I saw Carole in a room with both a “Keep” and a “Discard” box in front of her, I knew I would.)

But the thing that got to me … well, it made me rewind the DVR and then made me spill English-major geeking all over a friend’s Facebook, and I keep thinking about it, and what else is a blog for, if not to geek out a little?

For those of you who have not been watching me fangirl all over Lost and Doctor Who and Glee on LiveJournal lo these many years, let me preface for a moment with … Kurt is basically why I watch Glee.  Oh, I love Blaine (much better now that he’s a geeky little weirdo); I am fond of Santana and Sue and last season’s Angry Tina; I could watch Mike and Jake and Brittany dance for an entire episode and have no complaints; and Rachel has grown on me over the last season (as did Finn, actually).  But Kurt is what drew me in, and he (and Chris Colfer, whose career I shall follow for however long he acts) is why I watch.

And Kurt in this episode gave me so much to think about–all of it stemming from that moment in the auditorium where he gives Santana Finn’s jacket.

The series, I think, has spent a lot of season 4 positioning Kurt as an adult.  He heads to New York with no safety net of school or work; he’s not running around in superhero costumes; he’s figuring out how to use his talents to affect an audience.  And every time he and Blaine are together, he seems both mentally and physically older in height and breadth (Chris Colfer has, almost literally, grown up before our eyes–seriously, the photo sets of him with one picture from each season?  It’s a little disconcerting how much difference 5 years make, even at that stage of life).

That’s the thing, though–in one way, Kurt’s always been more of an adult than the other Glee kids:  he lost his mother (and almost lost his father).  If one of the things that makes you a grown-up is dealing with death, Kurt’s had that box checked since he was eight.

There has been a lot written on various Glee-focused blogs about Kurt and Death imagery (notably, Racheline Maltese, at Letters From Titan has written quite a lot about it); Kurt knows about death–he’s dealt with it, he dresses in its symbols.  One of the first ways he and Finn bonded was over the deaths of their parents.

But he’s not acting very adult in the first part of this episode.[1] He’s possessive of Finn (“… anyone who has a problem with that should remember he was my brother”; he refuses to let Puck have Finn’s jacket, even though Puck probably has as much right to it as Santana does); he’s wrapped up in Finn’s jacket; he’s sitting by himself in the choir room with his arms around himself and his legs all jagged angles (and Blaine isn’t nearby-while-respecting-personal-space; from what I could tell, he was sitting over on the other side of Will).  He reaches out to Carole and Burt in Finn’s bedroom, but he’s not letting anyone else touch him (the look he gives Puck when Puck pokes him in the shoulder, oof).[2]  It comes across as This is my grief, and yes, you are all grieving too, but you can’t understand what I’m going through and so stay over there.[1]

Then Santana sings and screams and runs (speaking of moments and actors that were amazing; holy hell, Naya Rivera–and not just this episode, but the last one, too), and Kurt goes after her.

She asks him to leave.  Kurt takes off Finn’s jacket to give to her.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I hadn’t realized until he took it off just how big it was on him.  Because he went from season 2 Kurt-sized to season 5 Kurt-sized–from kid in high school to adult in New York–in one motion.  And he moved from the grief of a kid (my brother, my sadness) to the grief of an adult (you miss him, too; we both hurt; you’re hurting more acutely right now, so let me help you)[3]

And after that, it’s different.  He’s holding Rachel’s hand; he’s sitting with Blaine in the choir room; his body language is more open.[4] If loss is something that shoves you toward adulthood, moving through grief can be a process of moving from childhood to adulthood for anyone, of any age: from being focused only on your own pain to being able to see the pain of others.  Moving toward empathy and sympathy, toward grace.

Those weren’t the only examples of the movement between child- and adulthood.  As my friend, Erin Rausch, pointed out during my geekout on Facebook, Rachel is dressed like a little girl, but (if my memory serves) she’s also wearing some seriously grown-up heels.  Tina is angry, back to wearing black and so over the goth look, wanting to move forward because she doesn’t like where she used to be and she doesn’t want to feel like that anymore–sure, it’s callous.  It’s also another way of saying I don’t like how I feel, can’t I stop feeling this way?  When will I stop feeling this way?  Who wouldn’t like to skip over hurting and crying and get right to the peaceful acceptance?

That growing process wasn’t the focus of the episode, really, but it was something rather unexpectedly lovely to see, especially in how it ties into the themes I’ve seen in the last season and the beginning of this one. [5] Glee doesn’t always live up to its ambition, but when it gets things right, it just nails them.


1 There is nothing wrong with this.  This is not criticism.  This is part of a character arc.  Bear with me. [back]

2 I did read someone saying he’s holding hands with Mercedes at one point, so this might be overgeneralizing–but then, did she initiate the touch?  And based on their interactions is Grilled Cheesus, what can we extrapolate?  And I told you I was geeking out like an English major, didn’t I? [back]

3 Remember the scene in the faculty lounge?  The scene at the end with Will?  No kids there.  Bieste, Sue, Will, and Emma spend this episode talking care of the kids, even while they grieve.  They aren’t stoic (well, except for Will; he has his own character arc), but they’re not focusing on their own grief–Let me help you, this is hard, you’re not alone. [back]

4 And that moment of Kurt and Blaine really got to me; it hurt to look at because it was all those “look at each other and smile while someone sings” background moments they had in season 3; it was also, weirdly (for me), a callback to Tina’s body-switching dream, where it was Finn and Puck as Kurt and Blaine, smiling at each other in the background while Tina-as-Rachel sang. [back]

5 Now I’m having thoughts about Blaine–reaching, with the proposal, toward being a grown-up in order to be with Kurt again, as opposed to being shoved at adulthood by the school shooting and the loss of Finn … [back]

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