Glee creator Ryan Murphy has elaborated on how his show will deal with the death of series star Cory Moneith, explaining to Deadline that we won't learn how Monteith's character, Finn, dies, just that he does. It's a surprising show of restraint from Murphy and the Glee team, who have not always been particularly graceful handling challenging topics in the past.
"At one point, we were going to have his character die after an accidental drug overdose — that was something we had considered," Murphy said. "But we have decided that we’re not going to have him pass from that. Basically, what we’re doing in the episode is we are not telling you yet, or maybe not at all, how that character died." He explained that the episode is dedicated to focusing on the character's—and in turn Monteith's—life. "That might be weird for some people, but it felt really exploitative to do it any other way," he added.
Glee has not always handled tragedy well in the past. A season two episode that dealt with the death of Sue Sylvester's sister had its fans, but it was pretty tonally inconsistent. An episode last season in which the show tackled a school shooting—which aired just months after Newtown—was both trite and somewhat careless at the same time. Our Richard Lawson wrote: "Tone deaf and verging on offensive, Glee's 'Shooting Star' (yes, that was the actual title) was in many ways its most exploitative episode yet."
In the case of the upcoming episode, Glee's writers will not be expounding on a newsworthy topic, but rather trying to honor the memory of a person close to their hearts. And yet there was every chance the show would verge into Very Special Episode territory, especially considering the way in which Monteith died. Back in July, BuzzFeed's Louis Peitzman encouraged the show to not make the character's death about drugs. "The specter of addiction will hang over the episode, but any preaching would be both unnecessary and in poor taste," he wrote. Obviously, Murphy considered going that route, and it's reassuring that he didn't. Not giving any explanation for Finn's death seems like a bit of a cop-out, something that could potentially leave young fans confused, but it may have been ultimately the best decision. No invented death could match what really happened, so it might just be best not to say anything at all.