Glee Pays Tribute to Cory Monteith in Tearful Series Finale — Relive Every Emotional Moment

Glee finale
The two-hour series finale of Glee was an emotional tribute to the show and late star Cory Monteith. Tyler Golden/FOX


Don’t stop believing! After six drama-filled seasons of loves and losses, triumphs and tragedies, show tunes and mash-ups, Glee ended its run with a two-hour series finale that flashed back to 2009, paid tribute to Finn, and showed us the Tony Award-winning, Vice Presidential, success-filled futures of our beloved New Directions members.

The May 2009 debut of Ryan Murphy‘s pilot — and the spunky rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” from the red shirt-clad misfits of McKinley High’s glee club — turned newcomers Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, and many more into household names and turned showtunes into radio hits. Most of all, it combined eternally favorite TV tropes — high school love stories, underdogs making good, teens coming of age — into one addictive, musical hour of television each week.

We spent six years getting to know Rachel (Michele), Finn (Monteith), Kurt (Colfer), Quinn (Dianna Agron), Santana (Naya Rivera), Mercedes (Riley), Blaine (Darren Criss), and company as they made it through high school, fell in love for the first time, warded off the barbs of Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), figured out their sexuality, and eventually found themselves — all while pulling off incredible musical performances.

We cried every time Michele sang a ballad, when Santana told Brittany she loved her, and when the show dealt with the tragic 2013 death of Monteith both on-screen and off. And, of course, we cried through pretty much the entirety of the two-hour season 6 finale, “2009/Dreams Come True.”

Get your tissues ready as we recap the Glee series finale via a comprehensive log of every time we readjusted our contacts, teared up, or straight-up sobbed during the double episode.

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Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Rachel (Lea Michele) make a pact in a flashback to 2009 in the two-hour “2009/Dreams Come True” Glee series finale. Mike Yarish/FOX

Kurt’s “2009” Opening Flashback

Crying started off the bat when the opening scene featured young Kurt getting his books punched out of his hands by Karofsky (Max Adler) and Puck (Mark Salling). It got worse when he looked at the suicide pamphlet. 

Rachel and Kurt Singing “Popular” from Wicked

Of course Kurt and Rachel sang Wicked together the first time they hung out! It was a teary reminder of all the times the pair dueted on other Wicked songs, including “For Good” and “Defying Gravity.”

Mercedes Suggested Kurt Sing “Mr. Cellophane”

After Rachel refused to co-audition with Kurt, he rightfully went to Mercedes for a confidence lesson. Turns out, Mercedes was behind Kurt’s phenomenal glee club audition of “Mr. Cellophane” (fun fact: that was Colfer’s real-life audition song for Glee).

Burt Hummel’s Dad Advice 

After Kurt found out he got into the glee club, he went to his dad to thank him for forcing him to join a group activity. Burt (Mike O’Malley) told Kurt, “Thanks for showing up for yourself.” That wasn’t the tipping point of our tearing up, though: This was pre-Kurt coming out to his dad, so getting his inner dialogue about hoping his dad would love him even though he’s gay — um, what’s that in our eye? SO MANY TEARS!

Mercedes Cried About Not Getting the Grease Solo

After not losing the first glee club solo to Rachel, as Sandy in Grease‘s “You’re the One That I Want,” Mercedes went to church and cried. A random woman comforted her as she cried about not getting what she wanted so badly. This random woman told her that “stars have a way of finding each other” and says that she and Rachel will be friends one day. AND THEY ARE SUCH GOOD FRIENDS NOW! This woman knew!

The Absence of Cory Monteith in the Flashbacks

There’s no way that they could do a glee club origin story without mentioning Finn. He came up in conversations about how bossy he was, Rachel’s crush on him, and his hot-and-cold attitude toward the glee club, but his absence was very much glaring — and devastating.

During an emergency glee club meeting meant to vote Finn out of the club, his fellow New Directions all ended up talking about how nice Finn actually was — how he didn’t dunk Artie in the port-a-potty, he never called Mercedes fat, and Rachel’s correct assumption that that he was just like them on the inside. It made you miss Monteith so much it hurt.

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Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) reminisce about the past in the series finale of Glee. Tyler Golden/FOX

The Exact Moment the “Don’t Stop Believing” Performance Started

After hearing about Finn in every conversation, the minute Monteith’s profile hit the screen to the opening strains of “Don’t Stop Believing,” the tears automatically started flowing — and didn’t stop throughout the whole performance from the pilot. It’s still one of the best musical numbers Glee ever did. Sadly, now it has even more of an emotional impact.

Will Being Named Principal of McKinley

As the second hour began, we traveled back to the present, as the Board of Education decided to turn McKinley into a performing arts high school! Will Schuster was always right when he said that the arts were important! When the superintendent asked Will to be the principal, it was hard to not tear up with pride. Will did a lot of misguided rapping to get to this point! Of course he accepted the job. How weird would it be if he hadn’t? After Emma (Jayma Mays) made her husband lunch and he walked into the rehearsal room, the current and past glee club members were there applauding for him. Too. Many. Feelings.

Sam Appointed the New Glee Club Teacher

Despite not having any formal teaching experience, Sam (Chord Overstreet) was named the new Will Schuster. It’s totally great for him! He never had to leave Ohio! He continued to shoot animals! What made it a little sadder was knowing this would have been Finn’s job.

Mercedes Sang “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross

We’ll overlook the absurdity of Mercedes opening for Beyonce’s world tour — not that Amber Riley isn’t fantastic but is Mercedes THAT big of a star at this point? — because of the emotional gut-punch that came after her touching words about feeling invisible at McKinley before the glee club, that fierce Diana Ross song that showcased the best of her voice, and her looking back at the gang as Artie said, “Mercedes Jones has left the building.”

Becky and Sue’s Slo-Mo Run to Hug One Another 

Even though they can both be pretty annoying characters, seeing Becky (Lauren Potter) and Sue slo-mo run and hug one another was super satisfying, especially when they apologized to one another for their fighting in the last episodes.

Kurt & Blaine’s 5 Years Later

Thanks to a flash forward, we learned that in the future, Kurt and Blaine are famous for putting on an LGBTQ version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. That’s actually the most perfect, Glee thing ever to happen to them. Add them talking to the kids at the Harvey Milk school and singing “Daydream Believer” and you get peak Klaine adorableness.

Rachel’s Solo “This Time”

Rachel sang her final solo, “This Time,” completely alone in the auditorium. The tune, written by costar Criss, was the perfect Rachel Berry song — totally reflective on her McKinley days. When she walked past Finn’s picture in the McKinley hallways, we reminisced about the Finn and Rachel days and started crying all over again. Lea Michele singing cry face forever.

Tina & Artie Finally Got Together

It was a split-second scene after we learned the two glee club misfits were making films together, but Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Artie (Kevin McHale) kissed! So glad they finally got it together enough to realize their feelings for each other after years of not figuring it out.

Glee Finale - Chorus Room
The Glee series finale takes a look at where it all began in the special two-hour “2009/Dreams Come True” episode. Adam Rose/FOX

Rachel Was Kurt and Blaine’s Surrogate

Talk about a talented offspring! Rachel was, of course, the surrogate for Kurt and Blaine’s future child, a.k.a. the most perfect “cycle of life” moment (as Rachel said about her own conception). Shall we take bets on a Glee reboot starring the Rachel/Kurt/Blaine musical miracle child?

Rachel Won a Tony

She did it! Rachel won a Tony! Try not crying when RACHEL BERRY finally won a Tony! She was married to Jesse St. James, which is a questionable move, but Jonathan Groff is so adorable so it doesn’t take too long to get on board. Rachel gave a perfectly moving speech with help from Jesse’s prior Tony-winning expertise. She did go off the cuff, though, and dedicated it to Will, who was watching at home with Emma, Sue, Sam and apparently a dozen children.

Sue Dedicated the Auditorium to Finn

Sue’s Vice President in the future? That’s confusing. But she came back to McKinley (with Secret Service agent Becky) to dedicate the McKinley auditorium to Finn. She talked about how the glee club actually was one of the bravest things ever in a surprisingly touching speech from a woman not known for her feelings. All the New Directions alumni (even ones we forgot about!) came out to celebrate Finn and perform “I Lived” by OneRepublic. There were also red and white coordinating outfits, hands in the air, and a final shot of Finn’s picture next to the plaque dedicating the Finn Hudson Auditorium — “See the world not as it is, but as it should be,” it read — if you were actually able to see those things through the uncontrollable sobbing you were doing.

And that’s what you missed on Glee.

Tell Us: What did you think of the finale? How many boxes of tissues did you go through? What will you do to fill the Glee-shaped hole in your heart?

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