1. Keep the focus on the music.
I’m sure there’s a temptation to do a different kind of Glee episode, perhaps one without any music at all. But Glee is at its best when it’s finding emotion through song. There’s a special poignancy to this, and perhaps catharsis: I say this as someone who teared up learning Matthew Morrison sang “What I Did for Love” in memory of Cory Monteith. A singing-heavy episode is also a tribute to Monteith, who wasn’t a singer when he auditioned for Glee but found his voice on the show, in more ways than one.
2. But honor the relationships.
Everyone will mourn the loss of Finn, but some bonds are more important than others: Rachel, Kurt, Puck, Will, Quinn. Glee would be wise to restrain itself a bit — instead of going big, spend time on the characters who had the most significant relationships with Finn. This is also a way to honor the relationships these actors had with Cory Monteith, with whom they worked so closely for four seasons. Of course, this should also be adjusted depending on their comfort level. Lea Michele can decide how much emotion she wants to bare on screen.
3. Don’t make it about drugs.
Addiction is a horrible disease, and it’s something worth addressing on a series for teenagers. At the same time, this isn’t the right time: Turning the episode into an after school special on the dangers of drug abuse takes away from Monteith’s memory. We know how he died — it’s also something his friends and family will have to live with forever. The specter of addiction will hang over the episode, but any preaching would be both unnecessary and in poor taste. On the other hand, a PSA about getting help for addiction at the end of the episode would be appropriate.
4. Find a way to incorporate Monteith’s work.
Whether through flashback or otherwise, Monteith and his voice should be present in the episode. It’s important to not only mourn his loss but to also celebrate his talent. As Murphy noted, this is also the first time many young Glee fans have really experienced death in any way — including a Monteith performance is a way for these people to say goodbye to the character of Finn and the actor behind him. One word of caution: Promoting this episode as including “Finn’s final performance” would be incredibly tacky. I doubt Fox would go down this route, but it’s not unheard of.
5. End the episode in a way that allows the show to move forward while still honoring Monteith’s memory.
The show must go on. That may sound callous, but as Murphy told Deadline, the cast and crew agreed that coming back to work was the best way to process their feelings about Monteith’s death. As such, Glee is going to have to return to normalcy, and the tribute episode — plus the long hiatus — should be that bridge toward business as usual. The key here is to offer some degree of closure for the characters (and the actors). In subsequent episodes, however, Glee shouldn’t shy away from mentioning Finn or referencing his death: Realistically, this is something his friends would carry with them forever.
6. Donate album proceeds to charity.
Glee always sells its music on iTunes, and this tribute episode doesn’t need to be any different. But let the album proceeds do some good: Donating them to a charity that specializes in the treatment of addiction, or another charity that Monteith supported like Project Limelight, is the only real way to sell the songs without being exploitative. Even non-Glee fans will be tuning in to the episode — many of them will want to hear the music again. And that’s fine, particularly if it helps other people in need.