Glee: 10 Character Exits That Hurt The Show (And 10 That Saved It)

Glee has had some major character changes over the years — these are the best and worst ones ever.

Throughout Glee's run as a series, they were able to introduce a variety of characters to the world. Whether they were looking to portray the quarterback of the football team or a performance-obsessed choir girl, they had someone to do it. When it comes to portraying these characters, it was imperative that they had the right actor to do so. One of the reasons that Glee was so successful is because of how well-received their characters were, and by casting actors that were able to portray these roles with honesty, it allowed fans to connect to them.

When fans connect to a character properly, it is a beautiful thing. For example, the way that fans connect to a character like Kurt is not by accident, it was all done by the writing and performances of Chris Colfer. If anyone else had been put in the role, or if the episodes were written differently, the fan response would have definitely changed. Thankfully, characters like this were allowed to flourish over the years to the point where they became synonymous with the show, making it very difficult to imagine what Glee would be like without Kurt. On the other hand, some characters never develop that connection with the audience. The audience does not choose to connect with the character or not, sometimes, it's just not possible. This means that if that character were to leave the show, no one would really notice. In fact, their departure may actually make the show better. While this is a difficult position for the actor and writing staff to be in, they need to make tough decisions for the benefit of the show. The question is, where are your favorite characters? Here are 10 Character Exits That Hurt The Show (And 10 That Saved It):

20 Hurt: Finn Hudson

There was no greater loss to Glee than when Cory Monteith passed away in 2013. He had been the star of the show since the pilot episode and was one of the most relatable members of the cast. The story of a quarterback befriending less-popular students and becoming a part of the New Directions was one that fans attached to. The fan connection to Finn was one of the most heart-warming parts of the show, and he was instantly missed.

While Ryan Murphy's handling of Monteith's passing in the show should be commended, the show was never the same after he left. Other cast members tried to fill the leading-man void, but they were not able to. And while fans have always enjoyed characters like Sam, not even he was able to fill Monteith's shoes.

19 Saved: Sugar Motta

Introducing new characters to a show is always a dicey-affair. By the time that Sugar showed up in the third season, fans already had a connection to the members of the New Directions. It was already likely that fans would not take to a new character very well, but it did not help that Sugar rubbed everyone the wrong way. From the moment she appeared on the screen, fans were irritated and annoyed. In fact, she was even named one of the most annoying characters on television in 2012.

While characters like Rachel and Artie were on the show from beginning to end, Sugar's run only lasted twenty-six episodes. However, by the time she left her role as a recurring member of the cast, fans were more relieved than hurt. Even her appearance during the final episode of Glee was enough to make eyes roll.

18 Hurt: Sunshine Corazon

Glee began a trend where they introduced a big-name singer for their competition performances. The first singer to start that trend was Charice, who was brought in as Sunshine Corazon in season two. As a potential New Directions member who was driven to Vocal Adrenaline due to Rachel's jealousy, she was only given three episodes on the show, but she deserved a lot more.

Bringing Sunshine back would have opened up a lot of possibilities since Glee was a show that celebrated diversity, and Charice's story went hand-in-hand with that message. Following her stint on the show, Charice announced that she would be transitioning to a male and is now known as Jake Zyrus. Considering that the show explored transitioning stories in their later seasons, it would have been a perfect time to introduce Jake to the world.

17 Saved: Terri Schuester

Some characters only exist to enrage the audience, and no one did a better job at that than Terri Schuester. From the moment she first yelled at Will, she became the most hated person on the show. Terri's willingness to do whatever it takes to get what she wants, as well as her lack of empathy made her a great villain, but did not endear her to any of the fans.

While every show needs a good villain, Terri's shtick had ran its course by the time she left the show. Her relationship with Will was beyond repair, and fans were excited to see him begin a relationship with Emma. After all she had done, including faking a pregnancy, there was no way Will would take her back. Terri may have left while her character was hated, but there was no reason for her to return.

16 Hurt: Unique

Glee Unique Adams

Glee's ability to tackle issues in society made them a progressive show as they were always able to handle delicate subjects with care. As the first trans cast member on the show, Wade “Unique” Adams was a focal point of the New Directions. Through her time on the show, Unique tackled subjects of trans rights and mistreatment, but there was so much more to be done.

The unceremonious removal of many new cast members in season five left fans wanting more. Unique was a very unique character who fans connected to, and she was removed from screens far too soon. While she did get a special appearance to support Coach Beiste through her transition, fans would have liked to see her more towards the end.

15 Saved: Dani

Glee's senior seasons relied heavily on guest stars. While earlier seasons did have stars from the outside wander the halls of McKinley, newer seasons took it too far. New characters were introduced far too often that fans did not develop a proper connection to them. Instead of establishing these guest stars with proper backstories, they were pushed on haste in order to capitalize on song opportunities.

When Demi Lovato's Dani was introduced as Santana's girlfriend in season five, fans were confused. Dani had never been seen on screen before, yet, they were supposed to believe that they had fallen for each other. In reality, it seemed that Lovato was brought on to the show because she was a fan and wanted to make appearances. Instead of creating a proper introduction for her, she was shoved on so quickly. This must be why fans did not miss her following her quick exit after four episodes.

14 Hurt: Ryder Lynn

At the height of its popularity, Glee show runners created The Glee Project, a reality show designed to find new stars of the series. The competition brought in a group of performers competing for a seven-episode arc on the show. Whether fans realized it or not, many of the shows new characters were from this reality competition.

When Blake Jenner won the second season of the show, he was brought in as Ryder Lynn in season four. Ryder was a heavily-visible character during his first season, and seemed poised for big things on the show. However, his character became mishandled, and he gradually faded in to the background. It even seemed at times as if producers forgot he was there at all. Ryder had a lot of potential as a character, so it was upsetting to see him be discarded without any resolution to his story arc.

13 Saved: Marley Rose

The introduction of new characters in the New Directions was done to try and fill the void left by the many graduating students. Following many main cast members leaving McKinley, new faces were needed to fill up the club. However, instead of each character being their own personality, some were made to mimic older members. In fact, one was even dubbed “The New Rachel.”

Marley Rose did certainly have a lot of good qualities – her voice was beautiful and she was an interesting character – however, fans did not connect with her as much as they did with Rachel. It also didn't help her cause that she was being positioned this way. When she, along with many other new students, were removed from the show, she was one that the fans missed the least.

12 Hurt: Bryan Ryan

Some guest stars are only meant to be on a show for one time, while others leave a lasting impression that makes fans crave more. Then, there or special guest stars who blew the roof off the place with one appearance and it made fans upset that he never reappeared. Neil Patrick Harris' one appearance on Glee as Bryan Ryan was one of those special appearances.

Ryan was a former show choir star from Will's past who veers in to vanquish the New Directions. During this, he puts on a show-stopping duet of Dream On with Will, which fully showcases Harris' talent. Long before Glee relied too heavily on guest stars, Bryan Ryan was the gold standard. It is a travesty that he was never brought back as the possibilities for his character were endless.

11 Saved: Matt Rutherford

Matt Rutherford will always be the New Directions member that everyone forgets. He was the only original member of season one to not make it in to the second season and he barely spoke on screen. In fact, he was one of the new members of the group to never have his own solo during an episode. Matt was a background performer for the group, but was never missed by the fans if he did not make an appearance.

The only explanation given for Matt's absence for the rest of the series is that he transferred schools. Furthermore, this was the only explanation that the fans required as they hardly noticed he was missing. The show moved on without him and made room for more interesting characters after he left.

10 Hurt: Harmony

When a character appears in so few episodes, it is a shame that fans can only wonder what would have been if they had more time. Harmony was only able to perform two songs on the show, but left a world of possibilities open if she were to come back. As a rival show choir performer, Harmony was almost an exact replica of Rachel. She was over-bearing and performance-driven, but did not have Rachel's kindness.

The one great quality Harmony did have was the ability to put on a show-stopping number. Following her stint on The Glee Project, Harmony dazzled fans and had them wondering why she was not featured on the show more. When she did not appear following season three, it seemed like more of a crime than anything else.

9 Saved: Rory Flanagan

Not all Glee Project winners are created equal. While Ryder Lynn was a popular character, the season one winner of the show was not as lucky. Rory Flanagan was a foreign exchange student who enrolled at McKinley and wound up joining the show choir. Apart from him having crushes on both Brittany and Sugar, that is all fans were able to learn about him.

It was established early on that Rory had a limited time on the show and would be returning to Ireland soon. This was an excuse for fans not to become connected to him, and did not gain much popularity. In fact, when he announced that he would be returning to Ireland following his first season, not even the characters on the show were going to miss him.

8 Hurt: Quinn Fabray

Watching Quinn Fabray's story over her time on the show was very satisfying. Fans got to witness her start out on top and then hit rock bottom, only for her to claw her way back up and finally become happy. Quinn goes through a roller coaster during her time on the show, but that is what made her character so compelling. It is also what makes it so upsetting when she makes minimal appearances during the shows final seasons.

While other graduating students like Kurt and Santana maintain their spot on the show, Quinn disappears. Following her graduation, she only appears in six episodes on the show, and given how interesting her character was, this was not enough to satisfy fans.

7 Saved: Joe Hart

Glee Joe Hart

Some characters are not even given a chance to gain a following. There were a number of new characters introduced during the middle seasons of the series and they were not treated as well as the series regulars. Instead of being given compelling story arcs, they were relegated to the background. And when the show decided they did not need them anymore, they were written out without any explanation given.

When it came to Joe Hart, he was featured without much of a storyline to follow. In fact, he was mostly referred to as “the gross kid with the dreadlocks.” His lack of appearances even became a running joke during the series. Needless to say, when he stopped appearing all together, it did more good than harm.

6 Hurt: Lauren Zizes

Glee Lauren Zizes

Whether shows mean to or not, they sometimes inadvertently create beloved characters. Lauren Zizes was never meant to be the main character of Glee, but that did not stop fans from falling in love with her. Lauren's humor combined with her presence made her a very likable character, and unfortunately, the show did not capitalize on her cult popularity.

Lauren was given an opportunity to be featured more during her story arc in the second season. While she did her part and showed up well on screen, her role was drastically reduced in season three. Instead of relying on established characters like Lauren, show runners decided to bring in new characters. Considering that few of those characters lasted, it would have been a better decision to keep Lauren in the series.

5 Saved: Sandy Ryerson

Few Glee fans forget about some of the seedy origins of the show. Considering that they are counteractive to the message that the show tried to send, it is likely a good thing that they are forgotten. Out of all the season one characters, fans are most thankful that Sandy Ryerson was removed.

Sandy was an inappropriate character on the show and did not have a place. Jokes about inappropriate contact had lost its luster and so did his need to be a member of the cast. Other than providing a way for Will to take over the New Directions, he served little purpose. His presence on the show deeply altered the tone and he was a very welcome exit from the cast.

4 Hurt: Betty Pillsbury

Ali Stroker's surprise appearance on Glee was a welcome surprise to The Glee Project fans. As the runner up to the second season, Ali had serious talent. In fact, her talent has allowed her to break down barriers for the “Handi-capable” by becoming the first Broadway actress in a wheelchair. Thankfully, her talent was borrowed for a one-episode stint on Glee when she went on a date with Artie.

Unfortunately for all fans, she only appeared for that one episode. Given how well-received her appearance was, most fans hoped that it spelled for more appearances. However, her story with Artie remained stagnant and fans never got a resolution. The story had much more to explore and left too many questions unanswered.

3 Saved: Ken Tanaka

Looking back on Glee's first season, there were a lot of changes made for the better throughout the series. The first season had a heavy focus on the relationships between the adults on the show, particularly the McKinley staff members. Fans were much more interested in the New Directions and did not care much for storylines involving faculty, including football coach Ken Tanaka.

While the story between Will and Emma was compelling, far too much time was dedicated to their love triangle with Ken. Thankfully, once Will and Emma wound up together, Ken was removed from the show rather quickly. There was nothing left for him, and it was best that he did not stick around.

2 Hurt: Shelby Corcoran

On a show that is all about performance and vocal talent, wouldn't it make sense for the most talented people to always be present? Idina Menzel is certainly one of the most talented singers in the world. Glee fans were joyful when she was announced as Rachel's biological mother and she was present for a number of seasons on the show. However, Menzel was always listed as a special guest star, which means her appearances were much less frequent than originally hoped.

When Menzel did appear, it was always a special treat, yet, it would have been so much better if she were able to make more appearances. There was so much more to explore between her and multiple other characters that it was a shame to not pursue them.

1 Saved: “Starchild”

Glee Adam Lambert Elliot Gilbert Starchild

Sometimes, even the most talented singers can have a hard time connecting with fans. There is no doubt that Adam Lambert is incredibly talented, but his appearance as “Starchild” did leave a lot to the imagination.

Thankfully, each of Starchild's performances were complete with Lambert's signature sound, however, his character was lacking some serious depth. All that is known about him is that he enjoys performing and putting on elaborate shows to express himself. Without more than that, it was difficult for fans to connect with him with something other than his singing voice. Even on Glee, a good voice can only carry an actor so far, and at some point, they need more to connect with fans. If he had been given more time and a more serious story opportunity, Lambert may have been a great asset. Unfortunately, his time went too quickly, but nobody really complained.


Are there any New Directions members we forgot? Let us know in the comments!

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