'Friday Night Lights' Scores with a Perfect Ending
Thursday, February 10, 2011
After five terrific seasons, my expectations for the Friday Night Lights
series finale were incredibly high. Sure, I wanted to see the East
Dillon Lions win the state championship, but more importantly, I wanted
emotional closure for all the characters I've grown to love. The best
part was that the series finale exceeded those expectations.
The Friday Night Lights series finale was everything I love about
the show. There were a ton of emotionally charged scenes as the
characters said goodbye to Dillon and moved on for the next chapter in
The catalyst for most of the drama was the surprise engagement of Matt Saracen and Julie Taylor. It may have felt rushed, but that didn't stop my heart from melting as Matt got down on one knee at the Alamo Freeze to give Julie his grandma's ring. Their young love was one of the many things that made Friday Night Lights special, and to see their story come to this conclusion was a joy.
While the proposal left a very sour taste in Coach Eric Taylor's mouth, it also helped open his eyes regarding his own marital dilemma. The Dillon Panthers offered him a five-year contract to coach the city's new super team, but in the end he said "No" and finally gave his wife a chance to lead her own life by accepting a position as the dean of admissions for a Philadelphia college. The Taylor marriage survived, as it always does, and just when you thought it was impossible to love Coach any more, he does something as romantic as this.
Ironically, a lot of credit for the surprise twist goes to Buddy Garrity. The ultimate football booster's early morning wake-up call to Eric Taylor was one of the final nails in the coffin, and the prospect of spending five more years getting woken up by Buddy helped lead Eric to the decision that this wasn't what he wanted for his family.
The human drama, however, all led up to the big state championship which, of course, came down to one big play. As quarterback Vince Howard hurled the ball into the air, time came to a stop as the faces of everyone involved waited to see the outcome.
Friday Night Lights' ultimate moment of perfection came when the ball morphed into a ball thrown by a member of Eric Taylor's new Philly team eight months later. Thankfully a sign on the East Dillon scoreboard as it was being torn down let us know that the Lions won.
The epilogue also helped to show that everything is working out as the characters start the new chapter of their lives.
-Jess continues to chase her dream of being a female football coach by shadowing the coach at her new Dallas school.
-Vince and Tinker join the Dillon super team as Panthers.
-Buddy memorializes Eric Taylor by hanging a "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose." sign in the Panthers locker room.
-Matt and Julie are happily engaged and living together in Chicago.
-Tim and Billy are building a house for Tim on his land.
-Luke Cafferty said goodbye to his girlfriend Becky as he goes off to join the military (a surprising twist that was both sad and triumphant).
-Tami Taylor is enjoying her new life as dean of admissions.
-Eric Taylor is back to coaching in Philadelphia, trying to teach a new group of young men what clear eyes and full hearts are capable of.
The finale featured all the emotional power of family that has always made Friday Night Lights more than just a show about football. It was a show about the characters, their lives, their dreams and their futures. It was about coming together not just as a team, but as a family.
In the end, family came first. The relationships came first. If you have clear eyes and full hearts, you can't lose, not just at football, but at life. Friday Night Lights came to an end with the clearest of eyes and the fullest of hearts, and the result was a real winner.
Some beloved shows stumble when it comes to the perfect ending (I'm looking at you, Sopranos and Lost). But Friday Night Lights took everything great about the show and piled it into one extraordinary episode. The result was a finale that hit every right note and gave fans the ending they wanted and deserved.
(Image courtesy of NBC)