Friday Night Lights on Wednesday finished one of the best inaugural seasons a series has had in a long time, and there was much to love about the finale. But it also left me asking one pretty big question.
(Spoilers aplenty coming right up, so turn away now if you don’t want to know a whole bunch about the episode.)
That question is this: Might it not have made for better drama if the Panthers lost?
They didn’t, of course: Dillon won on yet another last-second trick play, this time a version of the hook-and-lateral. The outcome, though, sparked a serious discussion in the office as to whether the win was NBC-mandated, whether it was the right call dramatically and the direction the show could have gone if the Panthers’ comeback fell short. (My colleague Dan Fienberg expands on those thoughts over at his own blog.)
There’s something poetic in sports about a player or team clawing its way just to the brink of glory and, despite all best efforts, falling just short. In this context, it also could have thrown Coach Taylor’s situation at TMU into doubt, making for an intriguing little cliffhanger at the end of the season (and, with NBC ordering some extra scripts, there are positive signs that the show will be back. Fingers remain crossed, however).
We were also left wishing the game would have had a little more of a dramatic arc — and that the finale had been more than an hour (which is, alas, not gonna happen for a low-rated show). Had there been more of a seesaw feel to the game, the improbable outcome might have been a little easier to swallow.
In the larger scheme, though, I’m really just quibbling here. The game was not the most important thing to happen in the season finale, and I was (as I tend to be with this show) head-over-heels nuts about the rest of it, from Lyla’s cathartic sing-along in her crappy new car to the callback to episode two with "Devil Town" playing over the parade scene. And, as it fits into the big picture of the show, Dillon’s win might actually work going forward.
It appears that Coach Taylor is in fact headed off to be TMU’s quarterbacks coach, with the pregnant Tami and Julie will most likely remaining in Dillon. The scenes in which Tami’s news played out — from her encounter with Smash’s mom at the clinic to her post-game speech telling Eric he couldn’t stay in Dillon just for the child — were all just beautiful; I am not ashamed to say I misted up a little during the hotel-balcony scene when she told her husband she was pregnant, as in gonna-have-a-baby pregnant.
I don’t know if a show like this will get much Emmy recognition, but Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler richly deserve to be in the mix. Hell, Chandler even had me sort believing his "there are no losers here" speech at halftime.
Zach Gilford, too, did some of his best work of the season in showing, without saying much, how wounded he felt when word of Coach’s imminent departure leaked. The two scenes he and Chandler shared, outside the bus before the trip and in the hotel bar, consisted of maybe 50 words, but they communicated a ton.
And Landry, oh my heavens. Pretty much every part of his plot thread was gold, from the selection of the chocolates to the Crucifictorious T-shirt to "Lady Marmalade" in the car. He earned that peck on the cheek from Tyra (whose look of realization when her mom mentioned the word "date" was a lovely little piece of acting).
(UPDATE: NBC cut the Tyra-Landry kiss scene in the version that aired. See the comments section below.)
With all that, and assuming NBC does the right thing and gives Friday Night Lights a second season, I can see a lot of possibilities for next year. Do we begin season two during spring ball, with Tami midway through her pregnancy and everyone just getting used to their new situation? Or do we pick up the next summer, with Mrs. Coach about to give birth and Eric distracted by the pending start of the college season?
How do Saracen, Smash and the rest of the team handle such unexpected success? Is Street a full-time member of the staff now (as the last scene seemed to suggest)? Are Landry and Tyra still just friends?
I really hope we get to see the answers to those questions come fall, and I’m cautiously optimistic that we will. Even if we don’t, though, here’s a big ol’ thank you to the cast and crew of Friday Night Lights for one of the best seasons of network TV in this decade.
The floor is yours to discuss the finale and the season.