It's finally the State Championship, but even before the ball is snapped, we already know underdog series FNL has won another couple seasons reprieve. The underdog Panthers, on the other hand, still have to play the game, and everyone is worried about their prospects.
I can't help but wonder what it was like to experience "Underdogs" when it first aired (on DirecTV) a few months ago, back when the future still looked fairly grim for the series. Considering nearly every storyline dealt with the anxiety of imminent events, it would be hard to separate the underdog series from the characters' plights in "Underdogs" the episode. The fate of the series would feel tied to the outcome of the game, which is why, despite the contrary (and near miraculous) result in the real world, it worked better that the Panthers lost this game. By coming back to take the lead after being blanked in the first half, the Panthers achieved a moral victory, which is similar to the series coming back this season after last year's nearly disastrous storylines. (Of course, my wife disagrees with me -- she wants them to win every game!)
And how about that game? Aside from the staged moment for Landry (to no doubt remind us he's on the team -- and back again next year, Crucifictorious!), the action was pretty riveting. By starting out with the sun, there were optimistic shots of sunglasses (the future's bright!) and some great reflection-in-the-lens shots. But with every sack and interception that J.D. tallied, the stadium got too dark for Papa Joe to keep the sunglasses on. Coach Taylor was right all along about J.D. At only 15, he's just not ready for the big stage yet, and the only thing left to do was bring Matt off the bench to turn the tide. Which they did immediately, which set up a big music geek thrill -- hearing Stephen Malkmus sing "If you give it to me Timmy, I'm out here on a limb-y" ("Baby C'mon"). That it anticipated Timmy passing to Matt all alone in the end zone only made it all the more sweet.
After Coach Taylor's inspiring speech, where he included family as well as a nice potential sendoff primer for all the cast, that left just enough time for a touching montage to Fountains Of Wayne's "Places." Along with the requisite contemplation from the characters, we also see Tim leave his cleats on the playing field, which could be interpreted one of two ways (or both): It could be he's thinking of hanging up his football career, or, more likely, just giving visualization to the old saying, "Leave it all on the field." Either way, it was a touching scene.
With the Sword of Damocles still hanging overhead, it probably seemed a good idea to not have the State game in the finale, so they could tie things up in case it turned out to be the series finale. And with the future plans for the outgoing Seniors still in flux, there's plenty to wrap up, that's for sure. Another storyline that's sure to be addressed is the conflict with the McCoys. Calling CPS on one of your biggest boosters is not going to just go away, especially when that booster had his son embarrassed in the biggest game of his life so far. Speaking of calling CPS, couldn't the Taylors have explained their requirement to make the call a little better? And doesn't anyone else remember Tammi giving Julie a huge slap last year? It's like season two never even existed for FNL. (Can you blame them?)
One final scene that will stick, I'm sure, was Tyra reading her application letter for college to Landry. The scene immediately followed the scene of the Taylors on the balcony, beautifully tying the "anxiety of the future" theme together, along with the song that backed it. We didn't even need to hear a lyric from Adem's "Something's Going To Come" to know what the song was trying to say. As much as the Tyra/Landry relationship has been a minor drag on the series, this was a touching moment that in all likelihood should set up a happy resolution for Tyra's future.
I didn't even get to the scenes at the Riggins house (all backed by the "no regrets"-themed song Little Joy's "The Next Time Around"). There were two things worth noting: First was the X-Men comic on Tim's bedside table, which was a nice nod to Taylor Kitsch's role in the new X-Men film (in X-Men Origins: Wolverine he plays Gambit); then there was the funny bit of Billy peeing in the sink while priming Tim for his new venture ("This is your future!"). That it pushed Lyla to move back in with Buddy, makes it all the more better.
Playlist: Friday Night Lights - Episode 3.12
1. "The Next Time Around" - Little Joy - Morning at Riggins house; Billy's future
2. "Already Down" - Awesome Color - Panthers practice
3. "Overcome" - Amy LaVere - Buddy and Lyla reconcile
4. "Take It To The Top" - 5 Alarm Music - Landry whines about Tyra at a party
5. "The Sky Above, The Field Below" - Explosions In The Sky - Panthers are interviewed; Luanne asks Julie about Matt
6. "Something's Going To Come" - Adem - Taylors can't sleep; Tyra reads her essay to Landry
7. "Stylee" - David Garza - State game starts against Titans
8. "Home" - Explosions In The Sky - J.D. yells at his teammates heading into halftime
9. "Sigh Your Children" - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead - Halftime, J.D. is pulled
10. "Baby C'mon" - Stephen Malkmus - Panthers stage a comeback
11. "Places" - Fountains Of Wayne - Tim in contemplation; Panthers head home
Previously: Rain and Renewal (Episode 3.11)