The fourth season of Friday Night Lights has come to an end, and even with a few flaws in the finale, it solidifies itself as the best network television drama we saw all year.
Is it so bad that we kind of knew how it was going to end for the Lions? I mean, you know you're getting turkey for Thanksgiving, but since we spent the season getting deep-fried like Buddy's turkey, the result tasted so much better. From the outset ("East of Dillon"), it seemed inevitable that Coach Taylor would mold this underdog of a team together to enact revenge on the McCoys and those Panthers who had forsaken him. It was an unlikely win, to say the least, but we had to crawl over broken glass to get here, so the victory, however improbable, had to happen -- we earned it. And
LanceLandry had to make that 7246 yard field goal -- it was the whole reason Eric inexplicably turned him into a kicker (we'll just call that Checkov's foot).
This was an ambitious season, to say the least, with the writers finding a balance between introducing all the new characters, a new setting, giving proper goodbyes to some characters while giving face time to the beloved characters -- all done in a compressed 13-episode season. It's understandable, then, that many stories were introduced and left incomplete (Matt's pantsless svengali artist, Big Mary's return to football, Stan's gay bar revelation, etc.), and many back stories left to our imagination (Vince and Jess, Luke's parents, Jess' father). The great Jesse Plemons was underused as Landry, but was redeemed with the game winner. Similarly, the Tim and Becky relationship was missing something, but when Tim hands her the snow globe for safekeeping, all is forgotten.
Speaking of Tim, his selfless act of taking it all on his shoulders may feel a bit convenient for Taylor Kitsch availability issues with season five*, but all the scenes with Billy as a father helped make this plausible. Tim doesn't want to see his nephew grow up with out a father like Billy and him. The scene of them saying goodbye is all the more heartbreaking looking back on Billy's heartfelt toast at the Taylors for Thanksgiving. Seeing Tim toss his #33 to Billy reminded me there was a nice symmetry with the opening episode, where Becky asks "Didn't you used to be Tim Riggins?" When the cops arrived last week ("Laboring"), they greeted him with "Aren't you Tim Riggins?" to which he replied, "Used to be." The football hero is gone, only the brooding man child remains.
*It's worth pointing out, that season five -- and the series, for all intents and purposes -- just recently wrapped production.
One inevitable turn that didn't feel earned, though, was Tami Taylor's transition from West Dillon principal to East Dillon guidance counselor. We pointed out the season three finale parallel last week, with Tami in Coach's shoes this time, and it played out mostly as expected. But even forgetting the large pay cut she faces, how unlikely is it that a school district would agree to making her a guidance counselor for the very school she's being accused of giving bad guidance? We all knew she'd have to end up at East Dillon somehow, like everybody else we care about, but this felt awfully forced. If anything, she should be forced -- more like releived -- from Panther land for cheering so loudly for her husband's Lions. (Who can blame her, though, right Slammin' Sammy?)
So as we say goodbye to another season, complete with a fitting The Wire-like montage to a Steve Earle tune ("Goodbye"), it's worth thinking about the next, and last, season. All the team should be back, except Landry (unless they shave another year off him), so might we expect a return to the state championships for Coach? We don't yet know the fates of Landry and Julie, but they'll surely get their goodbye arcs. The good news is that Adrianne Palicki (Tyra), Taylor Kitsch (Tim), Zach Gilford (Matt) and Scott Porter (Jason) will all make appearances, helping to bring the series full circle. Something to look forward to, even as we lament the end of the series.
Even though you knew the bullet points were coming, I hope they feel earned:
- There was a nice bit of music symmetry with Vince's run for a touchdown being backed by Obits' "Talking To The Dog", a song which we heard when we first meet Vince running away from the police.
- I feel like we'd already said goodbye to Matt, so it was surprising to get another chance. Part of this goodbye, though, was on Julie's terms (point of deflowering or not).
- Jesse Plemons did a great job riding the many emotions that Landry went through: Pride (the Crucifictorious demo -- which we need to hear), heart break, anger, elation and anticipation (Chicago here we come).
- Michael B. Jordan (Vince) did so much with what little time he had on screen. "I don't think I'm the one who can give it to you." And yet give he does.
- Gracie Belle did finally get herself some pants.
Playlist: Friday Night Lights - Episode 4.13
1. "Remember Me As A Time Of Day" - Explosions In The Sky [download]: Coach Taylor gives speech
Previously; "Laboring" (Episode 4.12)
curator of the music/soundtrack blog thus spake drake