“Friday Night Lights,” Season Five, Episode 13: “Always”

Written by Television, TV Reviews

Emotions run high, characters come together and move on, and the Lions face the State championship in the Friday Night Lights series finale.

Spoiler warning: This is a recap for Friday Night Lights Season 5, airing now on DirecTV. If you’re waiting to watch on NBC, please read no further!

“You changed my life, Coach.”—Vince Howard

To be honest, I’ve struggled with my piece on the Friday Night Lights finale. I could give a recap of every heartwarming scene between Eric and the people whose lives he’s changed, or reference all the callbacks to season one. I could start to nitpick the finale and talk about how it would have been nice to see Tyra and Landry have a scene together, or see Eric give some hint of accepting Matt as an official new member of his family. But none of that felt right. For a show that has burrowed into our hearts, the emotional swan song was perfect, and speaks for itself.

For the past five years, we’ve welcomed the people of Dillon, Texas into our homes as if they were family. We’ve watched the Panthers win and lose. We’ve watched Julie and Matt fall in love, and Jason and Lyla grow apart. We’ve watched people give life, and take it away. There were squabbles and forgiveness, coming home and moving on. Friday Night Lights gave us the most realistic drama in years, and it all boiled down to one thing: passion. Passion for football, or loved ones, it didn’t matter. It had heart.

After being torn apart by dreams that would take them to far away parts of the country, Eric ran to Tami, begging her to take him to Philadelphia. With hardly any cohesive sentences, Matt asked Julie to marry him, and more challengingly asked for Eric’s blessing. Becky discovered she had family after all, in the Riggins clan, and in Luke. Vince may still be struggling with his father, and his alliances as he prepares to be a Panther, but he’s come a long way, and knows he has Coach to thank for that. Tim has once again embraced his “Texas forever” mantra, reconciled with Billy, and set down his roots in Dillon, alone. With families forged and dreams pursued, passion drove every minute of the finale.

For a show centered around football, and a season that led up to the Lions going to State, the football was almost a footnote in the grand scheme of things. Even the game footage was scored with haunting music, slow motion lingering shots, and voice-over of Coach’s pregame prayer, rather than the cheering and commentary to feed the intense showdown. And while the game came down to the last three seconds and a miraculous 65 yard pass, instead of seeing it land in Luke’s hands in the end zone, it morphed into the ball from one of Coach’s first practices up in Philadelphia. We didn’t see the Lions exalting in one of their most proud and accomplished moments.The victory was fleeting, and although we did get a few nods to their well-earned title with glimpses of their rings, what we really got was the assurance that we left our characters better off than when we met them.

Going into the finale, I expected an emotional sob fest. And yes, there were tears, but not as much as some other episodes of Friday Night Lights. From Billy and Tim clarifying “it’s not incest” at the same time, to Grandma Saracen interrupting an emotional moment between Matt and Julie by enthusiastically showing off her wedding veil, the light moments cut the sharp twinge of the emotional montages. While the first episode ended in tragedy, the finale gave us hope, even in moments of uncertainty. What was clear is that things will never be the same, a realization that echoes in the silence that follows Eric’s “Clear eyes, full hearts” inspiration to his new team. But, they’ll learn. For them, the lights haven’t gone out for good. For us, it was farewell.