Friday Night Lights was a show about football, yes, but more so it was a show about community. From the small town of Dillon, Texas, whose dreams ride on the success of their football team, to the team shaped by Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), or his family, the show was about the relationships between people. The fifth and final season saw to the heart of the show and used it to wring out every last smile, laugh, or tear from the fans.
The fifth season comes across as an extended coda to the series. With the underdog team, the East Dillon Lions, coming off a major and unexpected victory against the entitled Dillon Panthers at the end of season four, they’re ready to show Texas what they’re really made of. But against the drive on the field, farewells from series favorites are spread out over the course of the season’s thirteen episodes, never letting us forget that the end is soon to come. It’s a smooth combination of old and new, and holding it all together is the Taylor family, mainly Eric and Tami (Connie Britton). One of the best portrayals of marriage on television, and best acting, it was nice to see Eric and Tami take center stage this season, and face struggles that really threaten to tear them apart, but without the typical melodrama of most shows.
The fifth season wasn’t entirely perfect. There were subplots and new characters that never really reached their full potential or conclusion. Julie Taylor’s (Aimee Teegarden) storyline took her to college and out of the Dillon realm in a way that never completely came together. But despite its faults, the season was as fitting of a farewell as it could have been. The Lions are facing budget cuts that could threaten the future of the football program. Leading quarterback Vince Howard (Michael B. Jordan) is being dragged down by his convict, absentee father, despite how far he’s come under the guidance of Coach Taylor. Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria) is coming to terms with what appear to be dismal options for his future. Billy Riggins (Derek Phillips) is doing everything he can to pull his life and family together, after his brother Tim (Taylor Kitsch) gave him a second chance. Dreams are realized and crumble, relationships build and falter, and games are won and lost. And every last minute of it is pure storytelling gold.
The series has been an underdog itself from the very beginning, getting a second season renewal at the last minute, and being saved from cancellation again after season three by DirecTV. The best gift the show could have gotten was the time to say goodbye, and they took full advantage of that. What results is a bittersweet ending to the most heartfelt, inspirational, and quality show that’s been on television in decades.
If you haven’t checked out the series before, you won’t regret letting Dillon, Texas into your home. The season five DVD is available now, and features a few deleted scenes, commentary on a couple episodes including the series finale, and a nice farewell special with interviews from the cast and crew. The season begins its final airing this Friday, April 15th, on NBC.
While it may be an emotional farewell, Friday Night Lights will stick with you long after it’s gone. As Riggins would say, “Texas Forever.”