Spoiler warning: This is a recap for Friday Night Lights, season five, airing now on DirecTV. If you’re waiting to watch on NBC, please read no further!
In this week’s penultimate episode (directed by Kyle Chandler) the stakes are high off the field, with pressures building for next week’s big game. The Panthers and the Lions compete for the school board’s favor. Eric and Tami are faced with a life-changing decision of their own. Old favorites return, while their successors start to say farewell.
With so many loose ends to tie in a short amount of time, determining the fate of football in Dillon was the focus of the episode. So it almost seems natural to start there. Facing budgetary restrictions for the next school year, there will be only one football team in Dillon in the fall: the Panthers. Despite the Lions going to State this season, heartfelt efforts from the team, and specifically Vince, they couldn’t overcome the JumboTrons and boosters that still represent the Panthers.
While most characters will be moving on, like Luke who realizes football outside Dillon is far less glamorous, Vince is the one it hits the hardest since he will have to switch teams. It’s assumed that Vince will now be the star quarterback of the Panthers. (J.D. McCoy, anyone? He should still be around as well.) After pouring his heart into the team, and rising up to lead it, this is a big change in loyalties for Vince. But in an emotional moment between coach and player, Eric promises him that he will shine. Jess is proud of Vince too, and is even softening to him again, despite her own recently crushed hopes.
While Vince doesn’t have a choice in changing colors, Eric is faced with an epic one. Despite Eric’s pride getting in the way of ever returning to the Panthers, Buddy is campaigning for him to lead the new Dillon super team. If the Lions win State this season, and Eric could bring the Panthers to the same next year, that would mean three championship rings in six years. Eric would make football history. It’s certainly tempting, and with Eric’s ambition and commitment, a strong option.
But it’s not that easy. Now that Tami has been offered the job at Braemore in Philadelphia, she has her own ambitions. For the first time, they are truly faced with which “us” is more important: their marriage or the team. Eric can’t even talk to Tami about the option of pursuing the job and relocating East. And Connie Britton gives one of her strongest performances as Tami despairingly tries to convince her husband to at least think about it after she’s given 18 years as a coach’s wife. There were so many great lines in this episode, but her biting “Congratulations, Eric” packed the biggest punch. Eric remains guarded and seemingly shocked by the prospect, and is still seriously considering the other coaching position. Tami wants both things, for Eric to have his job, and for Tami to take hers. The perfect couple is cracking, and with both stubbornly standing still, it’s unclear who will give in the end.
Tami’s not the only one who’s considering life outside of Dillon. Tim has grand plans to move to Alaska and work on the pipeline after his parole is up. Weirdly, I could see “Texas Forever” Tim in Alaska, of all places. But with Tyra coming home and providing the much needed perspective from someone who did get out of Dillon, he’s starting to reconsider. Tyra doesn’t like coming home, but understands the pull Dillon has, wherever she goes. Although it’s odd that Texas loyalty is coming from the person who wanted to get out the most, it makes sense for Tyra to help Tim through his dark time. They come from similar backgrounds, and have always had a history no one else understood. But now that they reconciled in an emotionally charged “don’t go” kiss, I’m not so sure their renewed romance is sitting right with me. Yes, they do have a lot of common ground and a connection, but after so much time invested in Tim with Lyla and Tyra with Landry, it doesn’t quite ring true. But, there’s still one episode left, and their fate is yet to be determined.
Mindy and Billy seem to be pretty doomed now that they’ve found out that Mindy is pregnant with twins. And on top of that, Billy probably doesn’t have a coaching job next season. Mindy is rightfully panicking. But they’ve given Becky the feeling of home she had been searching for, so their hearts are in the right place, and will likely be okay. Becky is still trying to get on her own two feet and desperately trying to get Luke back. She explains that her connection with Tim was never one of romance, but of necessity. Luke may still be hiding behind his broken heart, but he’s starting to soften, too.
The second to last episode already seriously tugged at the heartstrings. When the team decision was announced and Tony Lucca’s “Devil Town” played in the background, the nostalgia for the early years was overwhelming. And Matt returning home to his grandmother, who hardly knew who he was and asked if he’d talked to his father, wrenched even further. We had our requisite drinking and bonding on the football field scene, reminding us just how attached we’ve become to the new cast. The writers did offer us an approach to watching the finale in Tim’s advice to Luke: “Nothing’s gonna be bigger than that. Play it that way….Then let it go.” Get ready to let go.