Friday Night Lights Series Finale, Episode 513: Always

This is the end. Keeping it spoiler-free above the jump. And in case you missed it yesterday, my ode to FNL, including a never-before seen Sporting News cover with Coach Eric Taylor. Thoughts on “Always” up next.

My numero uno TV writer, Alan Sepinwall, likes to use a quote at the top of each post, so forgive me for stealing his thing, but I was so struck by this, that it felt appropriate to start here.

Jess: Being a part of the Lions has been the greatest experience of my life.

Coach Taylor: I think it’s been mine, too.

I’ve watched this finale twice, perhaps in some sort of denial that I didn’t want it all to be over, and I can’t say I escaped either viewing with dry eyes. (This is the part where I’d attempt some joke about Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, but it’s already been done, and been done better. Moving on.)

So the Lions win State. Tami takes the Braemore job. And we even get ourselves a marriage proposal. This finale was so much about relationships, just as the series itself was. As I said last week, it was show about relationships with football as a framework, not a football show with relationships in between. It seems only fitting that we run down the list because even after viewing it twice, I’m not sure I can put together one long, flowing narrative when I’m still this close to it.

Eric and Tami: We addressed the mild suspension of belief required in the Braemore-Shane State struggle last week. In almost any situation, Eric takes that college job, no brainer, but moving beyond that, we get more proof that this show is about its characters and not its sport.

As Tami, in tears, explains her inner thought process outside the restaurant, she says it’s time to make one compromise for her job, because “otherwise what am I going to tell our daughter?” In that moment, Eric senses the unthinkable. He is choosing between making his wife a miserable woman and making himself a football god in the state of Texas. He makes the choice we’ve been led to believe Eric Taylor, the person, would make, and turns down the lucrative five-year deal to coach the Super Team at Dillon and heads to Philadelphia with Tami to Braemore, preserving my favorite TV family.

(EDIT: I also neglected to make a point I had in my head after watching the Season One DVD. There’s an extra where Tami is talking with the producers of the show about the decision in the S1 finale about Tami and Eric splitting up, the baby and Eric going to TMU. It’s funny that they avoided any notion of them splitting up in that instance — something Connie Britton was vocal about in S1 — but they almost took it there in the finale.)

And before saying goodbye to the Taylors, how great was their bickering? Eric making Tami answer the front door, and Tami’s shrill “I THINK WE AGREE!” when Eric came home with the news about Matt’s proposal?

Memorable quote: “It’s my turn babe. I have loved you and you have loved me and we have compromised, both of us, for your job, and now it’s time to talk about doing that for my job because otherwise what am I going to tell our daughter.” — Tami Taylor

Matt and Julie:
Although we’ve known Matt, Julie and all of the characters in Dillon for so long, it’s easy to forget just how young they are, and how relatively insane it is to propose marriage. The proposal in front of the Alamo Freeze with Grandma Saracen’s ring is classic Matt though, isn’t it? And that he somewhat botches it in the traditional sense and is forced to have one last sort of awkward run-in with Coach Taylor makes it all the better in my eyes. I was somewhat taken aback at the overly negative reaction. I figured Coach would be dismissive, but when Matt took Landry’s admittedly terrible advice of just being firm, Coach was none too pleased. Yet, in the end, they’re together in Chicago. Maybe it makes for a long engagement, but I’m perfectly OK with them winding up together.

Quote: “My dad must’ve flipped. … You asked him, right?” — Julie Taylor

Tim and Tyra:
I have a theory that I’ll have to test on some friends, but I have a feeling that the DVD crowd that buzzed through the first season or two might not be feeling this angle as much as those of us there from the opening kickoff, who lived with the thought of Tyra and Tim a little bit more than others. Tyra has clearly gone through her own set of things, and tried so desperately to distance herself from Dillon, a place that does have a way of dragging people down at times. And she knows that as good as it feels, giving up what she’s worked so hard to achieve in exchange for this life she’s always wanted with Tim Riggins isn’t the right move.

But Tyra and Tim, who very early in the season were as empty-headed as they came, share a meaningful moment on Riggins’ little plot of Texas. They understand where they are and that their lives aren’t really meant to connect right now. A reasonable ending that many would prefer to a somewhat haphazard long-term reconciliation.

Quote: “I have dreams too. I’m going to build a house exactly where we’re sitting and I’ll get a job. And I’m never going to do anything illegal for the rest of my life. Guarantee it. Maybe one day our dreams can merge together.” — Tim Riggins

Vince and Jess/Vince with his father:
While some resolutions came together saving marriages, creating new ones or maybe just hinting at love in the future, we’ll settle for Vince and Jess just making nice. With Vince still in Dillon and Jess going to Dallas, there is no immediate future for them, but she will always be important as she was probably the first big thing to break in his life that snapped him out of the funk with his father.

In the same sense, Vince finds something of a middle ground with his dad, depending on how you look at it. We don’t really see whether Vince even knows that his dad shows up at State, but maybe we can think positively and say it’s at least a sign that the relationship won’t be overtly hostile going forward. They’ll never be close like Coach Taylor and Vince, but it won’t be dangerous, either.

Quote: “You may never know how proud I am of you. — Eric Taylor
You changed my life coach. — Vince Howard.”

Becky and Luke:
As I’ve said in the past, I didn’t feel the investment in them as a couple, but we see that Luke — at the very least — listens to Tim’s advice. He can’t get himself excited about faking his way through some bottom of the barrel program. He plays it like it’s his last game, leaves it on the field and decides he’s ready to the Army. It’s funny that in a way, Riggins’ advice leads him to that end. I say that because when I interviewed Taylor Kitsch a few years ago, I asked him where he could see Riggins winding up, and one of his answers was in the Army. Perhaps, in Luke, he saw a second chance at starting life after football the right way.

Becky’s more significant resolution might actually come with the Riggins clan. She makes peace with whatever her relationship is with Tim and ultimately finds another family with Mindy and Billy. In reality, they might be more of her family than her flighty mom ever will be.

Quote: “He’s a sweetheart, as long as he learns how to wear a condom. Seriously. I’ll kill you.” — Becky’s mom

And now, a few other final thoughts before closing the book on Dillon.

— There’s a stretch of about three minutes during the State game where there is no dialogue. There didn’t need to be any, either. I’d argue that was as beautifully shot a game sequence as was ever featured in the series. There’s no way you could shoot it like that week-to-week because it would lose the impact, but not seeing the score until the end took away some of the ridiculous and predictable highs and lows that occasionally marred game sequences on the show. And I’d bet that was Explosions in the Sky on the track one last time. Just a gorgeous looking final game.

— Buddy Jr. stays in Dillon! I suppose it made for a showcase episode for Buddy himself, but honestly I’d say that Buddy Jr., Hastings and Epych were kind of plot vacuums this season. I think it’s safe to say we could’ve done without all three.

— Leave it to Riggins to give us a great one-liner while driving around baby Stevie: “Never turn away a memory,” as he goes past the cheerleaders.

— If I feel a little bit bad for anyone in the end, it’s Vince. He loses his coach and his girl, but at least wins State. I imagine good things are ahead for him, but he probably loses the most of anyone in the finale.

I want to thank everyone who has read any little bit of my rambling about FNL for the last few years. I’ve enjoyed the show and have enjoyed sharing it with you.


2 Responses to Friday Night Lights Series Finale, Episode 513: Always

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Friday Night Lights Series Finale, Episode 513: Always « chris littmann --

  2. Margaret C says:

    Thanks, Chris. Late to the FNL party here, but I’ve enjoyed your write-ups, as well as Alan’s. I’ll stop back by your blog to see if you have any words on the Packers.

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