I planned on posting between my last post weeks ago and the finale, but, as usual, time got away from me. I love the show. I can easily put it on my list of favorite shows of all time. But I've never been passionate about discussing it in the way I was with Buffy or Battlestar. It may have to do with the lack of metaphor. Or situations and people I can more easily relate to. Or it could be the strength of the writing and not having to rationalize plot developments or a character's actions. Or maybe it's just nice to have a show I can kick back and enjoy without obsess over. ;)
Before I get to my thoughts on what I feel is a very strong series finale, I want to touch on some of the weaknesses of the season. Friday Night Lights was not cancelled with a few weeks left to shoot. Before cameras rolled on the fifth season, the writers knew it would be the series last. It's why I found the latter half of the season, and particularly the past couple episodes, frustrating. Here are some of my issues:
- Several characters were introduced (or reintroduced) who had little development and ultimately proved unnecessary to the stories told. Football supposedly helped straighten Buddy Jr out, but he barely played before being sidelined with a broken leg and served as gopher for the remainder of the season. Hastings quickly was won over by football and turned out to be an asset to the team, but that's about all we can say about him as a character. What ever happened to JD and his father? He obviously was upstaged by Vince, but I would have liked to see a scene or two, at least, dealing with his fall from glory. And do I even need to point out all the problems with Epyck?
- I really loved what they were doing with Ornette. He returned from prison not an entirely changed man, but he was trying. He attempted to make a deal with a college that would benefit himself as well as his, yet there seemed to be a genuine desire to see his son achieve greatness. For Vince to be the man he wasn't and to not fall victim to the same mistakes he made. He wanted better for his child. Unfortunately, he just wasn't well enough equipped to know how to do that. But, suddenly, Ornette showed up drunk. Ornette showed up with drugs. Where did that turn come from? Are we to believe Vince standing up to him and siding with Coach in regards to his future sent him on a downward spiral? I was disappointed. FNL does nuanced character portrayals so well and here they had an opportunity to show a man can come out of prison and, while he may struggle, can change. That they did this with a black character makes it even more disappointing.
- There was a rush through the playoffs. I don't mind not seeing the games, nor do I think it's necessary to see every game, but the condensing of the playoffs also meant rushing through weeks in these characters lives.
- Eric Taylor is awesome in many ways. He can also be a selfish asshole. His reaction to Tami's job offer was completely in character. It was also the biggest problem yet to be thrown at their marriage. I knew Tami and Eric wouldn't split up. I knew Eric would ultimately choose to turn down the coaching job with the Panthers so Tami could follow her dream. I just didn't care for having one episode left for them to try and work it all out.
And now for the finale.....
As soon as I heard the series was ending and Zach Gilford would be returning, I knew he'd end up proposing to Julie.....but not in front of the Alamo Freeze. Hee! It seemed fitting though. He commented later to Tim and Tyra the location was sentimental, but I also suspect his nerves got the better of him and he just couldn't wait any longer. I agree with Eric and Tami they are young and probably should wait before making such a commitment, but of all the young characters on this show, Matt and Julie are the two I would pick to grow up and grow old together.
I was a little surprised by Eric's reaction. Emphasis on little. Julie will always be his little girl and he wants to protect her. She is only 18 and he's very recently had to deal with the fallout of her last relationship. I wish that had been mentioned, especially when Julie was trying to sell herself as level-headed and not one to make rash decisions. Eric and Tami also seem unaware of Julie's recent detour to Chicago and time spent with Matt. At least that's what Eric's, "What the hell are you doing here?", told me. ;)
Tami seemed won over sooner. I loved her reaction to finding out Julie was given Matt's grandma's ring. It tells her just how much Julie means to him and his proposal was seriously considered.
Grandma Saracen. ::sniff:: I don't want Matt and Julie to rush into marriage, but I hope she has enough of her faculties by the time they do marry. Obviously, it means a great deal to her and, given she was pulling out her wedding dress for Julie, she seems to be in a rush for it to happen. And while her wedding dress isn't atrocious, it was nice of Matt to step in and say Julie may want to pick out her own.
Can you tell I'm a Matt/Julie fan? ;) I do have thoughts about the other couples!
Becky/Luke - As I've mentioned before, I was not a Becky fan last season, but she has grown on me a lot. I think she and Luke make a cute couple. However, I'm not sold on Luke being in love with her (and vice versa) and wanting to spend his life with her. I've been getting the impression this season they were set up as Matt and Julie version 2.0, but I'm not feeling it. I don't know if my bigger problem is not having sufficient time to see the relationship develop or if the writers were just going for too many happy ending. However, I do buy Luke seeing the military as the opportunity to learn and grow with college not an option. And Becky, realizing her pageant dreams weren't going to amount to much, finding happiness in Dillion through family.
Tyra/Tim - Maybe when I do a rewatch, Tyra's declaration of loving Tim since she was five will make sense, but, again, not seeing it. Their reconnection just felt like the writers trying to bring another couple back together from the original cast of characters. At least they established Tyra has aspirations and her dreams aren't going to become a reality of she settles down with Tim in Dillion. And I just don't see the two of them being a couple five years from now.
Mindy/Billy - Whoever thought those two would a) make it and b) be such a strong, supportive couple for themselves and others? And I was so happy Billy was able to find a coaching job with the Panthers. Actually, it looked like the Lions coaches were favored over the Panthers coaches, even without Eric staying.
Tami/Eric - As I said, I knew Eric would ultimately do the right thing and go to Philadelphia. And, really, was there any doubt he would get a coaching job there? But what would make him say no to the Panther coaching job and put Tami's career first? The thing is, Eric didn't make the choice he did just for Tami. The turning point came when Jess informed him of her move to Dallas. After she commented the semester had been the best time of her life, Eric stated it was his too. He took a team with limited resources, inexperienced players and an abysmal first season to the state championship. How could he top that experience? The Panthers would provide him with a super team and a high probability of winning a third state championship. Where's the challenge in that? Eric's drive has always come from building - teams, players, and men. That he can, and apparently is, doing in Philadelphia.
And while it was hard to watch Tami in pain and Eric succumbing to his worst character traits, I have to give the writers credit for making their fighting pretty hilarious in the episode. From arguing over who should get the door to Eric informing Tami that Julie and Matt were engaged to her declaration she actually was agreeing with him on this.
Vince...and Eric - You thought I was going to talk about Vince and Jess, didn't you? ;) I enjoyed Vince and Jess's relationship, but it wasn't the pivotal one in Vince's life. Not even his relationship with his mom was. Vince said it on more than one occasion and it can't be said enough that, without Eric, Vince would have ended up in jail. He will now finish high school and, barring catastrophic injury, will go on to college. His mother got clean and got her life back because Vince was there to help her. Whether or not he's able to have a long term relationship with his dad is debatable, but he had the opportunity to try and make peace with his past. And it's because Eric gave him a chance and never stopped supporting him.
Why was Landry back? All we got was one scene. You would have thought he would have been invited to the bar, have as many of the 'old timers' back as possible in one scene, and provide further closure to Tyra and Landry. Maybe Jesse was only available for a day. I have to cling to that theory.
In my opinion, this wasn't the strongest season of Friday Night Lights. The writers dropped the ball (heh) with some characters and plotlines, but, overall, it was a strong conclusion to the show. I laughed, I cried, and I saw many moments and resolutions I wanted to see. There were also moments I thought I would need to see, and didn't, and they gave me something better. Vince wearing his Lions championship ring on the Panthers field was far more satisfying then watching a celebration during the game.