At the 11th hour in the series' final act, the landscape of Dillon, Texas football changed as well as the 18 year marriage between Eric and Tami. The budget problems have been a constant through the fifth season, so I can't criticize the decision to combine both football teams in the town; however, if the financial situation in the district was dire, why did the town bother to create another football team if the team couldn't be sustained? With only one episode remaining, the State championship's more meaningful than any other title game in the show's history. There'll be a bittersweet finality to it. But something rubs me the wrong way with how late in the series this development happened.
The sudden crisis in the Taylor marriage rubs me the wrong way as well. Armed with a great offer from Braemore, Tami's met with rejection from her husband. Tami reminds Eric how much sacrifice she's done in the interest of his coaching career. Eric acts like a jerk though, entertaining offers from the Panthers despite Tami's offer. Buddy successfully tempted Eric with thoughts of winning a third state championship in six years with the Vince Howard-led Dillon Panthers, informing him that he'll have his choice of a top flight college program. He doesn't congratulate his wife and he becomes a whole lot less likable than any other time in the series, which isn't ideal for the penultimate episode of the series. Throughout their story, Tami drops hints that she'll leave the town and the marriage for the Dean of Admissions. What's the point beyond adding drama for the series finale?
What's disappointing, beyond the characterization of the two most important characters in the show, is the safe road the writers took towards the finale. Series finale tropes sprouted like flowers in spring. Characters might leave town forever. The fates of every character in the show is murky. FNL succeeded for four seasons (season two's a complete failure) because the show handled small, human, real moments better than any network drama in some time. The show always redeemed itself from soapish plots through their ability to capture the realities of day-to-day life. "Texas Whatever" poses several BIG DRAMATIC questions for the series finale, which is the worst way FNL could end the series. Jason Katims and his writers didn't need to put the Taylor marriage in crisis or drop a Dean of Admissions job out of the blue sky to make the finale interesting. Surely there was a more natural way to conclude the series without resorting to dramatic and forced plot points. FNL never learned how to tell a complete story in 13 episodes though. Season 3, though good, had many problem because of the episode order. Season 5 chose to spend valuable time on worthless stories like Julie and her TA and the Kennard story. There could've been a better way to approach the final chapter of Eric and Tami's collective arc.
Despite my issues with two major stories, "Texas Whatever" is a good episode. Tyra returned to town and saved Tim Riggins from making a poor decision to move to Alaska to work on pipe lines. The Riggins story worked well in this episode. Someone needed to connect with Tim. Someone needed to remind Tim how important Billy is, to remind him why he made the decision to screw his life up for his brother. Tyra succeeded in all areas. She took Tim to his great, big land to remind him of how beautiful Texas. Tim just smiles.
Vince, Luke, Tinker, Hastings and Buddy Jr prepare for their last game as East Dillon Lions. The scene's no different from past scenes in past seasons when Tim, Smash, Matt and Landry would hang out and drink on the field. The boys express sadness that their team won't exist after the state championship but they're determined to win the state, to join the Panthers as state champions. Luke announces that he'll never play football again after state (thanks to a conversation with Riggins). The rest toast one another, their coach, and the blood, sweat and tears they spilled on their football field. The best scene in the episode happens after the announcement's made to form one football team. Coach tells Vince what life will be like as a Panther and how much he'll thrive as QB #1. Vince hugs his coach and Coach hugs his quarterback.
I hope the series finale's good. I hope it avoids the beaten paths of finales past. I would like to remember Friday Night Lights as one of the better dramas in TV history, as a show that didn't sink itself with its affinity for soap-operish plot lines. The finale's 60 minutes long. I'll have my review posted sometime tomorrow.
Kerry Ehrin wrote the penultimate episode. Kyle Chandler directed it.
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