(Originally posted on May 7, 2011)
The last time I wrote about a series finale, it was 10,000 words. I doubt I write 10,000 words for the series finale of Friday Night Lights.
Something struck me during "Always." Every story and character arc ended before "Always" began. What remained were loose ends that needed tying up. These loose ends made "Always" a more pleasurable viewing experience because Jason Katims' could devote much of the script to saying goodbye to Dillon and its character. After so much melodrama in the season, that was refreshing. The loose ends were about the Taylors' future, the Riggins' brothers' relationship, the State championship as well as Julie and Matt.
I still dislike the unnecessary drama the writers created for Tami and Eric during the 11th hour of the show and that it took nearly 45 minutes for the inevitable to happen--for Coach to reject the contract and allow his wife to take the job she wants for the first time in her life. In between, the show wanted us to believe the couple would separate or exist in a compromise that might ruin their marriage. During dinner with Saracen and Julie to converse with them about the realities of marriage, Eric explains what marriage is about--compromise and communication. Tami cannot stomach what her husband's saying because he's a hypocrite.
The problem is, I never seriously bought into their marriage crisis, so the scenes of marital strife felt contrived and manipulative. The story, though, wasn't as shallow as the surface. The Taylors marriage has been hailed as the best fictional relationship in TV history. It's fitting that their final story showcased their resilient relationship. Tami wouldn't take the job with her husband in tow, and Coach couldn't live with himself if he prevented his wife from the opportunity of a lifetime. They're a team, they compromise, and their love's enduring.
In the end, life took the Taylors to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tami became the Dean of Admissions. She now has the power to transform students' lives like Epyck with prestigious universities. Meanwhile, Coach Taylor became the head coach of Frankford High or, rather, a fictional high school in Philly (but it's the Frankford football team). The final image in the series featured Eric and Tami walking off of the football field as the lights went out. Coach Taylor will continue to coach high school football, to mold young kids into young men and Tami will continue to change the lives of students off of the field. It's a great ending for both characters.
The bright, blue and big Texas sky gives Tim a purpose, and so does his nephew, Stevie. Tim's been more or less a ghost since he was released from prison. Tyra's return restored him though. The woman had an effect on him that he didn't anticipate, something far different and surprising than his feelings for Lyla Garrity. On a sun-drenched day, in Riggins' field, he told Tyra how much he loved her and she did the same. Tyra told him about her plans to become a politician, that she wouldn't let her feelings for Tim ruin her future. Tim told her how he'll never do anything illegal again, how he'll find a job and then build a house on his big patch of land. Tim's final scenes with his brother as they build. Afterwards, they share a beer as they vow "Texas Forever." The scene called back to the scene in the Pilot with he, Lyla, Street and Tyra as Tim told his best friend how they'll live on a big ranch. Tim has his big ranch, and his true best friend in his brother. It was a fantastic ending for Tim Riggins, acted beautifully by Taylor Kitsch and Derek Phillips.
Vince Howard and his teammates won their State championship. Vince became a Panther and probably found success at the college level and, maybe, at the professional level. For a series about football, though, the sport had little to do with any of the characters' individual endings. Vince wanted his father at the title game as much as he wanted to win State. Ornette, indeed, showed up, suggesting the possibility that Vince will have his father in his life for the rest of his life. His mother watched him in the stands. Jess returned his love before she moved onto Dallas, and he experienced something priceless with his teammates--the State championship win. Vince is possibly the greatest teenage character the show created because of his journey from the police car to the State title win. Michael B. Jordan, more than any other actor, carried the show during its final two seasons.
Every character found a happy ending. Becky moved back home with her mother, made up with Luke and promised Mindy that she'd always be around even if she no longer live in her house. Billy earned a position on the Dillon Panthers. Luke joined the military after high school, and gave his girlfriend his championship ring to keep until he returns.
As important as football was in the show, football became secondary during the show's final montage. Vince's hail mary pass transitioned into football practice at Frankford high. We missed the most important moment for the Lions because FNL's always been a show about more than football. I thought it was the perfect choice to cut from the title game and jump ahead because that's the essence and spirit of Friday Night Lights.
"Always" had its fair share of series finale cliches though. Characters moved to new cities. A marriage proposal happened. FNL executed everything so well though. It's hard to criticize Matt and Julie's engagement because the two were wonderful with another, plus the engagement gave us one last scene that featured Matt stuttering in front of coach like a buffoon. I'm also glad that I don't have to watch that particular story develop.
Overall, though, "Always" was a great conclusion to a great series. Jason Katims wrote an excellent script. Michael Waxman beautifully directed it. The actors were as good as always, especially Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton.
One last thing: the Philadelphia Daily News somehow spoiled the Philadelphia movie without literally spoiling it. The article was about how the crew filmed in Philadelphia. I wondered why a high school football team from Texas would play at Frankford High of all places. Now, it all makes sense.