Friday Night Lights: Start of the End

Tonight will be bittersweet. The fifth and final season of the always magnificent Friday Night Lights premieres on DirecTV.

When we left off last season, new characters were introduced, Julie Taylor and Landry Clarke were heading off to college, Tim Riggins was  arrested, Tami Taylor quit her job at West Dillon with plans to transfer to East Dillon, and Coach Taylor was relishing in a sweet victory over his former team, the West Dillon Panthers. Through it all,  the Taylors were and still are the parents I always wanted.

Fans of Friday Night Lights have been put through the ringer. Only the first season aired 22 episodes. We’ve suffered through more cancellation drama imaginable and tirelessly waited for FNL to be recognized by the Emmys. A deal with DirecTV gave us three more seasons and the phenomenal leads Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton were finally nominated at this year’s Emmys.

I joined the FNL fan club late. I started watching at the end of season three  but within in a few episodes, I was addicted. The often bitter realities of family life centered around the drama of high school football games has made for beyond exceptional television. In so many ways Dillon, Texas reminds me of the town where I grew up, which is nowhere near Texas. But that speaks to the essence of FNL, capturing small-town life in ways that feels oddly familiar even if Dillon is an unlikely character in your life.

There there’s Tim Riggins. Where would this show be without Tim Riggins? The beer-drinking, hard-working fullback with a heart of gold is the most iconic character on the show. (Though Coach and Mrs. Coach are up there as well.) Every time Riggins graces the television screen, whether on the football field, in his scenes with Lyla Garrity (you just want them to be together), or in his beloved pickup truck tossing his college books out the window, he is the emotional core the show. (Though Zach Gilford in the season four episode “The Son” takes the prize for best single acting performance in one episode.) I expect these characters and the many more who we have fallen in love with to be given a proper send off.

While I am sad this season is the last, I am grateful for the DirecTV/NBC deal, which saved FNL from cancellation and allows us loyal fans to get two doses of FNL each year, even after the Dillon Lions play their last game this fall.

Texas, Forever.

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