Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Night Lights, "Tomorrow Blues": Something old, something new

Spoilers for the "Friday Night Lights" third season finale coming up just as soon as I use some me time to bid on a fake owl's head made out of a deer's rear end...

NOTE: This and all other "FNL" season three reviews were written after viewing the DirecTV cut, which can be several minutes longer than the NBC version. So both my review and the early comments may refer to scenes that were not shown on NBC.

"You know what? No matter what happens, no matter where you go, no matter what you do, I'm always going to be behind you. Always and always and always." -Tami Taylor
And you know what? If, by some miracle, NBC and DirecTV both decide it's in their best interests to keep "Friday Night Lights" going for another season(*), I'm going to be right behind it. I've enjoyed this season overall, but these last couple of episodes, and the set-up with Eric taking over East Dillon High, has me for the first time really pulling for renewal.

(*) Obviously, this review was written months before NBC and DirecTV teamed up to order two more seasons of the show. But the sentiments expressed within it all still stand.

"Tomorrow Blues" does a fine job of seeing off several of the graduating characters. If we never see Riggins or Lyla or Tyra again, then I'll be okay with it because their exits (Tim and Tyra's, especially) were handled with such grace. And the developments with both Saracen and Coach work either as thematically-appropriate farewells to both characters -- we've known from episode one that, in the world of "Friday Night Lights," not every person gets the fate they deserve, no matter how hard-working or pure of heart -- or as springboards for a fourth season.

Good as this season has been, we're all aware how much of it was retracing familiar ground from the show's first year. A fourth season with Eric as coach at East Dillon -- with lousy facilities, no boosters, and all the good players gerrymandered into the Dillon High district by Buddy and Joe McCoy -- has potential to not only be very different, but really inspiring. It's one thing to see Eric work in a system where he's the master of all he surveys, and quite another for him to be running a team where "Lance"(**) could conceivably be his most talented player. Eric and Buddy as enemies instead of allies could be great to see, as would a possible story where Joe edges Buddy out as king of the boosters and Buddy winds up re-teaming with Eric to try to make something of the disgraceful East Dillon squad. There are a whole lot of ways this can go, all of them potentially fascinating, all of them very much fitting in the themes of the show, and none of them rehashing what's come before. And unlike Eric going off to coach at TMU, this is a change in the status quo that doesn't ever have to reset. They could very easily get through a fourth season or even (pie in the sky time) several seasons with Eric stuck coaching the runts of the town while Wade Aikman tries to ride JD McCoy's arm back to State, and it would still be "Friday Night Lights."

(**) According to this very interesting interview that Jason Katims did with Sporting News writer Chris Littmann, Landry and Julie were both juniors this year, and would therefore be in play for a fourth year.

And while I don't like the decision that Matt made about abandoning art school so he wouldn't have to abandon Grandma, I understand it from Matt's perspective. It stinks that he feels he has to set his own future aside to stick by the one person who always stuck by him, but life ain't fair, not everybody gets a happy ending, and I can absolutely see the stand-up kid we've watched for the last three years make this choice.

I'm also relieved to know that, in the aforementioned interview, Katims said they didn't have a hypothetical season four in mind when they chose this route for Matt. Again, I get it, and it feels true to the spirit of the series that someone would wind up stuck in Dillon after high school.

And for a good chunk of the finale, it looked like that someone would be Tim Riggins, and that he would be more than happy to be stuck under a hydraulic lift at his brother's garage, drinking beers, fixing cars and forever telling stories of the glory years playing with Six, Seven and Smash. But Billy's speech about how one member of the Riggins family needs to get out of this town and make something of himself so that future generations know that it can be done was a lovely idea. And I like that Tim's exit is somewhat bittersweet. He's really made peace with the world over the last couple of seasons (his emotional journey was one of the few highlights of season two), and I can easily imagine that he'd be much more content staying in this comfort zone than he might be going out into the world, struggling against college competition and real academics (or as close as a party school can get). As with so many things in the finale, it felt right.

Tyra and Lyla's exits were a bit easier. Lyla in particular turns out to have an uncle who can magically solve all her college tuition problems, and Katims and Jeffrey Reiner obviously deemed her inner struggle over whether to stick with Tim or go to her dream school not interesting enough to actually show. But I found the maturity with which she accepted Tim's refusal to hold her back a nice contrast to the girl from the start of season one who had built her whole life around Jason Street.

And with Matt getting the short end of the stick, Tyra pulls off an unlikely but still touching escape when she gets off the wait list and into Texas. Though I often found her stories problematic (even ignoring the murder), Adrianne Palicki always gave this character everything she had; just look at the way she's shaking with equal parts fear and hope as she opens up the admissions letter. That, ladies and gentlemen, isn't a hot blonde. That's an actress. I hope (and expect) to see a lot more of her in the future, as well as Taylor Kitsch and Zach Gilford and the rest of this brilliant young cast, whether the show comes back or not, whether Katims decides to bring back the graduated seniors or not.

If the show somehow continues, I'm excited for the possibilities created by the East Dillon move. And if it ends, we'll always have those moments where "Friday Night Lights" reached deep into our guts, or brushed across our spines, and moved us in a way that few of us would have expected from a show about Texas high school football.

If this is the end -- if the last image of the series is of Eric and Julie holding each other and staring out at that abandoned field that's about to become Eric's new professional home -- then we'll still have our memories.

Last time (or not): Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

Some other thoughts:

* I joked at the end of season one that a renewed "Friday Night Lights" would feature NBC-mandated changes like murder mysteries and Tyra and Lyla working at a bikini car wash. We eventually got the murder (though it came from Katims, not NBC), and we got the bikinis, too, but the brief glimpses here didn't so much feel titillating as they did wistful, as we saw Lyla with Tim, and Tyra with Landry, enjoying those peaceful and carefree last days of high school and the welcome arrival of spring and then summer.

* Just as last week gave us a Street reference with Tyra's brainstorming session for her application essay, this one gives us one last Smash reference, as Buddy invokes his name as a recruitment tool. That was a nice touch.

* Speaking of which, for the last time this season, it's time for me to call on the high school football experts (Texas or otherwise) to explain exactly how you do recruitment (or whatever Buddy called it) when, in theory, kids go to whatever school is in their district.

* The moment where Eric and Julie gave Julie a new car was sweet, but whatever happened to the used one she planned to buy with her Applebee's money?

* Another nice nod to the show's history: Buddy and Tyra's mom dance at Mindy's wedding, and enough time has clearly passed that they can do it -- and Lyla can watch -- without anyone's feelings being hurt.

* Loved Billy's stupid white tux and ten gallon hat. Just a perfect choice.

What did everybody else think?


Alan Sepinwall said...

A more direct link to the Katims interview.

Mo Ryan said...

Full hearts. Most definitely.

Yeah, what you said, Alan. One thing I loved was that this was among the funniest FNL's we've seen in a long time. Something about the Riggins boys in white suits and white 10 gallon hats just made me giggle uncontrollably during the wedding scene. That plus the band's rendition of a Frampton classic.

Agreed that the new setup would be very interesting. And thank you for solving the mystery of what year Lance(*) is.

I really, really wanted Matt to get his dream. But the book that FNL is loosely based on is full of guys still living in that town, having not really gotten very far, geographically, from their glory days.

I still wonder how you build a mesmerizing FNL around a mostly new cast, but I'd be behind a fourth season. These last two episodes have been full of vintage FNL moments.

Texas forever.

R.A. Porter said...

I thought Tami said to Julie what we all needed to hear about FNL:

"Y’all have had a really nice relationship and you don’t know what’s going to happen after that. If you and Matt are meant to be together you’ll be together. And if you’re not, there’s going to be someone else special for you."

Yeah, if we're meant to have another season or two, we will.

I've been a little bit down on the show the past few episodes for feeling so derivative, but I'm with you, Alan. Tonight told new stories and opened up new possibilities for the future and I really *want* there to be another year. I want to see Buddy and Eric fighting against Joe and Wade. I want to see JD make peace with his former coach after a hard fought game between the new cross town rivals. I want to see Buddy pull some fast one on Joe and, I don't know, get a national camera crew to spend a week at East Dillon as the "true inheritor" of Dillon football. Or whatever else the writers can come up with. I'm excited now.

So of course, I'm nervous. When I was mildly enjoying this season, thinking it hadn't gotten back to its dizzying heights but had found a nice storytelling groove, I was alright with the 13 episodes being an extended swan song. Now? Damn it, I want more!

More of my thoughts, including my final paean to Billy Riggins, in my review here.

Brian said...

I was kind of disappointed that we didn't get one Matt/Landry scene in what could be the final episode. I mean aren't they supposed to be best friends? Some of the funniest moments in the show came from conversations between Sarecen and Landry. Now, I honestly can't even remember the last time they had any dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Brian. Other than Coach and Tammy...Matt (always be QB one) and Landry(Lance) had the best relationship on this show!

Unknown said...

Great episode, and a beautiful way to end the season and if necessary the series. Billy's speech to Tim was fantastic.

A little disappointing to see Katims and co. retcon Julie being a year younger than everyone, but I guess they felt they needed to keep some teenage characters around for next year.

Anonymous said...

So I was sitting at my computer enjoying this last episode, at peace with the possibility that it may be the series finale. Then Coach Taylor was offered the head coaching job at East Dillon. I literally threw my headphones across my desk. Now I am back to desperately waiting for a renewal that might not ever come. At this moment, I would gladly trade the final two seasons of Lost and all the answer they may bring, to see Coach Taylor and his group of misfits teach the McCoys the true meaning of team.

Oh and Alan, I believe that the parents of a young player that is clearly a physical specimen would move to a new school district if it meant a better situation for their child, and I would imagine the shadier boosters might help with the cost. I believe it was offered to Voodoo in the first season.

Anonymous said...

Despite the East Dillon stuff if there's a Season 4 I'd like the show to develop the relationship between JD and Coach more. I enjoyed the sense of trust that Coach and Street shared and initially thought that was what the show was going to do with JD. I still think that would be a good area to explore with their relationship slowly evolving to the mentor/friend thing Coach had with Street.

Matthew Stollak said...

I'll be sad to see the show go off the air, and perhaps it is one of the shortcomings of having a 13 rather than a 22 episode season, but I find it difficult to accept that the school board would be so willing to replace Coach Taylor at Dillon, for an untested commodity.

Coach Taylor has only taken the Panthers to two straight state championships. What transgression did Coach Taylor make to put his job in jeopardy? It is likely that he would be flooded with job offers. Is there still lingering resentment over his taking the college position? Is he too expensive as a coach? Is this more a move to get back at Tami for shifting the budget away from the scoreboard, even though she conceded at the end?

And where was Buddy defending Coach Taylor at the school board meeting? Isn't he head of the Boosters? Given the importance of football in Dillon, wouldn't the school board meeting have been mobbed over such a huge decision? Where is the scene of ANYONE defending Coach Taylor and keeping him at Dillon? Where's the scene of many a tearful parent or student indicating how much of a difference Coach Taylor made in their life, especially since we saw earlier in the season, the whole redistricting of the city to ensure all the best players remaining at Dillon? Where's the Rudy-like scene, where one player after another says that they won't suit up if Taylor isn't the coach? Where's Mac?

Again, it may be the byproduct of the shortened season, but I don't think they provided enough back story about the threat of Coach Taylor losing his job.

Anonymous said...

Folks, it doesn't get much better then this. A genius finale.

But now I want a 4th season more than ever. We've lost so many great drama's recently (with Battlestar Galactica going next), please don't add FNL to that list...

Also, too funny that they showed a Dillon Panther baseball game and there was only like one person in attendance.

Anonymous said...

Re: the age retcon:

Landry drove Matt to school in the pilot, as well as most of Season 1. So we're supposed to believe he was 16 in the Fall of his freshman year? Which means he'll graduate at 19 or 20? Between this and his anti-jock mentality cum excited football player (not to mention his felony), the writers really have no grip on his formal characteristics, do they? At least he's always dependable for a laugh.

Anonymous said...

^^^Yeah Mathew I agree with all of that. But I think I'm willing to overlook those shortcomings just because Coach going to East Dillon would provide so many compelling potential story lines for a 4th season.

And the show has always shown that Coach Taylor had little to no job security. How many times did he have to pull out For sale signs from his lawn after losing a game? Or how many times did we hear people on the radio calling for him to be fired.

But still, he was one play away from winning State, would they really want to throw him to the wolves and go with a first time head coach? I donno.

Unknown said...

If there's a forth season, and with Matt still in town, maybe he became assistant coach at East Dillon for coach Taylor? What do you all think about that possibility?

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Alan. As soon as Coach pulled Tami away from the wedding, I knew where he was going. And as soon as we saw the dump that East Dillion High was, the adrenaline flowed. Coach starting back up from the bottom, building a team, shaping young men and hopefully, kicking that smug bastard McCoy ass on the playing field, that would be better than winning State.
Also, I feel sorry for JD because now he will never get out of the Daddy cocoon, what with McCoy and his puppet coach. RoboQB, here we come.


Anonymous said...

I loved the episode, that felt like a more than satisfactory ending to all the plots if it has to go out like this. But ... that being said, I'd love to see how East Dillon plays out. The burden of the story could clearly shift even more to the Taylor family, plus Landry and Matt, presumably. Sounds like a great season to me. Part of me wants for them to go out on a high note like that, but how could I say no to another season? I couldn't.

I hope everyone gets a chance to read the interview with Katims. Really enjoyed talking FNL with everyone this season. See-ya around the blog!

Team Sweeney said...

argh! why didn't coach - or tammy, for that matter - make the MOST obvious point: where is joe mccoy and money going to be in three years when JD is playing for mack brown in austin (or, as i'd prefer, mike sherman in college station)?

leaving that giant, 4,000-pound, king kong-sized gorilla unmentioned, especially in the face of coach fighting for his job, irked me.

also - though the creators may indeed do it - buddy would never team with eric - he didn't go to east dillon, he has no affiliation with that school whatsoever. it would be completely inconsistent with the entire foundation of that character.

final point/wish: if they DO come back, i would love for the 4th season to be a bit meta with a buzz bisinger character coming to town. that, to me, would be infinitely more fascinating that trying to build a new program at east dillon. in fact, i have no care for that story line at all.

Unknown said...

The more I ponder on this episode the more it seems absolutely right. (as a short testament to this show - my 12-year-old football playing son went to bed last night with his eyes a little moist because he knows he may never see these people again). I hated to see Saracen stay but I understand it and you have feel happy for Grandma. Also out of the three (Tyra, Riggins and Saracen) he's the one I feel confident that could make a choice like this and not get permenantly stuck. I desperately hope this show comes back but if not they at least left me with an ability to see their future(s) in my mind.

Michael said...

I loved the finale with the exception of how the coaching change came about. Matthew said pretty much everything that I was going to say.

There's no way that a Texas school would can a head coach that has taken the team to State in two of the last three years. If it was a matter of money, they'd find a way, even if it meant gutting the music department or girls' soccer.

Yay, Tyra! Hook 'em Horns!

erin said...

I thought this episode was just beautiful, and funny too. Tim whining about 800-page books and not enough "me" time, then rolling around with Billy after he found out they were having "a little football" was the highlight.

And the wedding! Has there every been something as delightfully tacky (Mindy had on WINGS!) as that? Oh, it was just so awful.

I think there's many a man who would want a wife like Tami, and many a woman who wants a husband like Eric. What a team.

Small complaint about Tyra's letter--I've yet to see an acceptance in anything but an 8x11 envelope. Everything else? Rejection! But maybe that's just me??

I also had a few problems with the board (and audience's) lack of support for Eric. They all know how great he is and how good he is for the team. Hard to imagine they'd toss that over for Joe McCoy. And it seemed like it was just dropped in his lap...are we supposed to think Eric wouldn't have known if they hadn't made that house call that he might lose his job? I'm guessing they think the East Dillon coaching job is a worthwhile consolation prize.

Love this show. LOVE THIS SHOW. I hope it sees a 4th season, like my beloved Everwood. But even that show got 22 full episodes each season! FNL did great with what it was given, and for that I am grateful! Go Panthers (soon to be Lions!)

Alan Sepinwall said...

I agree that you have to take a bit of a leap with the lack of anyone (Buddy or otherwise) to stand up for Eric, but consider a few things:

-Yes, he took the team to State twice in three years, but he only won one of those games, and the expectations in a town like this are absurdly high. They put For Sale signs on his lawn after he lost a regular season game!

-There's still probably some resentment over the way he bailed on the team immediately after that championship, and on how generally ugly the previous football season was. I'm sure there are boosters and fans who believe he just slunk back to Dillon because he couldn't hack it on the college level, and they feel like he thinks he's above the job.

-Joe has a lot of money, and has no doubt promised to pour quite a bit of that into the team if he gets his way on the coaching front.

-Wade got credited, right or wrong, with orchestrating a big playoff win after Eric got tossed by the refs. And just as the fans all wanted to see JD get the starting job after he threw only one pass, I can see a lot of Dillon fans falling in love with the hot new assistant. Wade doesn't have Eric's championship ring, but he also doesn't have any baggage with this town.

-If the fans and boosters really believe that the team's fortunes are going to ride on JD's right arm for the next three years, then I can see them wanting his personal QB guru to have the head job, in the same way that Eric got promoted over Mac to take over the team for Jason Street's senior year.

Unknown said...

A couple quick comments on some of the school board discussion. Buddy is and will always be looking out for number one - there's no way he's going to take up for Coach unless it's in his best interest to do so. This may have something to do with the short season but it's also somewhat problematic to have Tammy and Coach at the same school - this probably factored into the decision. Lastly - although the situation was somewhat different I find interesting -thematically - that Coach originally got his job primarily because of a quarterback (Street)

Chatterbox said...

Am I not recalling it correctly, or didn't Taylor take Dillon to THREE straight State games? I thought Smash hurt his leg in the State game? Or was it the semi-final?

And yeah - I love the idea of Eric leading a pack of rag-tag underdogs at East Dillon. It would be silly to have them on track for State, but to have them play the spoilers by defeating Dillon and killing *their* chances at State...that would be sweet.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least, if this show had to end, it ended on a high note.

Now, fingers crossed for freakishly high ratings on NBC. I thought I would be happy with ending this, when they all graduate, but they did a fantastic job of having a really good conclusion to the show yet leaving enough intrigue should they get another season.

And now, I'm intrigued!! Damn it.

-Tami and Eric. BESTEST TV couple EVER. I don't think there's ever been a couple as realistic as those two. I'm going to miss them SO MUCH! Come back, show!

-Billy Riggins. Wow! What started out as such a flimsy character ended up giving my favourite speech of the episode. How great is that? It's also nice to see Tim not reverting back to his old self in Dillon and going off to college. (well, at least for now.)

- I got to say, I was slightly heartbroken that Matt decided to stay. I think I even yelled at my TV. But, should there be a next season, it will be marvelous to see what happens to Matt. And reading what people had to say made me understand it did make sense for him to be the one to stay. And I agree, now that someone's mentioned it, I do miss Matt and Landry together. Perhaps it's because they suddenly realize they weren't in the same year. :D

-Tyra and Landry. Predictable happy ending, but I couldn't stop smiling when she got accepted. The envelope scene, while done a million times before on any given TV show, was very touching.

-Buddy and McCoy. People argued that Buddy would never go against Dillon because that's his alma mater, but I'm not sure. Once Buddy gets SHUT OUT of the whole football thing in Dillon, he'd probably be itching to get back in the game somehow. Given his unexpected but genuine friendship with Eric, I won't be surprised that Buddy would butt in and try and get back at being left out. But anyway, I'm imagining a fourth season here. But anyway, like Billy, it's AMAZING to see how at the end I totally love Buddy, when he'd been so annoying for so long. :D

I better shut up now, this is really long. But yeah, my feelings are all over the place. I miss this show already!

Oh, btw, thanks for reminding me that they didn't really have an ending last season. I was racking my brains trying to figure out how come I couldn't remember the games from last season!

Unknown said...

I posted this on the previous dispatches post, but some FNL fans may have missed it. Bill Simmons of ESPN spoke with Peter Berg (FNL Exec Producer) on his podcast yesterday. Simmons' podcast "The B.S. Report" is always entertaining and this episode was great. You can find it on iTunes or on the podcast section of ESPN's website. There are no spoilers for those who haven't seen season 3. It's more of a preview for season 3 as Simmons who is a big fan of the show chose to wait for the show to air on NBC so he wouldn't be ahead of some his readers. They covered a lot of interesting ground including the fact that Berg did not like the murder plot from season 2 and that Berg believes Jeff Zucker is a fan of the show and is optimistic about a season 4. Check it out, and if you're a sports and pop culture fan then I recommend subscribing to the podcast regularly.

Antid Oto said...

I agree that you have to take a bit of a leap with the lack of anyone (Buddy or otherwise) to stand up for Eric, but consider a few things:

If I could just add one more to the list, I found it totally believable that the same school board that canned Coach Taylor's replacement in Season Two after like three games would make this kind of decision. That and his original promotion on Jason Street's coattails.

Antid Oto said...

Gramma Saracen's comment that she wanted to make sure to keep Matthew's seventh-grade picture nearby so she could look at it in case she forgot him was just heartwrenching.

Anonymous said...

The last 2 episodes were fantastic and I was at peace with the show ending until I saw the finale and the creators set up a perfect scenario for a season 4. I also heard part of a podcast that Peter Berg did with Bill Simmons and it was clear Berg felt they had a lot of story to tell. That podcast is on ESPN.

All of the send-offs were good. The Riggins going to college angle suprised me because Berg mentioned in the interview that Kitsch would be a permenant fixture on the show.

I dont have a problem if the 4th Season followed the same model as this season. I know Alan had some problems because of the time it took to get rid of Smash/Street, but I was fine with it. Im having so many problems with Time Warner I would consider Direct Tv and if they bring back FNL that would be another reason to switch.

If it was the finale it was good ending and a great ride. As with the other special tv shows of our time, The Wire/The Sopranos/, Alan your recaps deefinately made the experience that much better. Thanks bro!

Anonymous said...

By the way - and I fully admit I don't know how this works - but for those of us with DVRs, I'm thinking we ought to be DVR'ing the NBC airing of FNL and then "watching" those airings (even if that just means running them while doing something else) so as to help show a higher overall number of views. Anyone know better how this works and if it matters?

Anonymous said...

Im much more in tune with the fanatic culture of high school basketball and recruiting usually ivolves private schools. Some of the Catholic schools that have these awesome sports programs basically recruit players and give them scholarships to cover the tuition and since it is a move to a private school the kid can play.

I would guess the kid in the episode was probably an eigth grader and despite not living in Dillon could chose to go to high school there. If the player was already in high school he would have to set out a year unless his family moved. And in real life this usually involves one of the parents getting a job so they can move.

Anonymous said...

As far as no one standing up for Eric at the meeting I did not feel it was that much of a stretch. We have to remember the kind of prospect McCoy is supposed to be. He is only a Freshman and having him guarantees a good shot at 3 more state titles and having one of the best qbs in the country means even more attention than usual. I can buy them choosing the qb over the coach.

erin said...

@Anon about Bill Simmons:

Thanks for the recommendation! Very entertaining, and Peter Berg is just so refreshing. So funny and low-BS. And I didn't know he was Buzz Bissinger's cousin! Great interview, especially in how the TV show got off the ground.

And he loves Taylor Kitsch, which endears him to me.

He wanted to cast Dwight Yoakam as Coach! Huh...I'm trying to see that...

R.A. Porter said...

@Maxwell Q, yeah. Everyone with a DVR should be recording and watching the NBC airings within the first 72 hours. I suspect the +3s are going to be more important in the decision than the +7s.

Otto Man said...

Lyla in particular turns out to have an uncle who can magically solve all her college tuition problems

I took "Uncle Gary" to be Buddy's way of talking about the rich Californian that Lyla's mom married after leaving him.

AC said...

Oh, there were tears! Great work all around from everyone, plus some heart, some West Texas tackiness, and some righteous indignation. I am still constantly amazed by the beauty and heart of this show, and I will miss it terribly if it is indeed canceled.

I was sad for Coach not getting his contract renewed, but y'all are right- the idea of Eric building a team from the ground up, and sticking it to everyone in Dillon could be something. Even if the show isn't renewed, we'll pretend that Eric lead East Dillion to the following year's state championship, or something like that.

I hope the actors find work. It's a lovely, talented bunch of people, and even the weak links like Kelly and Kitsch have gotten much better.

Anonymous said...

Just gave the finale a 2nd viewing. God. I'm a 21 year old male, but this show and particularly this finale, made me cry like a ****in baby. Damn I'm ghey.

matty said...

For me, this season was "The Empire Strikes Back". Next season (if there is one) can't help but be "Return of the Jedi". Whatever that means.

Anonymous said...

Loved it. One of the things I like most about FNL is its rare ability with emotional scenes to get those tears welling up. And this episode managed to get me 3-4 times, as each character got a final emotional scene.

I would love for the show to get renewed, as I they've sewn seeds for what could be a very interesting Season 4.

Anonymous said...

It's brilliant how the writers were able to give our characters a "graduation party" -- without having to hire an entire graduating class worth of extras -- in the device of Billy and Mindy's wedding.

As for what happened to the used car Julie had planned on buying with her Appleby's money, I think it's clear that Eric and Tami didn't buy the new car for Julie outright, but only put up the down payment and first loan installment. Eric explicitly stated that Julie would be splitting all car payments with them after that first one.

Anonymous said...

I love the show, loved the finale.

PLEASE don't bring it back.

What could be more bittersweet and perfect than the all-too-real ending we just saw?

Nothing could be better than imagining the possibilities that lie ahead for each of these characters.

But hey, I liked the Sopranos ending too.

Bryan Murray said...

I really think the show has more to explore if you've read the book or have been around high school sports. Bill Simmons had a character idea for next year: two brothers who are both on the team--one senior linebacker who works really hard and his sophomore brother who has more talent but is kind of wasting it. Plenty of things like that to continue the show. And I'm not sure if the casting people got very lucky a few years ago but maybe they can do it again with the kids.

The only thing that worries me, Alan, is that your fears of cancellation are going to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy and it will be over. Tv critics--unite! Get the show renewed.

One last thought, if this show was wildly popular, what do you think they would have done? Would they have made FNL: The College Years? The inexplicable unpopularity of the show may have been a blessing in disguise.

R.A. Porter said...

@Bryan Murray, there's already some movement in a positive direction for a fourth season. DirecTV has already told NBC it's interested in continuing the arrangement. As long as FNL continues to hold its ratings on Fridays, it looks good.

mj said...

Well, Dillon Panthers, with clear eyes and full hearts you lost. You lost the best damn high school football coach in the state of Texas. GO EAST DILLON LIONS!!! And how DOES Kyle Chandler make his face change color after his character discovers through his wife's eyes that he has been fired? The man is a freak of nature.

Jon88 said...

I read that the season 3 DVD set will contain the NBC (i.e., shorter) cuts of each episode. Any chance the rest will be included as deleted scenes? Here's hoping.

Anonymous said...

The whole board scenario would have rung more true had, say, Smash's mama given a heartfelt speech about Coach Taylor. And who doesn't want to see more of her?

Omagus said...

As someone who watched the show knowing that it had already been renewed for two more season, I obviously had a different perspective watching the show than people who didn't know whether or not a fourth season was forthcoming.

However, even with that knowledge, this was just an amazing episode of television. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton continue to give incredible performances as the greatest married couple in the history of television. The scene where Eric is able to read the results of the committee vote on Tammy's face was just perfect.

Props also have to be give to Adrianne Palicki and Jesse Plemons for both the scene in the field on the way back from Austin and when Tyra got her acceptance letter. For the first time ever, I actually saw Tyra and Landry as a realistic couple.

I could go on about all the performances in tonight's episode. Even Minka Kelly was solid (my thoughts on her as an actress are thus: she's not a terrible actress; the show just too often gives her more than she is capable of handling...kind of like Tom Cruise in Magnolia).

From a dramatic standpoint, having Eric move over to East Dillon just works. From a realistic standpoint on the show though, I wish we could have seen some more. I'm fine with the committee deciding to follow Joe McCoy's wallet (and Tammy keeping quiet about it). But, as Wordnerd says, how does Mama Smash not come and plead Eric's case? What about Matt and his Grandma? Or Jason Street's parents? Riggins slept under Eric's roof for a while. It would have made perfect sense for any of these people to argue his case.

I am curious as to what will happen next season. From what I understand, Lyla and Tyra will be given the same treatment that Smash and Street got. So they will be around for a few episodes before given a final farewell. But Riggins is still going to be a permanent fixture? How will that work if he's supposed to be away at college? And what will it mean for him when Lyla is no longer around? Someone mentioned it already: I love the idea of Matt sticking around as an assistant coach on Eric's staff. That makes him even more like Major Applewhite.

Did anyone else think "Boss Hogg" when they showed Buddy Garrity in an all white suit?

Hyde said...

I think they're going down just the right path--since it was going to be a substantially new show anyway with so many kids leaving, why not take this season's clash with the McCoys to its logical conclusion?

Excellent comeback season after the very disappointing Season Two.

BTW, Alan: Since the JD McCoy/Todd Marinovich comparison has been made in here before, you might like to know that there is a Marinovich story in the new issue of Esquire.

Anonymous said...

I loved finally getting to see an episode that took place outside of football season.

What the heck does Coach Taylor do all day at the school post-football season? Teach gym?

Sara said...

I love reading your posts out loud to my husband right after every episode. It makes the show last just a little bit longer - thank you!

Quick note: you called Tami "Julie" twice in your write up this time.

Steve said...

Wow... just wow.

I am going to miss these kids. I never thought I would watch a show that made me miss the characters more than Freaks & Geeks, but I think that FNL has done just that.

I'm a 25 year old guy, and this show makes me well up/cry far too often.

Some things I loved:

- starting the episode at a baseball game to denote the spring

- classic Billy Riggins letting Tim convince him to buy a bull.

- the tackiest yet perfect wedding

- Adrianne Palicki's acting performance. I knew she would be accepted, yet I was still riveted. She is a phenomenal actress.

- It goes without saying that Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton were fantastic. They make the best television couple I have ever seen.

I can't believe they ran Coach Taylor out of town, after what he did on and off the field, but money rules all.

I've also changed my tune on Minka Kelly. I don't think she's a bad actress; rather, I think that the show hit the jackpot with casting in that Zach Gilford, Adrianne Palicki, Jesse Plemons, Taylor Kitsch, and Aimee Teegarden are all so good and so evocative with such raw emotion

dhleach said...

I'm very excited that this show has been picked up for not one but TWO seasons. I feel like this gives the writers significantly more room to develop new characters, give appropriate send-offs, and make Eric's transformation of a school from nothing to a bunch of gerrymandered rejects to state champs (or at least contenders) much more believable over two seasons than one.

Also as someone who knows small town high school football, I can't help but echo all the sentiments that there is NO WAY that any football team, at any level of competition, would let a contract expire (let alone replace him for someone with < 4 games coaching experience) on a head coach who took you to the state championship two out of three years (winning one).

Also, I don't think anyone else mentioned that Evil Child Beater (sorry I blocked out his real first name) McCoy originally brought JD to Dillon to learn from the best coach in Texas. Find it hard to believe that he would be so quick to sabotage that same coach, especially since Eric did start JD most of the season, and took him to state too.

Can already see season four - team sucks, lots of new character development, proper send-offs for Tyra, Tim and Lyla (hopefully she doesn't get a whole episode), devastating loss to Dillon Panthers, who probably go on to win state. Don't worry though, by the end of the season we'll be so invested in the new characters that saying bye to Landry and Julie in season 5 will be okay, and although East Dillon loses to the Panthers in the regular season game, they win state, giving a true finale to a fantastic series. You heard it here first.

Jonathan said...

Is Matt really that shortsighted and short on brain cells that he can’t think of any other options than bringing grandma home and staying in Dillon? Do they not have nursing homes in Chicago? I am sure there are homes close enough to where he would be going to school that he could visit everyday. Of they could move to
Chicago and get an apartment together. If they didn’t want to move all the way to Chicago he could replicate the situation somewhere in Texas where there are many fine schools.

I guess people make stupid decisions in real life too so I suppose I shouldn’t poke holes in it.

Lane said...

Also, I don't think anyone else mentioned that Evil Child Beater (sorry I blocked out his real first name) McCoy originally brought JD to Dillon to learn from the best coach in Texas. Find it hard to believe that he would be so quick to sabotage that same coach, especially since Eric did start JD most of the season, and took him to state too.

well Mr. McCoy HATES Eric now because the reported him to the police for child abuse.. so now it's personal, Coach messed with McCoy, now McCoy used his money and influence to screw Eric back.

I too found it a little unbelievable and kind of a deus ex machina that out of nowhere Eric's job gets in trouble, seemingly with no opposition, and fired, with no one standing up for him.

That said, this is such an awesome show, and how Kyle Chandler & Connie Britton (among others in the cast) get overlooked is criminal during awards time.

The Engineer said...

Before we start too much on how much of a dump East Dillon appears to be - didn't the dilapidated fence in the background appear to read "87 State Champions"? So they did manage to win one!

Elena said...

On the McCoy bringing his son to Dillon to learn from Eric and the turn around, in addition to the police report, they showed several times that McCoy always thought he knew better than Coach and resented Coach's influence on JD. I think its one of those situations where you think you want something (your son to learn from a great coach) but really you don't, as you think you are the best (and only) mentor the boy needs.

As all have mentioned so glad they renewed for two seasons, gives the writer's a bit of breathing room.

Alf said...

Tim was complaining to Billy that he wouldn't be able to hang out at Smitty's and "be himself" in San Antonio. Hilarious. (That's the place where he's known as Toby, two-time Iraq veteran.)

rambn said...

What would be so wrong with Tim staying and working with his brother is the garage? I totally didn't buy that whole "future generations" BS. Whatever. Future generations are capable of developing their own motivation to have a life outside their hometown. There is nothing wrong with Tim staying in his comfort zone and his "me time". Some ppl just really aren't cut out for college.

I much prefer to see Coach Taylor as an underdog. I believe that's where he thrives, taking raw talent, and shaping it into something refined and well-run.

I believe there are many storylines which can be fleshed out into the 2 seasons that have been renewed, and on.

Anonymous said...

We know that Eric is going to East Dillon but we don't know what's going to happen with Tami and Julie. Do we think that Tami will really be the principal at the school that treated her husband so badly and will she be Aikman's boss? Will Julie transfer to a new school for her senior year? Usually when new schools open, they start with freshmen and sophomores, adding another freshman class every year until it is a 4 year school, so that upperclassmen can finish at their original school. That could add an interesting element within the Taylor family- a house divided.

rambn said...

yeah, Tami would be a principal at a rival school, for sure. She's just that kind of "gal".

Mike F said...

maybe they'll turn the show into a great football show in addition to a great human drama over the next two years...that would be great

for a start, it would be good to know the names of more than 2-3 players on the team

great season, great episode...but beyond absurd that Eric could be fired after such ridiculous success

I don't think the show streses quite enough how big a state Texas is and how many schools have great high school football programs...winning or even getting to the state championship game multiple times in a few short years would mean any high school coach in texas absolutely running the town

but this show is not a great football show...never was...and who cares...its a great character-driven drama which happens to feature high school football

I'll be really excited to see it back next we know if it will be two years at the shortened 13 episode length...or is it two years of 22 episodes each?

CC said...

There's a ice new Q&A with Kyle Chandler here:

erin said...

I also agree with the fact that I don't think it would be so wrong for Tim to stay in Dillon. I don't think it would mean him "giving up" on a different life, but it was established in the finale that he has a real talent for being an automechanic (and he seemed to like it too) and he sees Dillon as a place where he belongs. I think a lot of people would love to feel that way about either the place they live or their line of work! I imagine him next season struggling at college and then realizing he belongs in Dillon and coming back home. And I think that would fit perfectly with his character.

Sonia said...

Joe McCoy has made this personal -- and it's possible and implied that he threatened to leave Dillon with his son (and his arm) if they didn't make the coaching change. I can totally believe that.

CC said...

There's a nice new Q&A with Kyle Chandler here:

rambn said...

Good point, they did establish that Tim has a real talent for working on vehicles. I just can't seem him at college. Or is that me I'm thinking of? oh well.

Unknown said...

I predict that Tim will drop out/flunk out of college halfway through the first semester. This guy DOES NOT WANT TO GO, and only got in because of nagging + "hey, here's a free ride, you don't even have to do any work to get in." There is no way on this earth he will be putting in the effort to stay in school, even if he takes his football shoes back. Billy won't be there to ride his ass every day to read those 800 pound books, nor will Lyla. Tim's not leaving, he'll just spend a few months out of town.

I about died laughing at Tim's whining about his "me time" and not liking the bars in San Antone. Does that translate into "they actually check ID and card me" there?

Matt not leaving is not a surprise at all. Sad, but not surprising. Once you're a caregiver, you are pretty much stuck in that position until you leave. Maybe they'll have Lorraine finally die (sad, yeah, but inevitable) so Matt can go to college with Julie in S5.

East Dillon...yup, there will be drama. It will be interesting that we do get to see it.

rambn said...

Good call, Tim will proly go for half a lame semester. Sometimes, a free ride is hard to pass up, I understand.

As for Matt, not only is he a caregiver, but he's in love.

Unknown said...

Er..."until you leave" should have been "until the person you are caring for dies." Yay typing on sleep deprivation!

GMB said...

Two things. First, it is common when a school district splits (and they mentioned it in passing in an earlier episode) for juniors and seniors who actually live in the district associated with the new school to have the choice whether to attend the new school or stay and finish his or her high school career at the old school. My impression from the "recruiting" scene is that the coaches were attempting to convince the player to attend Dillon High moving forward as opposed to moving to the new East Dillon High where he would be required to attend absent the choice the redistricting provides. Second, it is probably more than a throwaway line that Buddy mentioned in an earlier episode that more of the best players were from the East Dillon side of the main street that was supposed to divide the districts than lived on the Dillon side of that street. It suggests that Coach Taylor may not be as bad off (facilities and resources aside) as we think. He'll probably change his mind about the value of recruiting and choose to become involved in some battles (like redistricting discussions and persuading/recruiting some kids to attend East Dillon who have the same choice as the kid in the scene we saw) that were beneath him before. And that will be incredibly interesting, particularly since -- because he's Coach Taylor -- he'll be seeking fairness and true equity while the others are trying to manipulate the process in Dillon High's favor. Frankly, I think the storylines the new seasons could produce are even better than those we've seen before. It's a brilliant approach that gives the writers the opportunity to plow the same ground but in a different pattern.

Splenda said...

A little late to the game here, but I imagine that the school district lines would be Buddy-mandered to ensure that 50% of the students went to each school, but all of the good football players were in the Dillon High 50%. It would be a great story line: Buddy uses his influence to give Eric the dregs of the town's male athletes, Buddy is dethroned as the man (barely) behind the curtain and then has to live with being the chief booster for the school that he had wronged. And knowing Buddy, he will assume that two wrongs can make it right.