I haven't exactly been shy about the fact that Friday Night Lights occasionally makes me cry, but the waterworks reached a new level after watching Friday's episode. Part of that was the episode itself, but part of it was the context: This was the next-to-last episode the show finished before the writers' strike started, and even if the strike ends soon, there's no telling if the show will go back into production. (It's probably safe to say things don't look good.) As a result, this episode felt very much like the end to me. Did anyone else need a tissue and a hug? We can talk about it if you read more.
This was exactly the kind of episode I talk about when I tell people why FNL is great. It's wasn't about football; we still didn't even see a game. But every moment tied back to what we know about the Panthers, this collection of lives all tied together by the pursuit of a championship ring.
Take Matt. The show's first season did such a wonderful job of showing the weight Matt has to carry every day as a star quarterback, an only son, and a caretaker. That mostly went away this season — until last night. I think I finally understand why Matt wanted to be with Carlotta: She shielded him from some of that responsibility. And yet, as he said in that wonderful, wonderful scene when Coach literally threw him in a cold shower: Everyone leaves him eventually. Coach left, his dad left, his girlfriend left, even the ever-loyal Landry's been otherwise occupied.
Matt was probably bound to crack eventually, and picking Tim "stole from a meth dealer" Riggins as a role model was the most dramatic way to do so. I loved all the little things this episode taught us about Riggins, too: that he stalks Lyla at lunch every day, that he always takes off Wednesdays, that he's made friends with enough bartenders and bouncers that he has a whole range of illicit activities at his fingertips. And yet, he pines after a born-again Christian. Oh, the contradictions of Tim Riggins.
Smash's downward spiral continued, too, with TMU revoking his scholarship because of his "questionable character." As a point of fact, someone of Smash's stature probably isn't done playing football; tons of pro players have way spottier backgrounds than his. But I can believe that in that moment, he thought he was done. It was hard to watch him take the TMU memorabilia down from his walls, and harder still to watch his speech to his team and his silent, lonely breakdown in the locker room later.
As for the rest of the cast:
- Julie finally had a reason for her brattiness, getting stood up at the DMV while her mom celebrated victory with the Bad News Bears of volleyball. Good thing Tami came up with a quick fix — and how sad was it watching her hold Gracie while Julie drove away? She's had a lot of letting go to do lately.
- Landry's the man! He has the affections of Jean, the tiny little cutie who bonds with him over Mystery Science Theater, and then he has Tyra, the knockout beauty. There was a moment there, when Landry said wasn't embarrassed by him, that I thought he might actually say no to Tyra. Instead, he's left behind the perfect girl (for him) for the perfect girl (fantasy edition).
- Speaking of Landry, how great was he saying he didn't want Matt to become an "at-risk youth," followed by Matt's hungover "Ohmigod, stop talking"?
In some ways, I'm afraid to watch next week's FNL; what if it's the last one we ever see? Share your thoughts on that, and on this episode, in the comments below.
Photos courtesy of NBC