I think I've pulled myself together enough to write this recap, but I have a box of tissues here just in case, because "Friday Night Lights" finale had me in a puddle all night on Wednesday. This show needs to go on to produce years and years of moving-but-not-sappy television and win a zillion Emmys. But even if this does end up being the show's final episode, I could survive; this was a satisfying ending.
To be honest, this episode easily could — and maybe should — have been two hours long. There were a lot of storylines to tie up, and the football game needed more time than usual, which made some of the surrounding action feel rushed. But the finale certainly did justice to the town of Dillon that I've come to know and love. If you're ready for all the details,
The first scenes are of a huge rally in Dillon, with Lyla looking like she's over everything, Smash trash-talking Voodoo, and Tyra sweetly asking Landry to come to the game with her because Tim's given her good tickets. Meanwhile, Julie and Matt kiss, as she babbles that they can still be together once her family moves, which gives Coach time to stumble upon them kissing. Awkward!
Noticeably absent is Tami, who's headed to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test. The clinic is too busy to take her, so Smash's mom gives her the test, and yup, she's pregnant. Tami says she wanted a baby 12 years ago, but now? Back at home, Coach asks Julie if she told Matt about the TMU job; she says it's not her problem. Tami shows up, realizes it's not the right time to announce Baby Taylor, and tells Coach they'll talk in Dallas. Coach, meanwhile, tells Matt he knows that Matt knows he's leaving, but Matt won't talk about it.
Landry, meanwhile, packs up some erotic chocolates for his four-hour drive with Tyra. Of course, it goes very, very wrong: First, Tim gives the good tickets to his neighbor. Then Tyra invites her mom and sister. When Landry sees Grandma Saracen at the bus stop, he decides he might as well throw her in the car too, since he's clearly not getting any action.
As all the ladies (Grandma included) are rocking out to "Lady Marmalade," they come across Lyla, who's stranded; the used car she bought to make Buddy mad has broken down, and Landry insists on picking her up. Tyra: "Hey, cheating cheerleader bitch, you want a ride? [Lyla walks away] Nope, she doesn't want a ride." She and Tyra have it out about Lyla sleeping with Tim and Buddy sleeping with Tyra's mom, and Lyla says Tyra wasn't the only one hurt: Lyla's parents are divorcing, and Jason cheated on her. After a pause, Tyra offers Lyla a spot in the car.
Meanwhile, the players arrive at Texas Stadium and look around in awe at the lockers with their names on them. Coach: "Does it get better than this?" But during the pregame interview, one of the reporters confronts Coach about the TMU job; he admits he's leaving and walks away as the team looks on, stunned.
At the pregame banquet, Buddy takes Coach aside, and I assume he's going to yell, but even Buddy can surprise me: "Eric, I just came to tell you how much I'm gonna miss you." He calls Coach up to the microphone, and Coach says he knows what they're all thinking, but just like they have dreams to go to state, his dream is to coach college ball. Wow, I thought he would have slipped at least a little motivational speech in there. No wonder the players just glare; Matt even walks out.
Riggins, Jason, and Smash are talking about Coach's decision when Voodoo interrupts and takes Smash aside; he says Smash should come play for Voodoo's team next year. Smash says he's a Panther, and Voodoo says that's not keeping his coach from leaving. Julie tells Matt that all Coach does is talk about the team. "So then why is he leaving?" Matt asks, and Julie doesn't have an answer. Matt approaches Coach later, and Coach tells him that he understands Matt is pissed, but "if you're ever lucky enough to have a family like I do, I promise you'll understand." Huh? I thought he was going to TMU against the will of his family.
Coach goes out to the hotel room balcony, and Tami seizes her opportunity to tell him she's pregnant. Coach: "Pregnant like you're gonna have a baby?" Hey, that's what I said! He laughs, and tells her he loves her. Then, abruptly, it's game day.
Voodoo's team jumps out to a 26-0 lead at halftime. Guys, I've watched a lot of football, but I've never seen a team get 26 points. But after Coach's halftime speech (more on that here), they're a changed team. They score three touchdowns (despite Smash's dislocated shoulder) and are in the position to take the lead with a minute left. Matt insists on doing a crazy trick play, and it works, and Smash slo-mo runs into the end zone, and the Panthers win state!
Back at the hotel, Lyla dumps her cheerleading uniform into the trash, which might have seemed melodramatic had Tyra not shown up to snark "That was pretty intense, Garrity." Lyla says it's been a crappy year, and she's ready for a a change. She then offers Tyra a ride home, which ... how is Lyla getting home?
Coach walks up to Tami sporting his state champion hat. She hugs him while standing on top of his shoes with her bare feet, which is just adorable. Coach says there's nothing more important than his family: He's going to stay in Dillon and be a father to this new kid, OK? Tami: "No! You've got to go to Austin!" She tells him she won't be responsible for him not following his dreams; he says being with her is his dream, but before they can come to a resolution, Julie asks what's going on.
But we don't see that scene because we cut to the victory parade, underscored by the Bright Eyes version of "Devil Town." The effect of such sad words on the happy scene — Bo getting to ride with the players, Matt waving at Julie — is devastating. The next morning, Coach drives to the school while Panther radio plays: "He healed this team, and he healed this town," the announcer says, but how could he leave? Jason's leading a team meeting, and when they see Coach, Matt stands up and starts clapping — which, OK, huge sports cliche, but so adorable here — and soon everybody's clapping, and we get one more "clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!"