Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Turn Off the 'Lights'

Jess: Being a part of the Lions has been the greatest experience of my life.
Coach: I think it's been mine too. 

It ended the same way it began: the Taylors on a football field surrounded by those lights.

For most, the television show Friday Night Lights officially ended last summer, but for me it ended last weekend via Netflix. The final episode 'Always' left me in tears, but also satisfied with where the characters ended up.
It all revolved around the big game, the Lions playing for the state championship. This was a big deal because we had to struggle through the previous season where the Lions only won two games. Seeing the team's development was one of the highlights of the last season. Not only did the players come together on the field, but they also showed their growth as individuals. When Vince first made his appearance in season 4, I thought I would never like his as much as I liked Matt or Tim. However, his relationship with Coach Taylor and his father won me over. He is so different from the young hoodlum we see in the first episode. Watching him become a man worthy of respect was one of the highlights of the season. He, like many other characters on the show, proved that sometimes all that a person needs is someone to love and encourage them in order to succeed. That is one of the many themes of this show. It is the little things that can really make a difference. Friday Night Lights is never preachy, but it shows what can happen if only a few people are willing to make a difference.
The game itself was not important, it was not the point. It was wonderfully shot using mostly music and visuals of the characters' faces to give us clues on what was going on. When Eric finally looked to the score board the Lions were down by one touchdown, with one play to go (of course). However, the last play isn't shown. We don't know how the game ends. In a show about football. Because this is not a show about football. It is about family, friendship, over coming obstacles, love, and life. And football.
The shot couldn't have been better. We watch the crowd, the players, and the coaches all following the trajectory of the ball and then there is a cut. Someone in a green jersey, not Lion red, catches the ball. The scenes change around showing what each character is doing now. But when that scene cut to Vince's hand wearing the championship ring I lost it. It doesn't matter who caught the ball. The Lions won as a team. As they had been doing the entire season. The surprise in editing added an emotional element that I was definitely not expecting.
All the loose ends are tied up. Vince and Tinker (yay!) and even Buddy Junior are all Panthers. Julie and Matt get married. The Taylors move from Texas. Luke joins the military (that was the only thing that confused me, it seemed to come out of nowhere.) In perhaps my favorite scene of the finale, Tim finally gets the ending he deserves with his land and his dream house. As he clinked beer bottles with Billy, I whispered at the exact same time he did, "Texas forever." 
It is moments like this that made the final episode and the entire series so powerful. Small moments such as Tim's dream house finally being built and 'Jason Street' scrawled on the wall of the Panther's locker room and  Tyra saying she wants work in politics, "like Mrs. T but bigger" carried over from season to season creating characters as familiar as one's own family. So while I will miss Friday Night Lights for its amazing acting and unique camera style, I will miss it more for the bond that was created between viewer and character; for the way they made me care about what happened to every single person on that show. That is why I cried, not because it was a sad episode in and of itself, but because I was sad to say goodbye to my friends.
Clear Eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose. Goodbye, Dillon. Texas forever. 
Review: No milk needed.

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