TV: Friday Night Lights (Season 5)

As a birthday/novel-finishing present to myself, I bought Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series. I just caught up with the fifth and final season, and it doesn’t disappoint. Although there are minor missteps along the way, FNL is one of those rare shows that never jumps the shark.

Season five follows the second year of East Dillon football. The Lions gets off to an unexpected win streak, raising expectations for the football program, and raising the profile of its two star players. Senior Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria) starts weighing college options, while junior QB Vince Howard (Michael B. Jordan) struggles to deal with the return of his father Ornette (Cress Williams) to the scene. Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) once again finds himself weighing his current situation against other offers, but this time so does his wife Tammy (Connie Britton), whose new job as a guidance counselor at East Dillon frequently pits her against her more cynical colleagues, even as it gets her noticed in the wider education community.

Friday Night Lights has always been more than the sum of its parts, so even the less successful storylines this season — such as the awkward college experiences of Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden), or Tammy’s mentorship of a troubled East Dillon student named Epyck (Emily Rios) — don’t detract from an otherwise satisfying wrap up of the series. As usual, Britton and Chandler anchor the cast and deliver fantastic, sustained lead performances, while Williams stands out in a juicy supporting role as Vince’s troublesome father. It’s a testament to how well executed the show is that when familiar faces from the early days like Matt, Tim, and Tyra come back to town, they almost feel like interlopers in the series’ new world. This is a show that constantly evolved — indeed, change is one of the show’s recurring themes. The series ends with just the right note, tugging at heartstrings without going overboard.

If you’ve never watched Friday Night Lights, I highly, highly recommend it, even if it looks at first glance like something you wouldn’t be interested in. Great, great show, maybe one of the best.

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