Friday Night Lights, “Thanksgiving”

At the end of season three, if most Friday Night Lights fans were asked for guesses about the end of season four, I’d imagine many, if not most of them would have said something like this: After a season of adversity, the rag-tag group of East Dillon Lions pull it together just in time to beat the villainous West Dillon Panthers. Well, on a basic level, that’s exactly what happened.

But the best thing about FNL is that even know most of us saw this ending to the football season coming — and really, the endings to many of the season’s climaxes — it’s all about the journey and the execution. It’s fairly obvious that there’d be a minor, low-key scene with Coach Taylor marinating in the glow of victory, but actually watching Kyle Chandler smirk and rub that goofy-ass trophy goes far above what the image could have been in my head. Same goes for the goodbyes between Matt and Julie and Tim and Billy. Everyone knows this, but the way that this series and its whole production team craft a scene is just glorious. There wasn’t one unexpected moment in this finale, but the execution of every single one of them brought a smile or tear to my face.

The thing about this season’s finale is that so many things are still up in the air. That might seem like a super obvious statement, but think about the S3 finale. That episode smartly jumped ahead to the end of the school year and away from football, allowing a number of the stories to feel finished (Tim/Lyla, Landry/Tyra) while pushing off for S4 (Coach’s new position). But this season, things just happened and there isn’t a whole lot of introspection or analysis of what those things mean to the people of Dillon. This approach is far from a bad thing and I understand the decision to climax here, with this story, but perhaps more than last season, I’m ready for more Friday Night Lights. I want to know where Julie and Landry are off to, what happens to Tim, where Luke goes to school and how Coach deals with his re-established credibility in the town.

With the season ending, it makes sense to look back a little bit because this was the season with the most balls in there and storylines to juggle. Perhaps it’s too early to judge critically since I’m still feeling the high of “Thanksgiving,” but in the end, I think the writers handled themselves pretty darn well. There were some issues early in the season because it was obvious that the series needed to tell the final tale of Matt Saracen, but had created a void where an entire world needed to be established as well and both deserved A story status. The juggling act worked at a fairly high level, though not the series best, but both stories had extremely high points individually. Once Matt went east, Luke, Jess and even Landry (who had been given a short stick on his transfer) came alive and felt like more fully-formed characters that we needed to root for. Really, even the whole area of East Dillon felt more natural, subtle and complicated once Matt was out of the picture.

I can’t quite determine where this season fits in the larger scheme of things (though it’s clearly better than season two), especially because the pay-offs we need to certain stories aren’t coming until season five. Moreover, though this season doesn’t make the series feel like it’s coming towards an apparent end, it’s hard not to judge it in that way. So although I think a few moments earlier in the season lacked emotional complexity or subtly like the high points of S1 and basically all of all S3 did, basically everything from “The Son” on has been stellar.

Your thoughts on “Thanksgiving” and S4 in general?

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