Friday Night Lights, Season 5

Series Finale: FNL Is a Blue-State Fantasy of a Red-State Show
Talking television.
Feb. 10 2011 1:15 PM

Friday Night Lights, Season 5

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Still from Friday Night Lights. Click image to expand.
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor and Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen

To your lists of favorite moments from this most satisfying finale I add one more: Mindy, leaning against the truck, crying. I can bear Mindy shrill, jealous, dumb, half-naked, or doing aerobics but I can't bear her broken like that. She seemed practically biblical to me at that moment, a fallen woman made holy. And if I fell for the old stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold routine, then that must mean I will really miss this show.

The opening of the finale, with the press on the field, had me flashing back to the very first episode of FNL, with Smash and Tim duking it out in cocky interviews, while Jason Street smiled and praised the team. Those were the days when the show was much more raw and absolutely all that mattered was Dillon High School football. Now, this "superteam" is some kind of reconcocted stew, with its original players dispersed and disappeared and everyone wise to the fact that rally girls turn into memories and football—even State—doesn't really matter. Everyone moves on—they have to.

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Emily, I was really surprised by what Tami said outside the restaurant—the simple, "It's my turn." I expected her to say something about losing Julie. What was the connection? Did Julie's choice to follow Matt make her realize that no, it was not in fact enough to be in love and follow your man's dreams? That eventually, you had to have some of your own? Is that what she meant when she wondered what she was teaching her daughter by not taking the job?

As for the Sarah Palin moment, I did not buy it at all. FNL has always been praised as the great red-state show, the one drama with values—faith, family, community—any Republican could love. But it's always been faking it as a red-state show. The real-life version of Tyra would want to be Sarah Palin, not Tami Taylor. Among other reasons, it would allow her to hang on to Tim as her Texas Todd. Tyra's already been out in the world—she knows that Tami Taylor is bedrock Dillon but not what you need to be to get to the Senate. If this finale was red state, it was in all the worst ways: a teenage marriage with two more in the making, and a single mom who reminds her daughter's boyfriend to use a condom. There are plenty of red-state shows out there: Rescue Me, Only in America, Roseanne, but FNL is a blue-state fantasy of a red-state show, and the reluctance to praise Sarah Palin betrayed that.

After the Wire we worried what would become of the various actors. No such worry for the FNL crew, all of whom (except maybe Landry) are mainstream enough to land on their feet. This week I saw Minka Kelly in The Roommate, the remake of Single White Female. I can't say much about her role except that Lyla Garrity would have clued into that crazy roommate much sooner. Last night, while I was driving through Chicago, I heard a review of the new Fox show Chicago Code, with great praise for the young cop played by Matt Lauria (Luke). Aimee Teegarden is in the new Disney show Prom. Taylor Kitsch is in a new movie called the Bang Bang Club and Battleship, which also threw a bone to Jesse Plemons (Landry). Zach Gilford (Matt) is in a new medical drama, Off the Map. And for the sake of David, who spent the weekend in a genuine funk over the loss of FNL, I'm hoping Connie Britton spends a lifetime shimmying in endless remakes of Burlesque. 

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Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.

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