That was a full pound of fat brisket at Smitty's in Lockhart. That was an ice-cold Lone Star. That was driving down a highway lined with bluebonnets, Miss Texas riding shotgun. Was it heaven? No, it was Texas.
I'm not sure I can muster my usual skeptical incisiveness this week. I'm too busy getting misty-eyed over my favorite moments from the finale: the stunning, nearly silent state championship game; Grandma Saracen holding Julie; Luke boarding the bus to basic training; Landry mocking Matt as he rehearses his speech to Coach; Tami's sadness as she waits outside the restaurant and her straightforward rebuke to Eric, "It's my turn, babe"; Matt's Alamo Freeze proposal; Billy and Tim's final "Texas Forever"; the sudden cut to black as Vince's Hail Mary arcs toward the end zone—reminiscent of the finale of The Sopranos, which ended by cutting to black in the middle of a decisive moment; and, of course, Coach's end-of-practice speech to his Philly team: "Clear eyes. Full hearts." Silence. "We'll deal with that later."
It was perfect. I loved that the postgame epilogue showed everyone at work: Vince practicing, Coach coaching, Luke enlisting, Tim building. In the land of FNL, work—hard work—brings satisfaction. I loved that FNL allowed Tyra to blow off Tim, to recognize that they had different futures. I loved that FNL didn't let Billy become the head coach of the Superteam, a cheesy and unrealistic prediction we made last week. I loved that State didn't really matter: Nothing that happened to any of the characters was changed by the game. The game didn't change their families, their jobs, their futures. The game, in the end, was just a game, and life flowed independent of it.
A couple of things still puzzle me about the finale and the whole season. Why must Vince bear all the suffering in Texas? By the end, he has lost his father Ornette (showing up at State didn't change the fundamentals of their relationship); he has lost his substitute father, Coach; he has lost the love of his life, Jess. We're supposed to believe that his leadership skills and his character will let him overcome all this, but isn't it a bit cruel that he loses everything while no one else loses anything?
Also: Hastings Ruckle? What happened with that guy? He got full billing in the credits. He was introduced with enormous fanfare in the first couple of episodes. Yet he punked out. He did nothing. He was inessential to the plot, and empty of emotion. Why did they bother with him?
When Matt and Julie split last season, I posited it that it pained me so much because they seemed destined to become Coach and Mrs. Coach. Emily, you razzed me for my naiveté. What do you say now?
While I'm getting all nostalgic, I am going to nominate my favorite FNL episode of all time: It's still Season 3, Episode 4, when coach gets Smash a tryout at Texas A&M, and Smash says farewell to Dillon. All of which is to say: Couldn't they have brought Smash back just for a couple of minutes?
Also, I will never see Tami do her opening credits kitchen-shimmy again. Now that is sad.