Welcome back from reality ladies and gentlemen, the Dillon Panthers and Friday Night Lights went back to basics this week, and reclaimed their crown for the best television series on the air right now. This last episode was a return to greatness for our beloved Panthers. Our return to the State finals tied everything together; it was Matt, Landry, and Riggins’ last game and everybody left it all on the field. Tyra, after many rewrites, finished her application essay for college, and her recent beau Landry finally played meaningful football, in the finals at that, albeit on special teams. Even though Lyla reconnected with Buddy, all was not well in the realm of family matters. The McCoys and the Taylors were at odds, because the Taylors were obligated to report them to Child Protective Services on account of their fight after the semifinal game. On top of this conflict, the Saracens were divided over Matt’s future as well; his grandmother was preventing him from going to Chicago for school, while his mother, Tami and Julie were encouraging him to pursue it further. Each week Friday Night Lights presents more conflicts than it solves, but it was time for them to wrap it up. With one more episode to go, they did a fine job of wrapping up the season and resolving a few personal problems.

During the sending off pep rally, the vice principal notified Tami Taylor of her legal obligation to report the McCoys to CPS. This sent a ripple through their relationship and the team suffered for it as well. It became apparent that JD had the body of an eighteen year old, but the mental fortitude of a toddler. One cannot expect him to remain emotionless after going through that ordeal, but it seemed as if he wanted to blame everybody else for the misfortunes. Instead of seeing his father for who he was, and understanding their obligation, he chose to blame Coach Taylor’s personal vendetta for the event. Joe McCoy also took it personally, and blamed Coach Taylor instead of the man in the mirror, demonstrating that some attributes pass down generations. Despite the Taylors’ best efforts, they and the McCoys seemed to have an irreparably strained relationship.

Tyra and Landry mended their broken romance. After Landry grew a pair, he finally caught a few breaks. First he was interviewed for the game of the week, then he played the show with Crucifictorious (which led to a recurring gig), then he won a spot on the kickoff return on account of his work ethic and stellar performance on and off the field, then he got the love of his youth in Tyra. She was working on her college entrance essay this week, because she needed to turn in dynamite stuff in order to get in to college, on account of her bombing a few interviews, and a less than desirable SAT score. After several iterations, and a lot of ugly words from Landry, she finally wrote the piece that we were all waiting for. It was an emotional plea about her turnaround. She discussed the events of the past three years, including Jason Street getting paralyzed, Tami taking an interest in her, her breakup with Tim Riggins and her finding Landry Clarke. The essay was kind of sappy, but it was a well-placed and creative wrap up of the series.

Lyla, after spending a few weeks at the Chateau Riggins, decided to move back in with her father, Buddy. Hoping things had cooled off with Tim, Buddy was disappointed to learn that Lyla would be moving in with him at San Antonio State next year. He only had himself to blame however, because he had wasted her Vanderbilt fund in an investment that didn’t pan out. Though we can’t be pleased that Riggins and Lyla are and will be together, it was a nice way to repair her broken relationship with her father.
As Lyla and Buddy patched things up, Matt and his grandmother’s relationship began to fray. He has always shown an aptitude for art, and an art school in Chicago showed interest in him. While weighing possibilities, his grandmother discouraged him from trying, on account of it being a waste of money. He received support from everyone else though, including his mother, Tami, and reluctantly, Julie. His grandmother still seems to think that he has an opportunity to play football at a higher level, even though he was benched in his senior year. Matt should give in, and though painful, he should put her in the care of the state. She has made it clear she does not want to live with his mother, and she should not be the person to hold Matt back from his dreams. It hurts to watch her deterioration happen, she has been a very likable character over the years, but with all of the food put on Matt’s plate, this was bound to happen eventually.

Emotions ran high as the Panthers took on the Titans of South Texa High School. This team was supposed to be one of the best in the nation, one of the best to ever come out of Texas, it was said that even the mighty Panthers of 1981 would have problems with the size and athleticism of these Titans. The game started out as a stomping, the Titans took a commanding lead and never let up. JD McCoy was having a hard time completing passes, two interceptions were returned for touchdowns, and true to form he started blaming his receivers and offensive line.

After the disastrous first half, Coach Taylor saw the frustration in JD McCoy. Making the decision during JD’s meltdown, he decided to bench him in order to give the ball to Matt. Having been playing wide receiver, Matt still knew the routes, was familiar with the receivers, and had dealt with the pressure of the State Title game before, having won it in 2006. After the Panthers returned the opening second half kickoff for a touchdown, they were off to the races. They scored seemingly at will and the defense found ways to make the necessary stops. They finally pulled ahead with a little over a minute left in the game, scoring a touchdown to make it 28-27.

Nerves were tested, and it came down to a matter of faith, mental toughness and coaching. A long march drained the clock to six seconds, and a timeout let the field goal unit on the field. This was a classic scene in Friday Night Lights, one we’ve come to expect. The view of the sidelines saw the Titans cheering ravenously, while our Panther watched silently, holding hands with each other in solidarity. As time expired, the kick sailed through the uprights, derailing the Panthers’ bid to win their second state championship. It was a hard fought battle and our boys surely left their hearts on that field. In the memorable words of Coach Taylor, though they didn’t win the game, they were all champions that day.

Even though we’ve come to love our Panthers, it was cinematically relieving watching them lose a close game when it was all on the line. If they had won the state championship, the show would have forfeited its “reality” entirely, in favor of a state crown, and become a predictable soap opera. There were no college job offers around this time, and the only drama came from the McCoy situation. Joe McCoy being an influential member of the boosters might be interesting next week when we officially close the book on this season of Panthers football. We can all look forward to see what happens to Tyra, if she gets into school, and what the means for her and Landry’s relationship, we will also see if the McCoys get out of Dillon, their divorce caused by irreconcilable differences between them and the Taylors. Friday Night Lights has just been renewed for another two seasons, so look forward to their being a few more open ends to this season. We’ll wait another year for more football, but we only have another week until we see more of our Panthers. Until then fans, this is Sammy Meade checking out.

Recap by Leon Phelps