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Friday Night Lights “State” Review (1×22)

15 Mar

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“When Jason Street went down in the first game of the season, everybody wrote us off. Everybody. And here we are at the championship game. 40,000 people have also written us off. But there are some who do still believe in you, a few who’d never give up on you. When you go back out on that field, those are the people I want in your minds. Those are the people I want in your hearts. Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He’s gonna fight and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man, is that in the midst of that battle, he does not lose himself. This game is not over; this battle is not over. So let’s hear it one more time, together. Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE!”


With that, the Panthers go on to mount an incredible comeback, winning the State Championship on the final play of the game. It’s a typical comeback scenario, but the show’s earned it; in addition, why shouldn’t they win? What this show does extremely well is balance the heartbreaking and the heartwarming, the tragedy and the joy, the wins and the losses. It’s a theme encompassed by the lyrics to “Devil Town”, used so brilliantly in this episode: yes, nasty aspects of football culture are still very much prevalent in Dillon, but there’s also the community that gathers to celebrate this one moment of joy.

While the culture may not have changed all too much, we’ve seen each of our characters grow over the course of the season. Matt’s more self-confident now, due largely in part to Coach’s guidance; it makes complete sense why he’d take Coach leaving personally, as he’s losing a role model, the closest he came to having a father who appreciates him. As for someone like Lyla, we see how she’s broken apart from a life centered around football, bonding with Tyra and throwing out her uniform. Smash has come to appreciate himself even more, and he decides to stay true to his growth and turn down Voodoo’s offer; Tatum’s correct in that Smash should choose to play for the team that benefits him the most, but then again, it shouldn’t be because of the paycheck or the glamor.

Finally, we arrive at the Taylors. Mrs. Coach is pregnant, and Connie Britton once again kills it in her scene with Corrina. It’s beautiful watching her and Chandler’s scenes in this episode–I sound like a broken record every week in reference to the two, but it’s true–and the shot of them on the balcony is just perfect. In the end, she urges her husband to pursue his dreams, and that’s really what this episode is all about, isn’t it?

“State” is about moving on, about following up on those aspirations or paving a new path to achieve them, about working through the uncertainty and the pain and the heartbreak, and realizing that everything that’s been accomplished is not meaningless. When the players walk into the stadium and look around in awe, it’s a moment of both fear and excitement. When halftime rolls around and the Panthers are down by 26, inspiration comes in the form of a coach who’s already decided to move on. When the team wins it, with Jason helping on the sideline, Matt calling the play, Smash running the ball, and Mrs. Coach on her way to embrace her husband and stand on his toes, it’s 100% satisfying. And finally, when Coach is standing in front of his applauding team and we cut to the credits, it’s bittersweet; he’s leaving, but that doesn’t take anything away from the season: it was a championship they all worked hard to win, and they deserve it.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Oh man, best road trip ever. Landry’s various expressions throughout. Priceless.
-Slow claps still get me.
-A nice scene between Buddy and Coach there; Buddy deserves the lashing, but we can also see just how much respect and admiration he has for Coach.
-This is one of my favorite seasons of television ever. Just fantastic throughout.

-Well, season 2 is next, and we all know that although there were intriguing storylines to explore–the ramifications of winning, for example–much of it was pushed aside in favor of, uh, less great material. Look for quick thoughts in a few days.

Photo credit: NBC, Friday Night Lights, DirecTV

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