Friday Night Lights has never really been primarily about football, even though football is the glue that holds the show together. And season four's finale exemplified how well the show's writers have incorporated compelling storylines around what happens on Friday nights. Tami, taking after her husband, stubbornly refused to deliver an apology that the school board and community members—outraged over her alleged role in Becky's abortion—demanded because she never instructed Becky to have an abortion and did not do anything wrong.
Tim Riggins, in a Sydney Carton-esque moment, heroically decides to take the fall for the "chop-shop" business because he realizes that if he and his brother both go to jail, his nephew would be fatherless just like the Riggins brothers were. Julie tells Matt that she needs to find "her Chicago" and can't take the plane ticket to Chicago that Matt bought her.
Yet, the finale was obviously also, in many ways, about football. And in the finale, Coach Taylor's Lions improbably beat the Dillon Panthers. I didn't think East Dillon would beat the Panthers. For one, the writers have surprised us time and time again by refusing to give us conventional, uplifting resolutions to storylines. With all the struggles that East Dillon's characters have gone through this season, I more than expected their struggles to continue with a devastating loss. It would have been fitting. But when Landry Clarke kicked an improbably long field goal in between the uprights to secure the victory for the Lions, one could just sense how football, especially in crazed towns like Dillon, can unite, uplift, and help residents heal from whatever emotional wounds life has inflicted on them.
Next season will be Friday Night Lights' final season, and here's what I'm looking and hoping for and expecting in the show's final 13 episodes: 1.) Vince and Jess have an intensely powerful past, and I hope the show delves into it a bit more next season; I hope we see their relationship develop and play out and am excited to see the progression of these two spectacular actors (Michael Jordan and Jurnee Smollett).
2.) I was intrigued all season by why Jess's father (played by Steve Harris) hates football. We got some hints throughout the season, but never a definitive answer. Did hardheaded coaches try to force him to be a particular type of quarterback in a way that did not maximize his skills? Did this make football more like a job for him? Will he try to vicariously live his past through Vince Howard? Will he clash with Coach Taylor because of this? Will both vie to be a father figure to him?
3.) Luke and Tinker's friendship has developed nicely in the background. I expect Tinker—and his friendship with Luke—will come more to the foreground next season.
4.) Will we get updates on the lives of characters such as Jason Street, Brian "Smash" Williams, and Lyla Garrity? Will there be a reason for these characters to come back to Dillon? If so, what will the writers think of?
5.) This show has tackled so many topics, such as abortion, race, and war, that few shows would even dare to touch. What topic will it tackle next year? Will they use Stan's character to discuss issues concerning gays and lesbians, particularly dealing with gays and lesbians in athletics? Will they incorporate a Hispanic character and use the character to tackle immigration? This show is fearless, and I'm curious to see what issues it'll deftly tackle next season.
6.) Eric and Tami Taylor are special characters. Their marriage has been one of the best television marriages of all time. How will the writers write them off? Will Coach Taylor look for a job at a major university? Will Tami aspire to go to a place where she can make more of an impact on kids? Will either make a sacrifice for the other's aspirations? The writers must send them off in a way that befits these two characters, and I can't wait to see how the writers accomplish this.