We got what we needed from this finale: resolutions that are as dramatic as they are intimate and a football game that lasts more than 10 seconds. The Riggins brothers—the unexpected emotional center of this season—solve their dilemma by sending poor Tim to jail. Jess confesses to Landry that she has “feelings for Vince,” and so the nerd fantasy of two hot girlfriends in a row (Tyra, Jess) does not in fact come true. Tami does not apologize but instead voluntarily gives up her job as principal. Julie and Matt break up in person. And finally, a deeply satisfying football game is played, in which the East Dillon Lions get well-deserved and long-awaited revenge.
With finales, I generally judge the plot resolutions on a scale measuring plausibility against high drama. (The best have both; most sacrifice one for the other.) The Riggins plotline rates pretty highly on both counts. Tim Riggins has taken the bullet for plenty of other people throughout this series, although they’ve usually been girls. Also, we’ve been fed enough back story about Tim’s relationship with his own father to believe that he wants Billy to be there for his new son. For once, I found his speech to Billy quite moving and convincing: “I did it all. You did nothing,” he said, in a staccato that did not stretch his limited acting skills. One complaint: I could have done without the Becky subplot. Given the depths of her puppy-dog crush, there is no way she would turn on Tim that quickly and call him a “coward” and a “liar.” A 10th-grader in love can excuse anything in her love object, so long as his sins do not involve her or another, prettier girl.
The Tami plotline, meanwhile, rates poorly on both scales. It started out well—I loved the scene of her practicing her apology off-screen, as we hear just her voice saying the usual sorry gibberish—”regret any damage I have caused.” And of course it was deeply satisfying to watch her fail to actually apologize at the press conference. But the ultimate resolution was pretty lame. After a meeting with her lawyer and the school superintendent, Tami decides to step down as principal and become the counselor at East Dillon High instead. But who offered her that job? Did you see the crazy face Luke’s mom was making at the meeting? Why would she and her like-minded friends let Tami be a school counselor, where her entire job will be talking to kids about deeply personal options? It doesn’t entirely hang together. Also, we’ve already been there with Tami, so another season of her as a counselor doesn’t seem all that exciting. And we’ll lose the tension between Principal Taylor and the McCoy clan, which always brings out her best.
The two sets of teenagers in love ended pretty much as expected. Julie finally softened a little to Matt, before breaking up with him using a line that will soon be appropriated by a girl band: “I need to find my own Chicago.” And Jess chose Vince, which was necessary if only because Landry is about to graduate, and you can’t imagine him next season, Riggins-style, tossing his college books out the pick-up window and heading back to Dillon. Personally, I appreciated the choice because it allowed Matt and Landry to spend more time together, and they are secretly my favorite couple. (“Did you see my 72-yard field goal? It was a miracle!”)
Now to that field goal. I will leave it to my all-American husband to dissect game strategy and whether such a victory was plausible. For my part, I was totally swept away by the power of Coach, which has been doled out in precious little spoonfuls throughout this season. After several episodes of deprivation, we got Coach on an overdose of motivational tapes. Not one part of him was betraying insecurity. We heard his voice everywhere—off–screen, floating above the action (“What kind of a man am I?”), and also live (“I’m going to enjoy watching you beat him all night long,” to Vince). He was Coach as God, just how we like him. And with a voice like that in your head, how could you lose?
I’ll leave it to you both to speculate about next season. We’ll lose Landry, Julie, and Matt. We’ll keep Vince, Jess, J.D., and maybe Luke. We might lose Tim, especially if Taylor Kitsch takes some more acting classes and gets the leading-man parts he deserves. We’ll keep the Taylors, of course, And we will always have Buddy, who says the word “succulent” like nobody else.