Friday Night Lights Post Mortem: EP Jason Katims Reveals the Ending You Didn't See

If my hunch is correct, you’re reading this story after watching the Friday Night Lights series finale on NBC. And you are despairing — majorly despairing.

I screened the spectacularly satisfying yet utterly gut-wrenching episode months ago when it aired on DirecTV, and I’m still grieving to within an inch of my life. There’s no sense denying it: One of the best dramas in the history of TV is over (or is it?!), and it’s time to… remain in a state of denial because the alternative is just too painful. Yep, that’s it.

But before you get busy with that, check out my Q&A with exec producer Jason Katims, during which he reflects on the show’s odds-defying five-season run, answers your burning questions about the finale (why no Tyra/Landry?), and reveals the ending you didn’t see.

TVLINE | What moved you most about the final episode when you sat down and watched it?
The ending. The final montage. I also really liked the scene in the mall with Eric showing up. I was moved in unexpected places. The scene with Julie and Tami where Julie talks to her about her plans to get married to Matt…. that just got me. I thought the scene outside the restaurant with Tami and Eric was very moving. I could go on forever. I loved the finale. I’m very proud of how the episode came out. I really wanted to have an ending that felt like a true ending.

TVLINE | Was Scott Porter’s Jason supposed to be in that penultimate scene with Billy and Tim? There are photos floating around that suggest he was.
We considered four different versions of what that image would be. One was Tim sitting by himself, one was Tim with Tyra, one was Tim and Billy, and the last one was Tim and Jason. We went ahead and shot the Tim/Jason [version] because Scott Porter was really passionate about wanting to do it, even though it wasn’t the intentional ending of the show. After what we had been through with Billy and Tim over the entire series, that felt like the most logical way to go.

TVLINE | So you shot the scene just for Scott?
Yeah. Scott was happy to be able to shoot it. He really petitioned to do it. He wasn’t like, “You have to make this the ending.” He just wanted to do the scene. It didn’t matter to him whether it made the final cut. He just wanted the experience of doing the scene.

TVLINE | Wow. That really speaks to how passionate the cast is about the show.
Yes. Absolutely.

TVLINE | I was surprised you didn’t give Tyra and Landry a moment in the finale. Talk to me about that decision.
At one point, Landry was in the scene with Tyra, Matt and Julie at the bar. But when we got closer to [shooting it] it felt right to have a more intimate moment between Tyra and Tim. Jesse Plemons is so great; it’s great to have him in any scene. But it felt like the scene that he did have with Matt… What we tried to do with the finale was [refer back] to where the show started. And that Matt/Landry scene alludes to the early days with those two knuckleheads. There were many nods to the first season in the episode. The players being interviewed in those director chairs, we tried to shoot that to look like [the scene] in the pilot where Eric, Jason and Smash are getting interviewed.

TVLINE | Forgive me if this question was answered during the montage, but was it clear whether the Lions won the game? I was a basket case at the end, so those final minutes are a blur.
There are several shots that make it clear that they won, but it’s subtle. You see the players with their championship rings. There’s the shot of the guys breaking down the sign that said “2010 State Champs.” The intention was to make it clear that they won. It came out a little bit more subtle than I imagined it would. It also speaks to, as you said, how emotional that sequence is. You sort of miss some of the little nuances on first viewing.

TVLINE | I’m going to put you on the spot and ask you what your biggest regret was over the five seasons.
Well… this isn’t my personal regret as a storyteller, but from an audience response it’s fairly obvious that it’s the murder storyline, which was whole-heartedly rejected my most people. [Fans] felt it went against everything the show was.

TVLINE | OK, then what’s your personal regret?
[Hesitates] You know… I… I guess it would be that storyline, because I think what I learned from that experience is that the investment that an audience has in these characters and in the reality of this world sometimes exceeds what you think it is. And you have to be careful with those things. So I do regret that storyline. I guess I was trying to find a way to say it without actually having to say I regret it. [Laughs]

TVLINE | And the thing you’re most proud of…?
I’m very proud of this final episode. I don’t know if that’s just because it’s the most recent one, but I’m very proud of it because it was a huge thing to take on. I felt like I owed it to the fans of the show and the people on the show to make it a great ending. And I thought the episode was really beautiful. It’s a rare circumstance where an episode is everything you want it to be. It was one of the few times where I wasn’t really thinking about what other people would think or say about it. No matter what other people said about it, I felt like this was what I wanted the episode to be.

Now that you’ve heard from Katims, press Play below to see what the cast has to say about FNL‘s swan song. And then hit the comments with your reaction to the episode. I’d also welcome any tips you have for getting through this painful time.

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