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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  1. Christa says:

    Just so sad. I have watched a lot of TV over the years, and I’ve cried over a lot of shows and characters, but never have I felt such a void in my heart knowing that I just watched the last episode of FNL. What an amazing show. The finale was beautiful. Thank you to everyone involved with FNL – thank you for the best show on TV!

  2. Barn says:

    Thank you so very much for touching my heart with such an amazing 5 seasons. They will live on in me for the rest of my life. I’m so sad it’s over!

  3. Jessie says:

    Absolutely loved the finale. I am so sad that it’s the end. The show never got the recogition it deserved. I will watch repeats of this episode for a long time. Thanks for the ride!

  4. rachel says:

    What a great show. I can’t even really describe the emotions right now…

    Can anybody tell me what the name of the song playing during the interviews is? With the piano and stuff? Thanks so much.

    • sarah says:

      I’d also like to know the name of that song, and the one playing where matt proposes to julie. I know the song is called heaven, but I wanna know who performs it for this episode.

  5. Charles Brooks says:

    This was such a great series and sad to see it go. This was a true depiction of football in America. Each character brought something great to the table. Some of the best acting I have seen years. I think there should be a website or petition to bring back. Great SERIES

  6. MG says:

    It’s crazy as I’m feeling all the emotions others have described. Weird as it seems it almost feels like I can’t go on. I want to believe that them characters are real and they are out there right now in the town of Dillon doing there thing, and in the weeks to come we’ll be caught up with the happenings.

    They say it is better to have found love and lost it than to not ever had it at all, and I know deep down I don’t believe it, but the hurt I feel now that it is over makes me question if it would be better to have never seen the show at all.

  7. Sarah says:

    I am SO broken-hearted over the end of this show!! It made me both laugh and cry on a regular basis and I will miss it dearly. I have no help for you in dealing with your heartbreak, as I’m not even sure how to deal with it myself… time, I suppose. And perhaps a DVD with extras to look forward to…?

  8. Sarah says:

    I just watched the finale for a second time… it was even better than the first time! Incredible!

  9. Lorie says:

    I couldn’t help reading this even though I have to wait to watch the last season on NBC. Loved the show since the beginning and know I’ll be crying when I finally get to see the end.

  10. ws says:

    It was a perfect final episode. Thanks for making a great show. I will never understand why this show was cancelled though with all the bad shows that are still on. Just dont make sense to me,, especially with all the new characters you introduced us too in the last 2 seasons. Again thank you for a quality show ,, it was probably the only show i truley followed and enjoyed.

  11. Patrick says:

    FNL 4 EVER!
    So sad this amazing show had to end,
    hope people wanna talk more about FNL through e-mail? please lets keep FNL alive somehow!

  12. Hunter says:

    why did friday night lights leave so many things unsolved? What happens to Smash, Vince, Landry, and others

    • Carrie says:

      Tim and Buddy were watching Smash play football on TV in one of the final episodes, Vince went on to be the star of the Panther team, Landry and Lila are in college and Jason is a sports agent now.

  13. jb says:

    why did all of the past season characters return except smash williams?

  14. Shelley says:

    Last night I finally brought myself to watch the final episode. I had been putting it off for so long because ending the show meant ending an important chapter of my life. Needless to say I sobbed like I was losing a close friend. So many things have changed in my life since I began watching this show, and it was always something I could come back to and depend on. I’ve also shared this show with so many of my friends and it became a strong bond between us.

    I have never loved a show like I do this one and there is a big hole in my heart now where the residents of Dillon used to be. It’s so rare that a show ends that I am completely satisfied with the final product. However, in this rare case, the finale was perfect. I’ll miss the “Matt Chat’s” with “Coach & Mrs. Coach.” I’ll miss Tim ordering squab at dinner with the Garrity’s. I’ll miss the bond between Luke and Vince.

    My only regret is that so few people appreciate the show for the masterpiece it was. I’ll just continue my mission, DVD seasons in hand, to spread the legacy of FNL. As the beautiful Tim Riggins says, Texas Forever.

  15. Angie says:

    The ending was pure greatness. However between FNL and Smallville leaving my Friday nights will be empty shells of themselves.

  16. Joy says:

    Interesting to see Jason Katims acknowledge the murder plot. After always looking forward to the show, I had to turn that season off. It wasn’t a story I could watch every week, without thinking what are they doing? So happy, it got back on track & ended in a such a positive way. The final scene was perfection with Eric & Tammy walking off the field and the lights going out. However, I think I’ll feel a little lost next Friday when my show isn’t on anymore.

  17. Junior G. says:

    To answer your question on how to get through this painful time: I honestly don’t know. I honestly cant see myself watching a better show than FNL in my lifetime. The ending was so perfect, so real, I’m close to tears just thinking about it. Texas forever.

  18. Mike says:

    While it doesn’t need the win to cement it’s legacy as one of the greatest shows of all-time, the perfect ending would be if this “little show that could” won the Emmy this year.

    Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose!

  19. Christa says:

    I wrote a comment on February 10th after watching the finale. I just watched it again last night, and I still cried, and I knew how it ended. The acting was perfection. The cinematography during the state game was amazing with so little dialog. Vince and Coach before the game – almost made me “ugly cry.” One thing I noticed upon the second viewing were the two rings on Billy’s hand when he opened the cooler while working on the house with Tim. That’s just so Billy. I really seriously hope that Peter Berg can pull together a movie with the FNL TV cast so we can catch up on our favorite citizens from Dillon. They have left a hole in my heart that needs to be filled again. I hope the entire cast and crew is very proud of the work that they did on FNL because it will live on as one of the best shows on TV.

  20. Sarah says:

    Ahhh!! I really wanted a Tyra/Landry scene AND a Tim/Lyla scene, but overall, I still LOVED it.

    PS. Here is an awesome interview with Michael B Jordan about the finale:

  21. Pam says:

    Recently I was working in the yard when I saw a vehicle go by that I recognized, a common occurence on my busy street. Then I realized who I knew that had a blue Explorer…. Coach and Tami Taylor. LOL! How true to life the FNL family has become to each of us.

  22. Lori says:

    I don’t have Direct TV so I just watch the final episode Friday night. It could not have been done any better, as a true fan from the very beginning I was not disappointed. It has been 16 hours since I watched it and I was just about getting over my pain until I watched the video you posted and now I am depressed all over again. I am obsessed with these characters/actors and Dillon Texas!

  23. Marisa says:

    So gutted. I don’t even . . . I just can’t . . . I . . . What? What am I supposed to do now? I feel empty and drained, emotionally satisfied (except for Landry/Tyra and seeing Smash and Jason again). Truly perfection and the most incredible television show to EVER be created. And that’s saying something from someone who passionately loves LOST. This show was just everything. I live in Texas, albeit not in a small town like Dillon, but I appreciated everything the show gave. It was truly the heart and soul of Texas and of these characters. I feel like I just lost my friends and loved onces. I feel like Grandma Saracen was one of my grandmas and I just lost her, even though my real grandma is making pancakes in my kitchen right now. This show just meant so much to me and I can’t believe it’s gone. Even though I watched it in February I’m STILL grieving.

  24. ljd says:

    Clear eyes, (no, not with tears running down my face)–full heart, (always when I spent time with these incredible characters)–can’t lose (not when this show lives on in DVDs and more importantly in hearts and memories and hopefully Emmy wins this year!).

    Michael, the only way to get through is to start over by watching season one again and to keep the tissues handy.

    Thanks FNL cast and crew for all the love and the lights.

  25. mackenzie miller says:

    what happened with lila? why was she not on final episode? I would have liked to have seen lila and tim in a scene together.

  26. Jenna says:

    I’ll miss the sincerity of this show. It was so heartfelt that it made me fall in love with these characters that could easily have been the kids I grew up with. There was a true-ness about it that kept us coming back.

  27. Christina says:

    I loved this show so much, im going to miss it. But it was an amazing finale.

  28. Annie Sisk says:

    I have nothing new to add here, but I am compelled to spout off anyway, ’cause it was THAT. GOOD. Holy crap but I am gonna miss this show. Perfectly executed, beautifully shot and acted – the entire finale was a worthy, uplifting experience from start to finish, not one misstep the entire time. That is SO rare (House, I’m looking at you, you little miscreant SHOW, you) and so beautiful. And I swear to Buddy Garrity if this thing doesn’t nab an Emmy or three this year I’m gonna go all medieval on somebody’s arse.

  29. Rob J. says:

    Point of Order:
    It was justifiable homicide — not murder. Landry and Tyra were freaked out (understandably) and were stupid to try and hide it, but it’s not as if the show wasn’t saying that they were being stupid in trying to hide it.
    Loved the storyline, hated the overblown fan reaction against it. It’s one of those cases where it seems to me like the fans of the show were freaking out in just as stupid a way as Tyra and Landry were.

  30. G8rgrl says:

    I’ll miss this show as much as I continue to miss, “Gilmore Girls”. Shows with heart are an increasingly rare commodity and I am grateful to have experienced this one for five seasons.

  31. Carrie says:

    The murder storyline in Season 2 never bothered me as much as it seemed to have bothered others. I think the only problem was the way it was wrapped up because of the writer’s strike. Both actors did an outstanding job, it brought Tyra and Landry together and we got to see more of the wonderful actor who played Landry’s father…I loved the finale. It was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s a testament to how good the show was that I was just as invested in the fate of the ‘new’ characters as the original ones. Even though the show sort of reinvented itself when the original main characters graduated and moved on, it remained just as well-written and compelling. FNL will always be one of my all-time favorites.

  32. Jeff says:

    Outside the ‘regrettable plot line’, the only thing I have issue with is that apparently every woman in her late 30’s in Dillon, TX likes to have sex with teenagers. Or that bars routinely let high school students drink there! :)

    That being said, yes, the writing was amazing. Yes, the storylines. Yes, the most honest portrayal of a couple ever, but I will say THE BEST ACTING EVER on a television drama. Think about it (and I don’t even know the actor’s names):

    – Mama Smash – my god she was awesome
    – Grandma Saracen – she should have won and emmy for that performance
    – Brad Leland – just perfect
    – Jurnee Smollett – I love the Sass.

    Everything about this was REAL. One in particular – Buddy Jr – when he says responds to ‘what did you think of Mrs Taylor?’ and he says ‘she’s got a great rack’ – that is HONEST. It’s what every red blooded teenager would be thinking.

    And this show introduced us to the sheer bliss that is Minka Kelly.

    I will say that the Saracen ‘dig the grave’ scene may be one of the best/most heart wrenching EVER on TV.

    No other show compares. I will say, as far as dramas go, best show ever on television – consistent perfection across the board.

  33. Amy says:

    What a brilliant, brilliant show! I hope Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton win the Emmys they so very much deserve. The scene where Coach asks Tami to talk him to Philly was astoundingly moving.

  34. champmav says:

    I rarely comment, but feel compelled to bring up a comparison of this series to what could have been for My So-Called Life. It had the same attention to character detail, similar relatability. If it had been shot in the same hand-held camera technique as FNL, and ten years later, who knows…

  35. SL says:

    This show meant so much to my son and me. We’d DVR it and watch it together Saturday mornings after his own high school football games, which coincidentally included several post-season quarterfinal games and a trip to state. “Clear eys, full hearts, can’t lose” became their motto as well! FNL’s end came at the same time as both the Harry Potter movies and high school came to an end for him. Talk about transition! Thank goodness for DVDs.

  36. KHS says:

    I AM A WRECK. Period. This show has affected me emotionally more than any other show..ever. A few thoughts though:
    1. How great is Buddy Garrity?!? I will miss seeing Brad Leland every week. Isn’t it crazy how unlikeable he was in the first two seasons, and then everyone just grew to love him? I appreciated that.
    2. I loved the “J Street” shout out on the locker room at the very end. I have to say that I honestly never took to the newer characters as much as I took to the older ones (Street, Lyla, Smash, etc.) so it was nice to see a little recognition. Watching the finale has made me want to re-watch the series all over so I can see all those awesome scenes again: the heart break over Street’s injury; Smash and his mother; the amazing sexual chemistry between Riggins and Lyla.
    3. My ONLY complaint on the finale: Lack of Landry screen time. I would have LOVED to hear one more “Lance” from coach or just to see he and Tyra having a moment. Just a little frienship moment. The two of them went through A LOT together, so I think it would have been nice.
    4. Eric and Tami (or Kyle and Connie) were so incredibly amazing. I am hoping, praying, wishing, anything for an EMMY win!! This show truly deserves it more than any other show! Come on, Micheal!!! Lets campaign!!!!!
    5. Oh and thank you, Micheal! Your support of the show has been inspiring!

    • lisa nesbitt says:

      <<<IS A WRECK ALSO, you took the words out of my mouth which I could have written it as well as you did.
      And I totally agree there was not where near enough Landry time on the finale.
      And Buddy,,,buddy buddy buddy …always made me smile :)
      But now I am so sad that I won't get to see them on Friday nights any longer

  37. Liz says:

    Taylor to his new team in Philly: “Clear Eyes, Full hearts… we will get to that later.” Loved it!

  38. Steve says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, but everyone has said the same thing I would about the best show ever. I wanted to point out how the last game was shown. Instead of showing plays with the announcers doing play-by-play, the story of the game was simply told by showing the emotions of the players, coaches, and fans. You didn’t see the scoreboard until there were three seconds left. Then on the last play you see each individual character’s head turning to follow the ball and don’t immediately know whether or not it was caught. I thought that concept was movingly original and creative — like the entire series.

  39. lisa nesbitt says:

    I lost my mom this year to cancer which I am still dealing with on a daily basis. Please do not think I am compairing the loss of my Mom to a Tv Series because I am not. There are things in life that make you feel like your alive, like your not the only one and this show is one of those things that did that for me, I wish for them to find a way to bring this show back and tie it all in together. This show means alot to me, I totally lost it while watching the series finale and just lost it again watching the cast take on it…I wish them all nothing but the best in life but I want this show to continue :) a very very devoted fan

  40. Clear Eyes says:

    dialogue with a friend about what we would do without our imaginary friends. I decided to make them real to help me let go.

    Please take my comments with a grain of salt — I love FNL and all of its rich characters, including the state of Texas..

    Coach and Tammy divorce — it’s hard being a coach’s wife, and she busted out, which is the number 1 no no in coach’s wife school. Her career will soar and she’ll get to a very senior management role in a very small liberal arts school, raising the surprising ugly Gracie Belle (how could two gorgeous people rear such a homely little child — and yet she looks surprisingly like them)on her own. Boring.

    Coach blows off that turn around team citing irreconcilable differences, while the media speculates that it’s either the yankee way of life (or the pretentiously northern green uniforms) that drove him over the edge. He finally takes a college coaching job, but there’s no poetic justice because he coaches in a division 2 southern school, which will never play the team from Tammy’s uppity West Virginia liberal arts Ivy wannabe school. He takes on a trophy wife (a former Dillon student — the scandal is short lived) who insists on a family, and he starts the whole cycle over again, a little worse for the wear, but with even deeper wisdom, if that’s possible. They settle into a comfortable, but not extravagant existence. Boring.

    Vince and his girlfriend were a failed plot line in search of a following. They didn’t know what to do with her character. She slept with the wrong player and her budding football career went down the tubes faster than her father’s story arc. She moved to southern California to be an athletic trainer. Vince blew out his knee. His father had nothing to hang onto, so he stepped up his drug habits and, after a few more stints in and out of prison, ended up dead in a suspected revenge motivated gangland shooting a la Godfather (Sonny in the toll booth)…but not before he got Vince’s mom hooked on junk again in a predictable Whitney Houston / Bobby Brown story. Vince follows his father’s path, starting the first known racially integrated gang in Texas, bringing with him his buddy, the big lineman with a plotline that never emerged, as well as the surfer dude tight end, Tim Riggins wannabe plot foil that never happened. Buddy junior doesn’t make the cut; he has a series of predictable relapses and ends up a typical Texas story of failure, with his father bailing him out until he (Buddy) goes bankrupt and his lack of charm finally becomes apparent to anyone who would help him, leaving him broke and alone — a Texas story. They all lead boring lives, in and out of Texas, a boring place. Boring.

    Luke returns from a desk job after getting a minor non-combat injury. He helps out on the farm when his father gets sick, like he was supposed to do before he left. He gets a pot belly sitting on a tractor and marries a homely barfly. His chick, now reunited with her mother (another failed plot twist — if they were so close, why would she just leave and why didn’t she come back when her daughter’s world was falling apart?), follows a band to Arkansas, gets pregnant a couple of times, and works a bunch of convenience store jobs with a string of loser boyfriends. Boring.

    Landry gets a degree and gets a decent job in New Jersey, eventually making his way to upper middle management in a Pharmaceutical company. He marries a chick from Fairfield, they live in a house, with a pool. He never sees the undeveloped lesbian character he was fond of. (Her character could have an interesting future, but she’s inconsequential.) There’s more, but it’s boring.

    Coach’s daughter finally breaks out of the confines of the shows limiting structure and attends a normal northern college and follows a path similar to Landry’s, with some almost interesting choices in her 20s, but the same end. She doesn’t end up with Matty because, well, she’s actually normal, and so is he, so they actually break up like normal kids do. He remains a great guy, has a few girlfriends, tends to his grandmother when she finally succumbs to the cognitive ailment that was only as serious as the plot demanded any given week. I love Matty S, but, boring.

    Tim Riggins works on the Alaska pipeline and has a string of jobs, relationships and booze, as is consistent with his character. He ages like Jan Michael Vincent and isn’t able to use his looks as a weapon. He does get in trouble with the law again. Predictable and boring.

    Tyra doesn’t do much, but she does over achieve her expectations, albeit not in politics. She flirts with Landry at a reunion, but nothing happens, and Landry doesn’t mind. She ends up in the Tennessee suburbs with a family, then divorces, but keeps the house, kids and a horse, just in case. Boring.

    Somehow Billy continues to support his growing family on a part time assistant coach job, even though he’s not very good or very bright. But it all falls apart when he screws up one too many times and his stripper wife, having lost her looks, becomes even more bitter and hating. Boring.

    Lila escaped. She leads an interesting, albeit predictable life far outside the expectations of the Texas landscape. Still pretty, she becomes an occupational therapist for an Autistic child in California, but devastates the family when she sleeps with the child’s charming uncle. (See Parenthood, episode 117.) Boring.

    Smash married Zach Efron. They build an in-law suite for his mother. Boring.

    I forgot to mention Santiago. He met up w/ Riggins in prison, is responsible for Vince’s father’s gangland death and Buddy Junior’s relapses, and he turns 40 all within two years of playing as a high school senior for the Dillon Panthers. He dies a cliche death — on the can (pushing a little harder than he should) from an embolism no one suspected was there. Boring.

    I could go on, but I’m boring myself. This was cathartic, though. It helped me to let go of my former friends. Thank you for listening.

  41. Jaquen says:

    No matter how Katims tries to justify it, the lack of a single Landry/Tyra scene in the otherwise perfect series finale was a huge blunder, and a very real disappointment to a great many fans.

  42. Madison Medina says:

    I wanted Becky and Tim to be together! Anyways great ending! Gonna miss this show so much!

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  44. Justin ohm says:

    I’m pretty upset with my self for the fact I’m 22 years old this show started when I was in the 6th grade. And coming from a football player stand point it’s crazy I’m just now being able to watch the whole series 10 years later lol . It was such a great series and I’m pretty upset that it ended . If there is ever a chance for it to air another it definitely watch it once again