Here’s a box set that’s a bit of a TV on DVD anomaly: Most fans of the series haven’t yet had the opportunity to view these episodes. If you watch Friday Night Lights on NBC, and you’re thinking, “Hey, did I somehow manage to miss the fifth season?,” the answer is no, you didn’t. This block of 13 episodes won’t begin airing until later this month on network TV. They did, however, play on DirecTV late last year and early this year, and now somebody, somewhere, has decided to go ahead and release this season on DVD before it plays on NBC. Given that this is the final season of this great series, that must make this set mighty tempting to the people who haven’t seen this material.
The big question, no doubt, is, “Does it deliver?” From this fan’s point of view the answer is “Most definitely.” But that’s a loaded answer that requires detailed – yet spoiler-free – explanation. If you didn’t care for the manner in which the show rebooted for Season Four, then there’s a good chance you’re not going to care for most of this season, either. Last season introduced four new major characters along with a slew of peripheral figures surrounding them, and this season continues on with those storylines. In many ways it feels less like a new season, and more like a continuation of last season’s stories; as if Seasons Four and Five combine to make one mammoth 26-episode story. It would be utterly useless to watch this block without having seen the year that preceded it, as that setup is imperative to appreciating what’s served up here.
Now, taking the above equation into consideration, the first three or four episodes of Season Five have a pretty unexpected “noodling” vibe, as if they’re the vaguely weak middle of this long story, and they’re biding their time until it begins ramping up for the big finish. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible the writers, led by Jason Katims, knew the ending they wanted, but weren’t sure of how to get there. I dub this the Hastings Ruckle Conundrum.
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