The Friday Night Lights film from 2004 is often held in high regard as one of the best football movies ever made. So when word broke that a television show was coming based on it, folks were skeptical. Could it live up to the original? In the eyes of most of its audience, it did that and more.
Friday Night Lights ran for five seasons and fans seemed to agree that most of the series was fantastic. From dramatic football games to stellar acting to topical storylines, the show had it all. It did have some down moments and we’re going to look at both sides. We’ve taken the reviews from IMDb users and found the choices for the best and worst episodes.
10 Worst: Last Days Of Summer (7.7)
Fans of Friday Night Lights should not be surprised to see the premiere episode of season two kick off the “worst” section of this list. That season was widely panned and is considered the show’s low point. It caused a dive in ratings, which led to the show being moved off of the NBC Network.
“Last Days of Summer” picked up after the Dillon Panthers won the State Championship. Too much changed for fans to get behind. Coach Taylor was at a new school. Julie and Matt’s relationship, a key part of season one, was already on the rocks. Some players got too cocky. Throw in the start of the much-maligned Landry/Tyra murder storyline and Lyla as a born-again Christian and you’ve got a mess of an episode.
9 Best: Texas Whatever (9.0)
A great show needs to end with a final season that lives up to the hype. Friday Night Lights did just that with episodes like “Texas Whatever,” the penultimate episode of the series. The title was a play on the famous phrase often uttered by Tim Riggins and Jason Street, “Texas forever.”
This episode dealt with Dillon’s decision to eliminate a football program, making it a one-town team once again. This all happened as Tami and Eric argued about her possibly taking a new job, the Lions fought through the Playoffs, and old faces like Tyra returned to the fold. It was a wonderful blend of the new with the old.
8 Worst: Eyes Wide Open (7.7)
The pilot of Friday Night Lights is a great hour of television. The football game is dramatic, featuring a thrilling comeback and the emotional injury to star quarterback Jason Street. Unfortunately, the follow-up episode, “Eyes Wide Open,” couldn’t match it. Instead, it missed by a pretty wide margin.
It shifted the focus to Matt Saracen and his struggles with having to step up as QB1 in Street’s absence. Nobody in town seemed to believe in him. The conversations had weren’t bad but it lacked the emphasis that the first installment had. Even with the end punchline that Matt’s eyes were wide open when he threw the game-winning touchdown in that first game.
7 Best: Thanksgiving (9.1)
Season four marked a radical change for the series. Coach Taylor was out as coach of the powerhouse Dillon Panthers and in at East Dillon where there wasn’t even a true football program. But as the season progressed, we grew to love the new characters as much as the original ones.
“Thanksgiving” was the season four finale and it brought everyone together. Jess and Vince’s feelings for each other came out, Matt returned from Chicago, and the Riggins welcomed a new member to the family. On the field, it all came down to the highly-anticipated battle between the East Dillon Lions and the Panthers. It did not disappoint.
6 Worst: Backfire (7.6)
We’re back to season two for “Backfire,” which was the fourth episode. It seemed like the writers of Friday Night Lights backed themselves into a corner by having Coach Taylor leave for another school. That decision trapped them and they rushed to rectify it in season two.
Eric quit his new job and returned to Dillon but the new coach fought being terminated after just two games. While that wasn’t all that interesting, the episode’s real struggles came from the Jason/Tim storyline. Watching the two pal around down in Mexico was dull and frustrating for Tim, who skirted his responsibilities to do so.
5 Best: Underdogs (9.1)
If an episode had a compelling football game showcased, there’s a good chance it was well-received. They were so good at delivering cinematic game sequences. “Underdogs,” the 12th installment in season three delivered what was arguably the best in series history.
In the State Title game, Dillon found themselves down 27-0 at halftime. Coach gave them a rousing speech, put Matt back in his rightful spot at quarterback, and the comeback started. It was thrilling to watch and heartbreaking to see them ultimately lose on a last-second field goal. The rest of the episode was marvelous and could have worked as a series finale. That’s how good it was.
4 Worst: Bad Ideas (7.6)
Season two was a bad idea, am I right? Anyway, “Bad Ideas” was the second episode of that season and proved that the lackluster premiere wasn’t a fluke. This was going to be a problematic string of episodes. Instead of working to fix some of the issues at hand, it doubled-down on them.
There were more issues for Matt and Julie, which fans didn’t want because they were a beloved couple. Coach Taylor felt far away from the story. Smash continued to be a jerk. Tyra and Landry went further into their troublesome murder plot. It felt like the place where a lot of fans probably hopped off of the series bandwagon.
3 Best: The Son (9.6)
Following his graduation, Matt Saracen felt like he was due to be done with the show. In “The Son,” the fifth episode of season four, Matt was put back in the spotlight. He got word that his father died while at war and this episode dealt with the fallout from that news.
Zach Gilford delivered the best performance of his career as Matt went through every emotion. He broke down into tears, showed hate for his dad, regret for feeling that way, and a whole lot more. From the emotional moments to the lighthearted bonding we got from important characters, this was tremendous television.
2 Worst: Who’s Your Daddy (7.6)
Shockingly, the worst episode of Friday Night Lights according to IMDb users didn’t come from season two. Instead, it is the fourth episode of season one, “Who’s Your Daddy.” The show was still trying to find its footing after the strong pilot and thankfully, it did soon after this.
After a loss in his first start, Matt Saracen had nobody behind him. The boosters opted to bring in a talented quarterback from Louisiana. That caused Coach Taylor to struggle on who to start. That was an okay plotline but the trashed field house and barbecue at the Taylors’ home were less engaging.
1 Best: Always (9.7)
Almost anyone who has seen it will tell you that Friday Night Lights had one of the best series finales of all time. “Always” wrapped the show up about as perfectly as it could have. With the board’s decision to close East Dillon hanging over the team’s head, they still had to go in and attempt to win a State Championship.
Once the compelling stories were wrapped, the show ended with a fantastic montage. Julie and Matt got their happy ending, the Lions won it all, Luke went off to the military, and the Panthers were now a mix of players from both sides of Dillon. Best of all, Coach Taylor had a new team as he moved to accommodate his hard-working wife’s new job. It was all so beautiful.
NEXT: Where Are They Now: Friday Night Lights Cast