Turn off the 'Lights' for the last time

BY foxsports • July 15, 2011

Perhaps unlike any show before it, “Friday Night Lights” found a way to consistently tug at the heartstrings and crank up the melodrama for its loyal core of viewers. There were tears of joy, tears of sadness and tears of fear for the unknown.

We chuckled during the last episode of “Friends,“ toasted our Cosmos to the last “Sex and the City,” and checked our cable boxes to make sure they were still working after the last “Sopranos.” On Friday, we took out the handkerchiefs and had one last good cry — OK, a few of them — in honor of the final “Friday Night Lights.”

And now that the show's officially turned in its playbook, here are The Daily’s top five misty-eyed, pre-finale moments from the little show that could.

Season 1, Episode 2

First-year coach Eric Taylor, overwhelmed with emotion, visits his paralyzed star quarterback, Jason Street, in the hospital after learning the young man will never walk again. Street, coming to terms with his own mortality, tells Coach Taylor that he thinks the Panthers will be okay with his replacement, quirky sophomore Matt Saracen, filling in at quarterback. Then, Street hits us with a tearjerker:

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I let you down. I let the team down.”

Immobile in a neck brace, we realize that Street — paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life — feels guilty for not being able to lead the team on any more touchdown drives. Coach Taylor speaks for us all: “Damn son. You didn’t let me down.” He pauses, then emphasizes, “You did not let me down.”

Season 2, Episode 14

A good kid with what seems to be the world riding on his shoulders, Matt Saracen falls apart after a drunken night with Tim Riggins. Too inebriated to react when his grandmother, suffering from dementia, falls and needs to be rushed to the hospital, Saracen is verbally berated by his coach for his irresponsibility and selfishness.

Saracen lashes back, accusing Taylor of deserting him by temporarily taking a college coaching job weeks earlier.

Then Coach Taylor, in what makes for one of the show’s more dramatic moments, shoves a fully clothed Matt into a cold shower. His father has already gone back to Iraq, Carlotta — his grandmother’s nurse and his onetime love interest — has gone back to Guatemala, Julie Taylor has left him for a new boyfriend, and his coach is abandoning him for a new quarterback — and Matt finally breaks down. Haggard, hysterical and soaked in the shower, he looks at the one positive male role model in his life and screams, “Everybody leaves me. What’s wrong with me?”

Taylor, as only Taylor can, goes silent, grabs a hold of the shower-curtain rod from above, and responds, “There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with you at all.”

Season 3, Episode 12

Though Julie and Tami Taylor have oh, a dozen sob-inducing scenes that could make this list, it’s a mother-daughter moment shared by Tyra Collette and her mother Angela that’s most cherished by the show’s fans. After her sister Mindy’s wedding shower, Tyra tears up and asks her mom why she can’t “want that.”

Angela’s response is what makes “FNL” so perfect:

“Honey, listen to me, let me tell you somethin’, all right? Okay? I love my Mindy. You know, she was my first baby and she’s so funny and darling, you know? But she has never surprised me. Not one day in her life, bless her heart. But you … You surprise me, honey. Every day, since the minute I knew you were coming, ’til right now. You are a wonder. I have no idea what’s gonna happen with you, not a clue. I have no idea what college you’re going to go to or anything. But I know one thing, with all my heart. That you are gonna have everything that you are dreaming of. You’re gonna get everything you’re reaching for, honey. You are. And I want you to keep reaching. You keep going. One of these days you’re gonna surprise yourself, you’ll see. I won’t be surprised, but you will be. I know it.”

Season 4, Episode 5

When Matt Saracen learns of his father’s death, he’s altogether stoic and distant, showing some initial glimpses of shock, but no real raw emotion. After seeing his father’s mutilated corpse, he’s frozen. It’s not until Matt joins the Taylors for dinner that he finally comes undone.

Sitting at the table, he reacts to his carrots touching his meat on the plate with an outpouring of anger: “I don’t like being rude. I think I’m just having a moment here. I don’t think I’m OK. I hate him. And I don’t like hating people. But I just put all my hate on him so that I don’t have to hate anybody else. So now I can be a good person. To my grandmother, to my friends, to your daughter. And that’s all I want to say, I just want to tell him to his face that I hate him. But he doesn’t even have a face."

It is actor Zach Gilford’s shining moment.

Season 4, Episode 10

After troubled East Dillon quarterback Vince Howard’s mother survives a near-fatal drug overdose, the teenager visits her in the hospital and delivers a speech for the ages. Confused and emotionally shaken, he asks his sedated mother a series of heartbreaking questions, “Mom, why do you keep doing this to yourself? Why do you keep doing this to me? I mean, am I that bad? Why don’t you want to be with me? Why do you want to leave me by myself?”

Choked up, he confesses, “I don’t know if I can do it by myself. I can’t do it by myself, Mom.”