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The Last Waltz: An Advance Review of Season Five of Friday Night Lights

Well, this is it: the beginning of the end.

After four seasons of emotionally resonant drama, a nuanced exploration of life in small town Texas, and one of the most realistic portrayals of marriage ever, television masterpiece Friday Night Lights is heading towards the its final days, beginning with this week's thrilling and evocative season premiere ("Expectations"), written by David Hudgins and directed by Michael Waxman.

It's not surprising that "Expectations" had me getting choked up no less than four times over the course of 40-odd minutes, as characters made their farewells and prepared to leave Dillon behind. While their goodbyes might be temporary, it was a canny way of signaling to the audience that the final parting is still to come, that with just a dozen or so episodes left, there would be no going back to Dillon.

The first two episodes of the fifth and final season--"Expectations" and next week's installment ("On the Outside Looking In"), written by Kerry Ehrin and directed by Michael Waxman--contain an aura of both sadness and hope.

Which is fitting as there is a lot of change afoot in just the first hour alone, as Landry (Jesse Plemons) and Julie (Aimee Teegarden) prepare to leave for college and Eric (Kyle Chandler) and Tami (Connie Britton) grapple with new professional challenges (including, for Tami, one hell of a high-risk student), while also attempting to come to terms with Julie growing up and leaving home.

But everyone has to deal with some new circumstances, some of which are inherently challenging. There's trouble at home for Becky (Madison Burge), who has to deal with a sudden change in her family life as well as feelings of isolation and abandonment. Jess (Jurnee Smollett) attempts to raise her little brothers now that her dad is on the road launching multiple franchises of his BBQ restaurant. Billy (Derek Phillips) and Mindy (Stacey Oristano) have troubles of their own, not the least of which is Billy's crushing guilt over Tim (Taylor Kitsch) still being in prison and further changes at the Riggins household.

What else did I think about the first two episodes of Season Five?

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