I know I'm sounding doomsday, and to be fair, there's some vaguely encouraging news about the possibility of FNL moving to another network. There are also several campaigns underway to save the show; stay tuned for more on those later.
While it was in no way structured as a finale, this episode had a few things that would make it a fitting end. Most of the core characters had major moments — and none more than Jason Street, whose one-night stand with the waitress who told Pee Girl to take a hike might have ended with a miracle baby. This wasn't supposed to happen, physically, so no, he didn't "wrap that puppy." Why would he? Pregnancy was out of the question. Except apparently it's not, and Jason's left with a thoroughly unexpected child that he's in no way equipped to raise and a girl whom he's known for just a few hours. Obviously, all of this is a lot for Erin to take in; it's not really a fair thing to have put on her, but it's on her anyway. I loved that Jason went to Coach for advice; that brought the show back to its heart.
Speaking of Coach, he was mostly the comic sidestory, dredging up old jealousies when Tami's old boyfriend came to town. Nobody gives a meaningful "oh, honey" eyeroll quite like Connie Britton, and this episode was full of them as she chided Eric to put old feelings aside. Of course, nothing brings up old feelings quite like Jack Daniels. While I don't know that I buy Eric getting in a fight at a fancy restaurant, I don't doubt the powers of whiskey. And, best of all, that story gave me the scene of Eric in bed, bloody and bruised, while a highly annoyed Tami encouraged Julie to yell at her hung-over father a little louder.
From the funny to the heartbreaking: Was there anything sadder than that shot of Smash crying beneath the college letters hanging on his wall? I still have trouble believing that every school would turn its back on Smash because of one fight, but I do believe that when he said no to Alabama, USC, and the other big guns, they'd go out and recruit someone else — and not be exactly sympathetic to his plight when he came back begging. Whitmore is different. Whitmore believes in Smash. It's not what he dreamed, but it's still a way in.
Some other thoughts:
Riggins isn't going to last long at that Christian radio station, what with advising that hitting people is OK sometimes, but it was a great look at how far he'll go for Lyla. And no matter how into Matt Lyla is right now, and how his family lets her be the smart, proper, preppy girl she's fully capable of being, there's no denying that a part of her still wants to be dangerous and edgy; I mean, how fast did that sweater come off?
Matt's baffled reaction to Landry and Tyra is exactly how I imagine a best friend would respond to the sight of his nerdy buddy walking hand-in-hand with the hottest girl in school — the fact that they killed a dude together aside.
How appropriate that the final words of the series could be "give it a chance." Also, I read way too much into Mama Smash's one-door-closes, another-opens speech. Please, oh please, let there be another door for FNL.