Looking back on the final episode five years later

By Samantha Highfill
Updated February 09, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
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Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t … stop crying. That was the sentiment shared by Friday Night Lights diehards five years ago Tuesday when the series finale aired for the first time, beautifully wrapping up one of the greatest television series to ever hit the small screen. After five seasons of wins, losses, and epic Coach Taylor speeches, fans had to say goodbye to Dillon, Texas and all of its wonderful inhabitants.

Not only did the series finale exceed expectations, but in doing so, it caused more tears than anyone could’ve predicted. So in honor of what will always be known as one of the best series finales, we’ve ranked the hour’s top tear-inducing moments by just how many tears they caused us to shed.

25. Matt asks Coach Taylor for his daughter’s hand

Admittedly, this is an odd scene to make you cry, except for a few reasons: 1) You could be crying out of fear for Matt’s life, and you know what? I wouldn’t blame you. Because Coach Taylor is pissed. Or 2) You could be crying because you know that this is one of the last great Eric-Matt interactions you’re ever going to get. And that’s okay too.

Tissue scale: 1.5 out of 5

24. Luke apologizes to Becky

Showing up with flowers, a teddy bear, and the sort of boyish grin that only Luke Cafferty could pull off, Luke apologizes to Becky and tells her that he wants to be with her forever. And of course, she can’t resist.

Tissue scale: 1.5 out of 5

23. Coach Taylor offers to help Tim

From the moment they bonded in season 2 — ping pong, anyone? — Coach Taylor always had a respect for Tim Riggins, and that respect only grew when Tim went to jail for his brother. And that’s what made the moment that Coach told Tim, “If there’s anything that you need, you damn well know to call me,” pull at the heart strings. (That, and the fact that Stevie was hanging with them.)

Tissue scale: 2 out of 5

22. Everything having to do with Vince’s dad

First, Vince invites his dad to state and he’s having none of it. Then, Coach Taylor shows up and delivers a ticket and a line about how a young man only gets an opportunity like this once in his life. And finally, when game time rolls around, Mr. Howard shows up. Yeah, good luck not crying at that.

Tissue scale: 2.5 out of 5

21. Reunion at Buddy’s Bar

When Tim and Tyra meet Matt and Julie at Buddy’s Bar to celebrate their engagement, the scene is thick with nostalgia. And when Tyra tries to reject Tim by telling him “I got plans,” he simply responds, “I don’t.” In other words: romance + nostalgia = tears.

Tissue scale: 2.5 out of 5

20. Landry shows up

Hey, Landry’s back! And that alone is making me cry!

Tissue scale: 3 out of 5

19. Happy endings

In the finale’s final montage, we see that Jess has a job at Dallas Walker, Julie and Matt are happy in Chicago, and Tinker, Billy and Vince have both found a new home on the Panthers. So why are all of these joyous things making me cry?

Tissue scale: 3 out of 5

18. Vince thanks Jess

When Jess first joined the coaching staff of the East Dillon Lions, Vince hated every moment of it. But reflecting back on the year before they head off to state, he realizes how lucky he is to share this experience with the young woman he loves. “I’m so glad you’re a part of this team,” he tells her.

Tissue scale: 3 out of 5

17. Family dinner

When Julie tells her parents that they’re her inspiration when it comes to marriage, Tami has to step outside to gather herself. Outside the restaurant, Tami tells Eric through her tears that “it’s my turn, babe,” but he’s still not ready to have the conversation … yet. And if seeing those two at odds doesn’t do you in, I don’t know what will.

Tissue scale: 3 out of 5

16. Becky says goodbye to Mindy

As great as it is to see Becky reconnect with her mother, there’s nothing great about seeing Mindy — a character we’ve rarely gotten this much insight into — cry.

Tissue scale: 3.5 out of 5

15. Matt proposes to Julie

After five seasons of love and heartbreak, Matt returns from Chicago and takes Julie to the Alamo Freeze, where he proposes with his grandmother’s ring. It might not sound romantic, but it was the perfect ending to their love story.

Tissue scale: 3.5 out of 5

14. Tami invites Matt and Julie to dinner

After learning of Matt’s proposal, an emotional Tami finds her daughter in her bedroom. Seeing the engagement ring for the first time, Tami invites Matt and Julie to have dinner with her and Eric to talk about the kids’ future. And in that moment — and Connie Britton’s performance — you can feel every emotion that Tami’s experiencing. And there are a lot.

Tissue scale: 3.5 out of 5

13. Tim tells Becky they’re family

Running into Tim at the liquor store — where he’s carrying around his nephew Stevie because he’s Tim — Becky thanks him for getting her to finish high school and make those memories. She then tells him that her crush is over and asks if they can be friends. As Tim puts it, “Let’s say family.” I CANNOT HANDLE SINCERE TIM.

Tissue scale: 3.5 out of 5

12. Tim and Tyra reconnect

Sitting on the land where Tim intends to buy a house, Tyra tells the man that she’s been in love with since she was 5 years old that she intends on getting into politics — think Tami Taylor but bigger. As for Tim, he’s going to build a house, get a job, and never do anything illegal for the rest of his life. Looking at Tyra, he says “maybe one day our dreams can merge together.”

(Unrelated: Can you swoon and cry hysterically at the same time?)

Tissue scale: 4 out of 5

11. Tearing down East Dillon

In the final montage of the hour, we get a brief glimpse at what’s become of the East Dillon field, which is that it’s now a parking lot. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEMORIES?

Tissue scale: 4 out fo 5

10. Buddy carries on the legacy

Also in the final montage, we see Buddy loving life, riding around on a golf cart as the Panthers practice. But more importantly, he makes sure to hang the “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” sign in the locker room, because tradition is a beautiful thing.

Tissue scale: 4 out of 5

9. Eric’s mall confession

Just as Tami gets ready to take Gracie Bell’s picture with Santa Claus, Eric shows up unexpectedly to tell his wife that he’s turned down the contract with West Dillon. It’s her turn. As he puts it, “Will you take me to Philadelphia with you please?” And cue the tears of joy/admiration at this ideal marriage.

Tissue scale: 4 out of 5

8. Grandma Saracen finds her wedding dress

When Grandma Saracen learns of Matt and Julie’s engagement, the first thing she does is look to see if she still has her old wedding dress so that Julie can wear it. (She does.) She then asks Julie if she can see the ring — which of course belonged to her — and in the moment that she asks Julie if she likes it, the whole world seems to crumble. She then tells Julie that she has to call her grandma now before pulling Julie in for a hug and telling her that she loves her.

I hope you weren’t wearing any mascara.

Tissue scale: 4.5 out of 5

7. Jess’ goodbye to Coach

After discovering that her father is moving the family to Dallas, Jess stops by Coach Taylor’s office to inform him that she won’t be able to follow him to West Dillon next year (if that, in fact, is where he ends up). She tells him that being a part of the Lions has been the greatest experience of her life, to which he responds by saying, “I think it’s been mine too.”

And if you can somehow still see through the tears, then you’d also see him offer to put a call into Dallas Walker to help her out.

Tissue scale: 4.5 out of 5

6. Late-night family meeting

After dinner with Matt and Julie, Eric finds Tami in the living room when she can’t sleep. She informs him that she’s going to turn down her dream job because it’s evident that she won’t win this fight. But that matter is put on hold when Julie enters and asks her parents to trust that she’s making the right decision with Matt. And when Tami says they do trust her, it’s all Eric can do to slightly nod at his daughter and not burst into a million tears. Sorry, did someone say tears?

Tissue scale: 4.5 out of 5

5. Luke joins the Army

Precious Luke and his boyish grin head off to serve and our hearts cannot take it!

Tissue scale: 4.5 out of 5

4. A new life, a new team

In the series finale’s final moments, Coach Taylor is instructing his new team in Philadelphia when he tries to end practice with a “clear eyes, full hearts” moment of greatness. Of course, they don’t know how to end that sentence. And as he puts it, “we’ll deal with that later.” Tami then meets him in the middle of the field, and the two head home together as the lights go out one last time.

Tissue scale: 5 out of 5

3. State

Because Friday Night Lights hates your tear ducts, the finale features a nearly dialogue-free football game. Viewers watch as the East Dillon Lions compete in the state championship game, all the while being overwhelmed with five seasons worth of memories. From seeing Matt Saracen wearing an East Dillon hat in the stands to watching Tami cheer on her husband one final time, it hits viewers in this moment that this is the last game they’re going to watch. And without any dialogue to distract from the pure emotion, well, the tears attack.

Tissue scale: 5.5 out of 5 (Yes, it’s possible.)

2. Texas Forever

Two brothers, building a house, sharing a couple beers. That’s the final image we get of the Riggins boys, as they take a break from crafting Tim’s dream home to leave us with one final, “Texas, Forever.”

Tissue scale: 5.5 out of 5

1. “You changed my life, Coach”

Just before the state championship game kicks off, Coach Taylor takes a quick moment to stop by and check in on his star quarterback. Kneeling down, he simply tells Vince, “You may never know how proud of you I am,” to which Vince says, “You changed my life, Coach.”

And you changed all of our lives, too, Coach.

Tissue scale: ALL THE TISSUES IN THE WORLD

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