It’s good to be back in Dillon. For those who are new to the fictional Texas town where high school football is a way of life, welcome. For longtime fans of the critically acclaimed drama “Friday Night Lights,” welcome back. The eagerly awaited fifth and final season has arrived.

“Friday Night Lights”

Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
DirecTV

The fourth season marked an important transition for the series. Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) was forced to leave his job as coach for the Dillon Panthers and take a position as head coach for the talented but misguided East Dillon Lions, due to a redistricting plan in the town.

The season five premiere, “Expectations,” has us back in Dillon with the characters we know. But it’s a distinctly different Dillon from when the series began, and better off for it. The Panthers are becoming a thing of the past and the Lions are now a force to be reckoned with. New characters dominate the storylines and older ones bid us farewell. The departure of Landry Clark (Jesse Plemons), former Panther and East Dillon Lion, and Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden), the coach’s daughter, are appropriate and well executed. Though we’ll miss them, it’s understood that it’s time for them to leave. Characters introduced in the last season have now taken center stage. Vince Howard (Michael B. Jordan, “Hard Ball”), the Lions’ quarterback, is leading his team with teammate Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria, “Lipstick Jungle”). It appears that their former rivalry has blossomed into a strong friendship.

Fittingly, the only character who seems oddly out of place is Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), the former Dillon Panther running back. In prison after taking the fall for his brother’s crimes, he seems worn and tired. He tells his brother Billy in one short scene not to visit him as much. It’s tough to tell, but this may mark the end for Riggins, Dillon’s beloved bad boy.

The storylines are as fresh as ever, imbued with genuine emotion without ever being overly sentimental. There are no heavily dramatized scenes or cliffhangers. Rather, it’s the subtler moments that are celebrated: the final ping-pong match between Taylor and his daughter before she leaves home for college, a stressed out teenager struggling to parent her little brother now that dad is out of the picture. These are the true-to-life details that have been the defining characteristic of “FNL” over the years. This is a show that embraces the silences. At times, just a look or a shift in body posture conveys the feeling of the moment.

Although never garnering a large fan base, “FNL” is on par with the top fare currently on network television. Developed by Peter Berg in 2006 as a spinoff from the book and film of the same title, the show has taken on a life of its own. It’s a credit to the writers that they’ve managed to take a powerful story, adapt it superbly for television and hold a fanbase for five seasons. While football is the thread that ties the storylines together, “FNL” is more of a character study of the inhabitants of the town. Nothing is better than watching Chandler and Connie Britton (“24”) — who plays his wife, Tami Taylor — discuss everyday life with a nuanced chemistry. It’s a lesson in acting from two masters of the craft.

Older characters make their departures and new ones step up to fill their shoes, but the specific tone of the series is always preserved. After all, what is a high school football team if not a constantly changing group of individuals committed to a common goal?

Before departing for college, Landry remarks to Julie “I’m gonna miss this place.” We’ll miss him too but the truth is, the town, the team and the show will go on without him. By the season’s end, we’ll all have to leave Dillon too, but for a little while longer we can still root for Eric Taylor and the East Dillon Lions.

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