Yes, Dillon, Texas, has succumbed to the spell of a bad moon. Things get screwy and sad in this episode for pretty much everyone, from Eric and Tami to the kids—Tyra and Lyla and Mindy and the hapless “men” in their lives. In this episode, men fail and women turn their backs, one way or another. Even Matt is “failing” his grandmother, who suddenly wants assurances he’ll be around to take care of her. (Emily, I agree: This new selfishness seemed a stretch; though I don’t know much about dementia, and perhaps it could take this form.)
From a certain perspective, you could read this as an inverted object lesson in the danger of attachment. The object of your affection will never conform to the mood lighting of your inner fantasies. Of course, then there’s “Sunny,” as I now call Matt’s earnest mom. Blond, elfin, soft-spoken, she’s like the dream-mom lonely kids conjure up before they go to sleep, hoping she’ll come rescue them from the dreariness that is life.
Which makes me wish we could see or hear from Matt’s dad again. The show was brave to introduce Iraq as a topic in an earlier season (when we met Matt’s dad in between tours overseas). And it’s too bad the show won’t make good on that introduction by letting us really get to know Matt’s enlisted father. According to Faludi’s theories of masculinity, he’s the real deal, not an example of “ornamental bravery.” Someone who looked male but turned out to be ornamental is Cash, that pill-popping, smile-flashing fraud. There’s a lot of latent old-fashioned chivalry in the writing of this episode: Cash’s big crime is letting other guys leer at his gal while he goes after money. (I wonder if this, too, is not an object lesson—a subliminal message to all the male breadwinners who privilege work and forget to spend any time taking care of the little lady. OK, probably not, but we could read it that way.)
This episode is certainly soap operatic—it’s positively sudsy, in fact. But I did like the depiction of that awkward car ride home with Tyra, silence settling over everyone like a toxic cloud, all the shifting and twitching of being in a speeding vehicle eager to get home. You can see Tyra is shaken and will still grimace years later when, crossing a street, she happens to think back to this moment.
It’s this moment, though, that also led me to suspect teenagers may hate this show. I have an enduring belief that I would have loved it back when I was 14. But I’m beginning to suspect I would’ve just thought it was “dumb.” Not that I actually would have had any opinions, because my parents were busy making sure I was a permanent nerd: We had no TV at home. And this, it occurs to me some nights, must really be why I love Friday Night Lights. The show puts me in touch with an imagined teenage self I can relate to better than I now can to my real teenage self. In other words: Does this show capture something about being a teenager that a real live teenage girl can relate to? (Yes, and its name is Tim Riggins, says a little voice in my head.) Or does it cater to nostalgic adults like me, who want, for a moment, to feel that old sense of yearning entwined with the promise of old ideas like honor and grace?
Hanna, Emily, what do you think?
I confess: For me, the show lost something—a levity, a playfulness, a social depth—when it lost Smash.