TV Club

There’s No Way Landry Makes That Field Goal

Friday Night Lights

Hanna and Emily,

Thanks for letting me join your Friday Night Lights sewing circle. As the lone man in the huddle, I will attempt to embody Eric Taylor’s wisdom, Landry Clark’s sarcasm, Vince Howard’s agility, Buddy Garrity’s bluster, and, of course, Tim Riggins’ testosterone.

(Full disclosure: I’m married to Hanna, or, as I prefer to think of it, I am the Coach to her Mrs. Coach. This will explain, if not justify, all the jokes she will make at my expense.)

I wish this episode had had more football in it, so I could outflank you ladies with jargon, but the Toilet Bowl was short on strategy. (My one small gridiron observation: Given how feebly he swings his leg, there is no way that Landry would make a 36-yard field goal on a muddy field.)

The usual sledgehammered main lesson is absent from this week’s episode. It is a transitional week, as several characters leave their old selves behind and stutter-step toward new lives. The college visit shoves Julie out of her Saracen funk, but what comes next for her is unclear: caution-to-the-wind independence? Senior-year nostalgia? Tim—sorry, ladies—realizes that his true love is no woman, but the hills and dales of his native Texas, and imagines himself a new future as a landowner. Vince, forever torn between his two worlds, starts to turn his back on gangsterism but then seems to doubt himself when Jess chooses Landry over him. This is a choice, incidentally, that would never happen in the real world. Having been a Landry, I speak with some authority on this.

(A momentary digression: Don’t you think Landry and Vince are both improbably nice to Jess’ brothers? I know they’re just trying to soften Jess up so they can get in her cheerleader short-shorts, but even so, they’re massively more considerate than any teenage boy I’ve ever met. Do we really believe that Landry, who has no siblings, walks around with a supply of kiddie stories to tell to Dillon’s little boys?)

Another subtheme of the episode is unethical choices. Tim, angling for a down payment on his land, joins Billy in the chop shop. He also gives Luke the hookup to Dr. Feelgood. Luke sets himself down the road to pain-pill addiction. Vince resists the lure of car theft for the moment, but it’s clear he won’t for long. Since FNL has a strong afterschool-special morality—bad choices are always punished—we can be sure that all of these boys will come to regret what they’ve done. (To paraphrase Eliza Doolittle: “Just you wait, Timothy Riggins, just you wait. You’ll be sorry but your tears’ll be too late …”) 

I love Friday Night Lights best when it makes me cry, but I love it second-best when it makes fun of itself for making me cry. It does that delightfully this week, with coach Taylor’s rousing pre-practice speech at the start of the episode. Giddy after East Dillon’s near upset on Friday, he comes into the locker room to congratulate his team and deliver a coach Taylor special. “We’re not scrappers anymore. We’re lions, and this is our time. This is your time. …And I’m proud to take the field with you.” Explosions in the Sky’s chords swell majestically in the background. The team proudly takes the field where they find … a toilet.

Conforming to gender stereotype, I have ignored the adventures of FNL’s women. So I leave it to you to discuss the mother-daughter drama in Boston.

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