TV Club

Week 7: How To Be a Man (and How Not To Be One).

Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins.

Well, Meghan, we finally got our dose of reality from the has-been Tim Riggins. It wasn’t quite Rabbit, Run, but it was a nice outpouring of old grievance and rage. Tim overhears Becky’s dad, who has come for a visit, talking on the phone to the person who is obviously his other lady in Seattle. He confronts the dad for leading Becky to believe that he might one day move back to Dillon: “The funny thing is, you don’t give a damn about your daughter,” says Tim, and then they are going at it, rolling in the mud. He is defending the lady’s honor, as Riggins is sometimes wont to do. But this time, he rubs the lady’s face in it. In an uncharacteristic lapse of chivalry, Riggins later confronts Becky at a party about her dad. “He’s not coming back,” he tells her, and keeps pressing the point, even after she cries and begs him to stop.

At this point, the lecture on deadbeat dads is no longer about Becky but about Riggins. “This is what they do, your dad, my dad. They leave and they don’t come back.” In this moment and several others, the episode gave us a pretty explicit referendum on manhood and the many way to fail or succeed at it. Billy Riggins is tested in his ability to provide for his pregnant wife and then rescued by a sisterhood of entrepreneurial strippers. Vince and Eric spar over whether manhood requires owning a gun or building a future. Luke’s dad has a very narrow definition of filial duty—stay home from school and build a fence. And then Glenn—horny, dorky Glenn—imagines himself to be a total brute of a man when he is of course the exact opposite. And Riggins pledges to fulfill his patriarchal duties faithfully and forever to his new … puppy.

In Eric’s construction, being a man means making decisions. He never talks about role models or historical examples or carefully considering the options. The right path is obvious; you just have to be man enough to take it. “It’s clear what has got to be done,” he tells Vince. “You got to make a decision.” The conversation between him and Vince was quite well done, I thought. Vince tries the old you ain’t my father tack, and the cliché that if he got injured, Coach would just find another guy who can run fast and throw. And Coach gives him the perfect answer. He doesn’t pretend he cares, or that he can’t find another quarterback. He makes Vince see that their interests are the same and that there is only one way for both of them to move forward. And, of course, a couple of scenes later, Vince shows up at the Taylors’ house with the gun in a paper bag and hands it over. (Emily, I will leave it to you to tell us whether Eric should have let the cops search Vince’s locker and whether they had any right to.)

The plotline with Glenn, meanwhile, plays as the comic opposite. As it progresses, teachers’ karaoke night just gets better and better. I especially want to commend whoever cast that group of teachers, with their red sweaters and “fancy” silk party blouses. Glenn gets drunk and belts out some Simple Minds and then later, kisses Tami. The look she gives him—not shocked or offended but disappointed and pitying—is a killer, especially since she is looking so good with her bare legs and cowboy boots. But the best of course is his apology later. “I mouth-raped you,” he laments, and then calls himself a “Neanderthal, unevolved caveman.” This Apatowian character dropped in the middle of Dillon, Texas makes for such priceless, cringing comedy. I can’t wait until Eric finds out that Glenn made a move on his wife and has to decide whether it’s even worth punching the twerp.

Where Matt, the wanderer, fits into all this is hard to say. He, too, has abandoned a woman, but it’s not his daughter. He calls his mom and his grandma but not his girlfriend. The message here seems to be that the artist formerly known as Dick was right. An artist, like a man, has to make his decision. It’s between him and his will, and a woman does not come between that.

One final observation about Vince’s mother: You show me a crackhead who talks like she graduated from Vassar, and I’ll show you an honest man. She has moved to the bottom of my list of favorite minor characters. Meanwhile, topping the list this week is Tinker. “You dead or something?” he says to Luke, who is falling asleep on his lunch tray. “This whole drunk-out wino thing in the cafeteria will get you nowhere with the ladies, dude.” That’s a nice little dose of TheWire, high-school style.