TV Club

Nothing Ever Means as Much as It Does in High School

Luke from Friday Night Lights. Click image to expand.
Madison Burge as Becky Sproles and Matt Lauria as Luke Cafferty in Friday Night Lights

You’re definitely the “top wife” in our marriage, Hanna—especially if we’re judging by quality of FNL commentary. Tami is a Mama Grizzly—I wish I’d thought of that.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but this episode is titled “Texas Whatever,” an ironic twist on the beer-soaked, bonfired, Texas Forever Riggins tribute of Season 1, Episode 1. In our penultimate episode, the producers have returned us right back to our opening days in Dillon: Tim and Tyra together (preposterously!); Coach Taylor grappling with the grandeur and sleaziness of Dillon football; Buddy and the boosters oozing their way around town; Matt and his grandma holed up in their little house; and a star QB—this time Vince Howard, not Jason Street—getting ready to shine in his senior season as a Dillon Panther. But, of course, very little of this will last.

Tim and Tyra will be first to go. We can all agree that this is a ridiculous and unpersuasive coupling. I’m absolutely thrilled to have Tyra back, but I wish FNL had done more than slot her into the oft-occupied role of Tim Riggins’ adoring helpmeet. The episode didn’t bother to tell us where Tyra was in college, what she was studying, or why she was home visiting. And it expects us to believe that this tough Texas girl would melt like Lone Star asphalt the minute she entered Dillon city limits. This is a disappointment. I am a hell of a lot more interested in what Tyra’s doing with herself than whether Tim is moving to Alaska.

I agree that the Taylors will leave. Tami was rather unkind to spring her big plans on Eric as he was preparing for his biggest game as a coach, and she clearly hasn’t done much thinking about what Eric can do in the City Of Brotherly Love. (Emily, you’re from Philly. Can’t you help Eric get a job?) Still, the Taylors’ departure feels fated. Returning to coach the Dillon Panthers would be going backward for Eric. We’re supposed to believe that Eric is seduced by Buddy’s spiel—the best equipment, the best players, the third ring. But we’ve been living with Eric for too long to think he cares about any of that. He’s a Molder of Men™, for God’s sake. The fancy field house, the boosters—they don’t mean a thing to Coach. He would be just as happy coaching at the grungiest, crummiest ghetto school in Philly as he would be in Dillon. Wherever boys need to be turned into men, Coach Taylor will find them. This flirtation with the Panthers is a ruse. He belongs with Tami, and he belongs where the challenge looms largest. Dillon would be too easy. Plus, as you predict, Hanna, the head coaching position needs to fall open for Billy.

I’m dead sick of Tim, but I’m glad you mentioned his exchange with Luke. Luke isn’t Tim—Luke isn’t going to flunk out of anything—but Tim’s advice about how to play State felt both honest and right. Nothing ever means as much as it does in high school. The greatest moments in high school—even when, by any objective measure, those great moments are piddling—feel more magnificent than anything before or after. I remember games and episodes from my senior year of high school as if they just happened, but can barely remember anything specific from college or my 20s. (And, I should say, I was much happier in college and in my 20s than in high school. It is not about happiness. It’s about what cuts deepest.) Luke should go all out for glory. Even if he ends up starring at Warrenfield State or Auburn University or with the Dallas Cowboys, he will never play a game that matters as much to him again.

I agree with most of your predictions, Hanna, except about Luke and Becky getting married. Not yet! My final wagering question: Will Coach’s pep talk at State include a “Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose”? God, I hope so.