In the second episode of the second season of Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor and Matt both receive the brunt of the community’s pressure in the wake of Street’s injury. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Lord, I am going to be completely destroyed by this show once I’m done with it. How? How is this so painful and excruciating two episodes in?
Picking up where “Pilot” left off, we’re dropped into the chaos and the mountains of pressure that the Dillon Panthers are facing after their shocking opening season win. The writers focus the bulk of this agony onto Coach Taylor and Matt Saracen, who are both dealt overwhelming and bewildering hands. Right from the start, you can tell this is not going to be a pleasant experience. Saracen’s first practice follow Friday’s game is a mess of confusion, self-doubt, and yelling. THERE’S SO MUCH YELLING. This is why I could never play a sport as high intensity (or high-impact) as football. Seriously, did you ever have that kid in one of your classes who would turn bright red and maybe cry if they answered a question wrong in class? Or if they got a bad grade on a test or an essay? HEY, THAT’S THE STORY OF MY LIFE. I’m seriously too sensitive for football, and I have no problem admitting that at all. So watching “Eyes Wide Open” is torment to me in that regard. It’s like this is a new genre of horror, y’all.
We see how the town’s pressure on this team is related to their group identity. It’s why the episode opens with prayer sessions at two separate churches. This town needs football. (Buddy Garrity vocalizes that to Coach Taylor’s face at the end of the episode!) When Jason Street gets hurt, they’re not asking for divine intervention simply because of his injury, though that’s obviously a part of it. With Jason Street taken out of the picture, they pray for a miracle: a win. And while that might be a commentary on how desperate the town of Dillon is for a win, I don’t want to be reductive here because this is a complicated issue.
Still, it’s clear that the next game must be won, or these people are in for a world of misery. Even Tami experiences a little bit of her husband’s absurdity when her first book club meeting is instantly morphed into a free-for-all where the town’s wives bombard her with questions about her husband’s plans to keep the Dillon Panthers successful.
Things aren’t easy for the players either. Smash and Riggins clash again, coming to blows during the first practice that week. Later, Riggins acts like a giant creep at the local burger joint, throwing a glass near Smash’s head when Smash begins bragging about how he’ll lead the team. I don’t personally find Smash irritating at all; there’s a certain braggadocio that comes with sports like football, and I don’t necessarily have a problem with dudes acting the part. I don’t need Riggins to like Smash, either, but he overreacts in that restaurant. I suspect it’s because of a few reasons aside from his dislike of Smash in general. Mainly, his best friend is in the hospital, possibly paralyzed for life, and he feels hopeless because of it. It’s why he reacts specifically to Smash bragging about stepping up into Street’s role. It’s also becoming obvious that Tyra isn’t much interested in watching Riggins descend further into his alcoholism and nihilism, so she continues moving closing to Smash, finally hooking up with him one afternoon. Well, she tried to, that is, because Smash’s mom catches them in the act. WHOOPS.
There’s just so much going wrong in this episode, and it gives the viewer the sense that this spiral is going to keep going until a win stops it. So it’s especially heartbreaking when Jason finally learns that there is a slim chance he’ll ever get use of his legs. You can tell that this town all hoped that this injury was just a brief detour, but the moment it’s much more serious, morale goes right in the dump. God, look at Coach Taylor’s face when he finds out. (Right after Tami revealed that she got a job AS A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR. I can’t wait to see this!) LOOK AT THE TEAM IN THE LOCKER ROOM WHEN COACH TAYLOR TELLS THEM. Y’all, I didn’t agree to this happening so soon.
It’s at this point that we see three different women in the show step up to act as the moral support for various characters, and I think it’s one of the best parts of “Eyes Wide Open.” We see how Lyla acts as a positive force for Jason. Unlike everyone else we’ve seen, she refuses to treat Jason as a failure or a disappointment. I do think that if Jason is truly paralyzed for life, she’ll have to accept it and deal with it at some point, but she is the first person to give Jason her undivided faith, and that’s awesome. Just after this, Tami does the same thing with her husband. Like Lyla, she refuses to accept that what Coach Taylor faces is impossible to beat. Instead, she chooses to put her faith in her husband as well, to tell him that she believes in him and what he does. (Can you heart my heart bursting CAN YOU.)
And then Matt’s grandmother does the same. While she may not fully understand football or what Matt is up against, it’s clear this doesn’t matter to her. She knows that she loves her grandson, and she believes in him. I think it’s a big reason why Coach Taylor tells Matt that he should be proud of what he has. His grandmother has given him her unconditional support. So for me, I really believe that the entire emotional scene on the field that night was about Taylor giving Matt his faith. He had to tell that kid that there was hope, that there was a way for him to give his fellow players the same hope and faith as well. In that moment, he demonstrates that he’s willing to work with Matt because Matt is worth it. (I also noticed that Coach Taylor brought up the fact that Matt’s father was in Iraq, so I’m picking up some serious fatherly support here.)
It’s clever (and, yes, slightly frustrating) that this episode ends just after kickoff. This is a journey of faith: in football, in God, in community, and in family. So it fits that this episode ends with hope in the eyes, hearts, and minds of the Dillon Panthers.
I can’t wait to see more.
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