In the ninth episode of Friday Night Lights, Dillon slides into chaos as the big game against Gatling looms over everyone. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
I can’t believe this is happening H E L P SO MANY EMOTIONS.
I teared up twice during this episode. TWICE. THIS IS EPISODE NINE. Oh my god, how am I going to deal with four more seasons, let alone the rest of this season? Let’s do this.
I am loving that this show has the Taylors as the main parental unit. They’re a depiction of a family trying to do good as much as possible, and that’s so impressive to me. The show isn’t positioning them as being unable to make a mistake. Instead, they are presented as genuinely thoughtful and caring people. We witness both Taylors trying their best to help those around them. Coach Taylor is, once again, friendly and supportive of Jason Street in a way his football buddies can’t pull off. He listens to him, offers an ear if Jason’s willing to talk, and HE LISTENS TO JASON. His old teammates? That’s the one thing Jason needs, and they don’t give it to him, choosing to bash up Tim’s car in some misguided sense of revenge.
Then there’s Tami Taylor. YEAH, SHE’S THE BEST CHARACTER HERE. EASILY. Look how she handles the myriad of crises given to her. She gives Buddy Garrity advice that he actually uses. She navigates the frustrating and classist terror that is Buddy’s dislike for Gatling and their treatment of the Dillon team. And she does it with kindness and grace. I need her in my life. I NEED TAMI TAYLOR.
I’m fascinated by the way that “Full Hearts” opens with two routines, showing how two characters (Lyla and Smash) turn to their spirituality in the face of doing something horrific. For Lyla in particular, living in a small town means that the news of what Jason did has spread in less than a day. As her and Tim deal with the fallout from their behavior, they must also cope with the upcoming game against Gatling. I think this is a big reason why neither one of them really fight what their peers do to them. Tim sat in his truck, resigned to accept his fate; Lyla does her best to ignore the taunts and bullying she receives. What can they do? Everyone knows their big secret, and what they’ve done kind of is a huge deal. It’s super fucked up!
But then both characters receive a brief, subtle form of forgiveness in the form of acceptance. For Tim, this comes when he returns to the game with just thirteen seconds left in the fourth quarter. Despite being injured enough to warrant sitting out, he goes right back to the very people who destroyed his car. It’s a penance of sorts, isn’t it? (This show’s religious themes are not lost on me, and I am totally into them.) For Lyla, though, her temporary forgiveness comes from an unexpected source: her own father. Taking Tami’s advice, he offers his daughter love. He doesn’t judge her, he doesn’t berate her, and he actually leaves a game at the last minute to support his only daughter. God, it’s an incredible moment, one that gave me hope that one day I might not totally despise Buddy Garrity. Granted, he’s abrasively racist and classist in the very same episode where he’s being a fantastic father, so I don’t want to lose sight of this. Perhaps Tami can change him???
Oh, I am so entertained by how protective Tami and Eric are of their daughter. See, I kind of expected that Matt and Julie’s date would be adorable and cute based on how it started, and then… no. NO. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS? In the span of sixty seconds, I go from excitement to feeling awkward to HAVING TEARS BRIMMING MY EYES. Matt, I am a fan of you. What he does here – cut his very first date short to take care of his grandmother – is more than just sweet. It demonstrates how committed he is (even if it is begrudgingly at times) to taking care of the people close to him. But the whole pretending to be his grandmother’s dead husband? Done. DONE. I am so done with this show, and I have so much more to go. GOD, what an incredible sequence. I bet Julie asks him on another date. I SEE IT.
It’s with Smash’s story in “Full Hearts” that I begin to see just how talented the writers are. As I said in the video for this episode, this show’s concerned effort to paint these characters as complete people is incredible to me. In any other show, Smash’s mother or his sister would have been one- or two-dimensional stereotypes. We would have gotten an episode that didn’t address the fact that violence and poverty is very much geographical. We would have had a script that didn’t attempt to touch on the racism and classism that comes along cities like Gatling. And we would not have had the incredible character development of Smash and his mother.
It’s bad enough that Smash is still using steroids, but things are complicated when he has an anxiety attack in his sister’s presence. She is Smash’s voice of reason at the hospital, but unfortunately, Smash won’t hear a word of protest about what he’s doing. It’s a viciously difficult situation for him because he’s been raised his whole life to believe that football is his only thing in life. There are numerous references to Smash’s dad developing him into a football player. So even if there are other options available to him, Smash cannot perceive them. And perception is a damning thing, you know? To him, he only has one choice: succeed at football or let his whole family down.
So it’s hard for him to have to return to the city he moved away from and step on eggshells around his mother, who doesn’t think too highly of her dead husband. Smash got everything from his father, and he can’t understand why the rest of his family isn’t keen on talking to him. And it’s not that Smash was being rude about it, either! That scene at dinner showed us that he was serious about opening up, about talking honestly of his father, but his mother immediately shut him down.
It was a big moment, then, for her to apologize to her son, to give him what information he needed about his father’s death, and to then assure him that he was loved, is still loved, and that she supports him. My god, what is with parents being amazing in this episode? IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL. Oh god, I almost teared up again when Smash ran straight to his mother after winning the game. I just love it when sons support their mothers and thank them like that. I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THIS, Y’ALL.
Seriously, I didn’t expect the wave of feelings. What is this show doing to me???
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Mark Links Stuff
– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
– I have announced what the next books I am reading on Mark Reads will be, as well as updated y’all on the events, cons, tour dates, GOING TO EUROPE OH MY GOD, and general shenaniganry going on in my life. I have a similar post up on Mark Watches, detailing the next two shows I’m doing as well as the return of Double Features, and I finally explain what happened with my Vimeo account. Check these posts out!
– If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am doing a live reading/Mark Does Stuff event at Borderlands Books on April 21st at 5pm. Come on out! I’ll have copies of my latest book to purchase and sign.
– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
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