In the tenth episode of the first season of Friday Night Lights, Lyla faces the full brunt of her high school’s distaste for her, and Julie struggles with getting her dad to accept her attraction to Matt. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Y’all, this show is great. IT’S SO GREAT. I am so pleased that I was told to watch it, because just ten episodes in, I’m already adoring it. CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS.
I want to spend the bulk of this review talking about the titular theme, so let me address Smash’s story first. Essentially: DUDE, THIS IS NOT GOING TO END WELL FOR YOU. I know it. I just know it! He’s reacting poorly to the steroids, but he’s so determined to win at any cost that he purposely ignores glaring signs that something’s wrong. That is the delusion he’s operating under. I’m sure he’s convinced it’s just a small roadblock, something he can push through, but dude. Dude. You are experiencing spontaneous nosebleeds. Oh god, what are those pills he took before practice? You are not doing this as you should be if you were going to do this at all, and it’s frightening. I am so scared of Smash’s downfall because eventually, it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable at this point. His body is already reacting to what he’s done to it. It can’t get better, y’all.
On top of that, Smash’s reverend’s daughter, Waverly, now knows that Smash has a secret. Granted, she doesn’t know what Smash spent the money he received from his congregation on, but they both have something they’re withholding from their parents. While I’m hoping that this provides an opportunity for Smash to open up to someone aside from his sister about what’s going on, I also know that it creates yet another opportunity for this all to unravel.
Oh, Smash. This isn’t going well at all.
It’s Different For Girls
Now, obviously I can’t speak to this from any sort of experience, and what I’m commenting on is more or less a regurgitation of what this episode and many, many women have said time and time again. We get a ruthless and unfortunately accurate portrayal of the vicious misogyny that Lyla Garrity faces. And I’m naming it misogyny because that’s what it is: a systemic rejection, dismissal, and focus on Lyla after she cheats on Jason despite that Tim cheated, too. Tim’s retribution is a singular moment of manly rage. He is not called a slut, a whore, no websites are created to go after him, no one makes any comments about him at practice or at games, and he is largely forgiven in the public’s eye, at least in terms of how the people of Dillon High focus their attention.
This is intercut with how Coach Taylor treats his daughter versus how he treats Matt Saracen. Repeatedly, he does whatever he can to undermine his daughter’s attempts to have any sort of relationship with a boy. ANY BOY. And Matt Saracen is a good kid! If Julie is going to date anyone, I think I’d be ecstatic that it’s someone as thoughtful and caring as Matt. But then Coach Taylor’s instincts to overprotect and to dismiss kick in, and he makes one mistake after another. I kind of love that Tami constantly tells him, “Dude, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” It’s like she’s watching her helpless puppy of a husband go off and try and be a big dog, but he just can’t. I mean, the guy royally fucks up when he purposely assigns Matt a set of videos and plays to memorize. It’s vindictive, rude, and completely ineffective. Julie goes over to Matt’s house regardless!
I don’t feel like I should spend too much time trying to unravel the intricacies of sexism because I’m a guy, and that’s the easiest way for me to fuck up, but I must say that I really adored how the bulk of this episode focused on how this double standard exists. Not only does it exist, but the ramifications of such beliefs are painful and destructive! And the writers don’t hide that from us, either! God, IT’S SO LOVELY. Well, not the existence of it, as watching this episode was really upsetting, but the fact that the writers of a show about football can address misogyny in this way. YES, GOOD.
I’m also touched that the writers are spending so much time emotionally developing these two characters. We get to see Jason go home for the first time, and he appears lost, aimless, and unsure of himself. After spending months in the hospital, how does he navigate his own home? How does he deal with the people in his life who haven’t seen him in such a long time? Jason’s a resilient person, so he jumps in headfirst, racing the neighborhood kid instead of wallowing in awkwardness. That being said, both of his previous best friends come to see him to apologize, to try and repair what they’ve broken. While what Tim and Lyla did was immature and inappropriate (and I have little sympathy for people who cheat), I do appreciate that these two are taking mature steps to try and be better people. Generally speaking, I’d say that’s a theme of this entire season: A town tries to be better at who they are. Yes, they fuck up along the way, but there’s no central villain or antagonist in the bunch, and I kind of love that the story is organized that way. God, I’m even starting to like Buddy Garrity!
Anyway, I love that in the end, Tim cares enough about Lyla to urge her back into cheerleading, knowing that she truly loves it. I love that Jason shows up to support her, a step towards healing his own pain and loss. And I love that this show gives us emotionally complex characters in every episode, and they span the full gamut of the human condition.
Y’all, I am loving Friday Night Lights so much.
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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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