In the first episode of the third season of Friday Night Lights, a shocking start gives way to one hell of a season opener. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
OH MY GOD EVERYTHING CHANGED AND I am kind of perfectly fine with it!
Look, I was watching LOST during the Writer’s Strike, so I’m well aware of the difficulties showrunners and writers had when they came back on air. As far as I understand this specific case, Friday Night Lights only had 15 episodes completed in production before the strike hit. So, what exactly are you supposed to do when you start a new season after your show ends in a place you didn’t want it to end.
It’s clear the people running this show just said FUCK IT and did what they wanted to, and I found the massive jump forward in time to be far more refreshing than confusing. The writers have very clearly established that this is a new season with new storylines. And thinking back on what they could have done, I can see why it might have felt redundant to pick things up at the exact point where the season two finale ended. Plus, given that a few characters have basically disappeared in the interim, it was a way to deal with that reality.
So let’s just talk about all the things that have happened since the last episode:
- OH MY GOD PRINCIPAL TAMI TAYLOR. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE.
- Holy shit, Smash go hurt in a playoff game, and the Dillon Panthers lost at state. 🙁 🙁 🙁
- Smash lost his scholarship. 🙁 🙁 🙁
- I don’t have enough sad faces for Smash Williams. 🙁 🙁 🙁
- Santiago is… somewhere? Not here? Because Lyla is now living with her father. And Lyla’s family moved to northern California?!?!?!
- Oh my god, Chris and Lyla are no more, and Lyla has… perhaps? Perhaps abandoned her Christianity? WHAT?
- Tim Riggins and Lyla Garrity are an item. Oh my god.
- Landry and Tyra broke up. 🙁
- BUT TYRA AND TAMI ARE STILL BEST BUDS. YESSSSS.
- Jason Street doesn’t exist? We didn’t see him in this episode at all.
The rapid-fire way in which all these things are revealed is jarring as hell, but like I said earlier, I really do feel like this works. It’s weird, sure, but I love how firmly entrenched we are in a new season and a new set of stories. LET’S DO THIS.
What we see in Tami’s story this season is the heartbreaking reality of a lot of schools across this country, both in this depiction of low income jurisdictions and the unfair allocation of funds. There’s a particularly depressing moment where Tami admits to her husband that she thought that she could come to Dillon High School with her ideas and change things, and within seconds of walking onto campus, she’s thrown an impossible budget at her feet. That is what she’s going to have to deal with. Her teachers often have to pay out-of-pocket costs just to teach. They’re using out-of-date textbooks. They are short on teachers. Class sizes are ridiculous. And I understand this myself, as most of my classes at my high school were 35 – 45 students per class. Oh, and they built a stadium for the football team amidst the budget crisis. My life is this show.
So that’s why she ultimately chooses to re-allocate the funds that Buddy wanted for a Jumbotron. It’s a smart move on her part because she’s making a good choice for the school and the students. However, I just know that she’s going to experience backlash for this. I am not excited to see all the bullshit arguments from people in the town looking to make money off the football team. BUT YOU GO, TAMI. FOUR FOR YOU, TAMI TAYLOR.
I’m totally fascinated by Coach Taylor’s support for two underdogs in this episode. (Though there’s also the parallel between Tami’s undertaking of Tyra’s future and Coach doing the same with Smash, which FILLS MY HEART WITH JOY. Two people with power and knowledge are going out of their way to help those who society would otherwise forget. I LOVE THE TAYLORS.) Despite that J.D. McCoy is a talented quarterback, Coach Taylor refuses to abandon Matt. I’d like to say that’s because of Matt’s admission in the last season, and it makes for some satisfying emotional continuity. But that doesn’t mean that this is going to be an easy journey for both of them. Because while I have not a single with J.D. (he seems like a nice kid!), that boy comes with a father: Joe McCoy. I don’t like him. I don’t like him on principle or in actuality. I do not like presumptuous rich people who flaunt their money and expect their wealth to get them what they want. I hate his condescension. I DON’T LIKE THIS AT ALL. And it’s only going to get worse, isn’t it? People like J.D. McCoy don’t just disappear. I get that he wants what’s best for his kid, but what does J.D. want? I can’t imagine being that dude’s son is an easy thing, and I feel like Joe McCoy is already projecting all over his son. So that’s going to clearly be a major conflict this season. It makes me sad for Matt! My god, he’s had so many shitty things happen to him in succession, and this can’t feel good. Plus, it’s not like he did a shitty job in his opening game! But the very nature of the game is going to favor J.D. over Matt, and that sucks.
As I said, I really adore that the Taylors refuse to give up on the people they care about. I think it’ll be easy for any of y’all who read Mark Reads Harry Potter to understand why I hate Vice Principal Trucks so very much. I am not okay at all with the way he discourages Tyra from pursuing a four year university. There’s a value to being pragmatic, sure, but to unceremoniously crush someone’s dreams like that? F U. F U 4EVA. This is especially hard for Tyra to deal with because she feels like she’s trapped in Dillon forever. It’s why she can’t truly be happy that Mindy is now engaged to Billy. (OH MY GOD, I LOVE IT, I SUPPORT IT, BLESS THESE PEOPLE.) In one sense, she is judging her sister, and that’s not fair. But it comes from her inherent terror that she can’t find a way out of this rut, which is something the writers have shown us since season one. Oh god, I want her to get into college so bad!
Okay, I’m intrigued, I admit. I think I’m willing to see these two try something again in a more serious context, especially if Tim’s promises are sincere. Are they? I don’t know. See, Tim hasn’t changed all that much over the course of this show. (So far, that is.) What’s going to make him change this time? Is it even possible?
Oh god, I don’t haven anything else to say because I need more before I can make an opinion. I just love Lyla, okay? I’ll say that. She is wonderful.
Is that his name because the writers planned to smash our hearts to pieces? Yes. Yes, it has to be. IT’S SO UNFAIR. Gaius Charles does an incredible job of portraying a man who had his hope take away from him. Just look at the way he walks and talks for most of this episode! It’s like he’s dead inside, and it’s horrible to watch. He tries so hard to keep that hope alive, but he gets to a point where he truly believes there’s no way he’ll ever get a scholarship. In this sense, the show is directly addressing the disintegration of his identity. If he was always the Smash, what does he do once that’s taken away from him?
He starts using his birth name. He resigns himself to a life at the Alamo Freeze. He cancels practices with Coach Taylor. But I loved that Coach refused to give up on him. (And how fucking heartbreaking is Coach’s reason why? Because he wants something good to happen. OH MY GOD HELP ME.) It’s possible for the Smash to be something else. He doesn’t need to be who he was in the past. He can be whomever he chooses to be, and that means a scholarship is still possible. I REALLY HOPE SO.
Y’all, I’m so excited for this season.
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