In the fifth episode of the third season of Friday Night Lights, everyone struggles with possible grim futures on the horizon. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
For real, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show for Mark Watches that has been so consistently emotional. What is this doing to me???
I’d say that all four storylines woven throughout “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” are about silver linings and the negative ramifications of growing older. This is one of those things that the writers of this show are able to do flawlessly time and time again: unify multiple plots with a single theme.
I was shocked to see Jason Street again, mostly because holy shit where has he been. Apparently, he’s been off getting older. He looks so much different than the guy we saw at the end of season two! Finally, we learn what’s been happening in the interim, and, like many other things in season three, it’s a complicated mess. Erin ended up having her son, but she and Jason do not live together. I’d say this is a pretty accurate depiction of the difficulties of trying to raise a child in meager circumstances, and the actress playing Erin really nails the portrayal of a mother trying to do everything she can to give her son a good life. Jason struggles, too, and we’re re-introduced to his story right as he’s at a crossroads. He needs to provide financial stability for Erin and his son or face the dire consequences awaiting him. Jason knows that this is not just about reducing the hours Erin is working; there’s an inherent acknowledgment that Jason was the one who convinced Erin to keep the child, and so it’s only fair that he start pulling his weight financially in the relationship.
I think it was clever of the writers to take Billy and Tim’s story regarding the copper wire and combine it with Jason’s, especially since we get more of Herc, who is HILARIOUS here, and we get to see Jason’s continued friendship with the Riggins boys. Like the other plots in this episode, their tale is one of forced hope amidst a possibly bleak outcome. Billy needs to start a life with Mindy. Jason needs to start a life with Erin and his son. This naturally creates an atmosphere of desperation on the part of these two men, and Tim and Herc play supporting roles for them. I brought this up in a past review, but what we’re seeing here is an attempt by these characters to escape the chaotic nature of being poor. That means it’s risky, it’s foolish, and it’s destined for failure, yet these characters know in their hearts that it will ultimately be worth it. Again, as someone who has been distinctly lower class his entire life, I can relate to this struggle intimately. I still feel the same way as these guys. I have made a living wage once in my life, for just a year and a half, and it was such a radically different way of living that some days, I just wish I had that again. I often meet people who truly don’t understand what it’s like to live below one’s means, and they’re not actively malicious about it, you know? They’ve just never experienced that! They don’t know how stressful it is, and they don’t know how expensive it is to be poor.
I know this is a big reason why Jason’s story in this episode is so heartbreaking to me in one sense. The man is risking so much to make this happen. He barely secures a loan. He has to mediate the frustrating nature of Herc and Billy butting heads. He has to humble himself and beg Buddy Garrity to sell the house to him and the Riggins brothers. He does this all under the expectation that in thirty days, he’ll have the future he’s been hoping for. It is important, then, that the writers gave us the most appropriate and realistic reaction from Erin. You have to remember that Jason surprises Erin with his plan to flip Buddy’s old house. He does not involve her in it. He doesn’t include her in the plans until the plans have already been made and executed. How is she supposed to react to something like that? Naturally, it freaks her out. She needs stability now, and the hope that the house turns a profit in a month is way too unlikely and uncertain for her tastes. Why wouldn’t she move back to her parents’ place so she can have something more stable? It sucks for Jason, and I won’t deny that. My god, just watching him sit in that driveway, completely gutted, knowing that Erin is leaving, IS SO FUCKING HEARTBREAKING. Of course, he lies about it to Tim, but y’all know that Tim knows what just happened. And you know Jason is going to continue through with the plan anyway, which… oh god, there are so many ways this can go wrong. IT NEARLY IMPLODED WHEN BILLY CONTACTED GUY TO SELL THE COPPER WIRE TO BECAUSE OH MY GOD, YOU HAD TO CHOOSE HIM?
I am already preparing myself for the worst. Ugh.
I really do appreciate the fact that so many stories on Friday Night Lights are nuanced and complicated, that there’s no easy answer just sitting there for these characters, because it makes for such interesting television. It would be so simple to just say that Tyra is clearly a bad influence, that her decision to be with Cash is 100% foolish and misguided, and that Tami is absolutely right 100% of the time. But you can’t deny that Cash does make her happy, that he does extremely sweet and genuine things for her, like that trip to see the foal at the ranch. At the same time, I worry about how Cash might derail Tyra’s own goals of attending college.
But my main worry comes from experience. Cash is an appealing man, and I understand both Tyra’s attraction to him and her happiness. Everything I see here is reminiscent of my very first boyfriend, and that is what frightens me. Eddie knew all the right people. He was a gateway to a social world I had no experience with. He promised me things I’d never had or done, and it was that glimpse of this glamorous, classy life that kept me there. He revealed his addiction to cocaine about four months into our relationship, and it was done in a casual way that was very similar to the way that Cash reveals his addiction to painkillers in this episode. This pattern is what scares me. I want the best for Tyra, both for her future and her love life. I care about her as a character so much, and like her, I want to see the best in people. I want to believe that Cash has finally found someone to make him serious, to keep him grounded, and to make him happy. And who could blame him??? Tyra is so goddamn wonderful, so that possibility seems so genuine!
But just like Jason’s story, there are so many things that could go wrong here, and that’s what I’m afraid of. Is there another side to Cash that we haven’t seen? I’m coming at this differently because I find the similarity between Cash and my first boyfriend to be so eerie. I’m projecting, obviously, and could be reading this totally wrong, but in the end, I just want Tyra to be okay.
Which brings us to Tami’s paternal freakout over her daughter. It’s easy to say that Tami is projecting her own experiences on both Julie and Tami, and it’s done in a way that appears smothering to both young women. Let me first say that as someone who is heavily tattooed, I don’t begrudge Tami and Eric for freaking the fuck out on Julie for getting a tattoo while she is a minor. I don’t fuck with that, and I don’t support artists who skirt the law and parental rights like this. Honestly, I know that may seem weird for someone whose hands and neck are tatted up, but wait. Y’all need to wait until you’re a legal adult to make sure you want a tattoo. Now, I had relatives growing up who had tattoos, including one who had sleeves, and ever since a young age, I wanted sleeves myself. I loved how it looked. And I even admit that getting tattooed was an intentional attempt at controlling how I was perceived by people. As a oft-flamboyant queer dude who was often perceived as feminine, I loved toying with the expectation that I couldn’t look masculine or that I had to be unintelligent if I was heavily tattooed. Those were purposeful tropes I played with. I knew that being Latino meant that people would unfairly judge me right off the bat for being brown and tattooed, and that they’d be shocked once they heard me talk and realized I was a giant teddy bear nerd. These were deliberate things I did and am happy I did. I don’t have a shred of regret for getting tattoos on very visible parts of my body either, and once I actually have some extra money, I plan on continuing to get tattooed.
But I waited. I did not get my first tattoo when I turned eighteen. First of all, I turned eighteen less than two months into my senior year of high school, and I knew people would freak out a bit too much if I started getting tattoos before I graduated. So I waited until a week or so before my 19th birthday just to see if I still craved ink after being able to legally get it for nearly a year. Would my opinions change? Would I want something else? In my case, that desire stuck, and I’m pleased with how I look today. So trust me, I understand Julie’s desire here, and I completely get her insistence that she’s not doing this to go down a road towards self-sabotage. The issue is how Tami perceives this. As she’s losing influence on Tyra, she assumes that this is the same case with Julie, that Julie is merely following Tyra’s path. But Julie never goes to Tyra during this whole debacle, and while she’s openly rude to her parents, this wasn’t about making her parents mad. Again, I don’t want to ignore that she did this behind her parents’ backs, so it’s not like there’s no justification for the anger.
That’s why that scene where Tami pulls off the road to talk to Julie is so damn important. Tami realizes that she has to stop acting like she wasn’t once a “rebellious” teenager to her daughter. It’s an effort on her part to show her daughter that she’s human, too, that she isn’t coming into this with a lack of empathy. And that’s important to Julie! Julie and Tami work best when they’re on the same level, and that’s what works here, too.
Ugh, I just love these two so much.
This leaves me with the most devastating story yet. If this season is going to feature the gradual replacement of Matt with J.D. McCoy, just bury my body right here. I don’t know that I can handle much more of this. It’s frustrating and depressing on a BIBLICAL LEVEL. This is some Old Testament heartbreak right here, y’all. The lord is testing Matt Saracen. Because at the end of the day, this isn’t about Matt being a bad quarterback or him fucking up. No. J.D. is simply better at the game than he is, and Coach Taylor is in the business of winning. That harsh and unfortunate reality is one the writers cannot ignore, despite how many hearts they had to crush to write “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” I mean, how did the writers now destroy every script after writing the scene where the team raises J.D. in celebration while Matt walks away, alone and dejected? I’m pretty sure the writers’ room was flooded with tears at that moment because why would you make me watch that?
I really feel like Matt has been the most consistently sad character on this show so far. As we watch him cope with the future that lies ahead of him, we realize that there’s little to no hope left that he’ll be able to play as starting quarterback again. Barring some horrible accident with J.D., what possibility is left? Matt’s working against talent and skill, the pressure put on Coach Taylor to play J.D., and Joe McCoy himself, who y’all know is going to run with this new turn of events so he can continue to vicariously live through his son’s successes. (I still think he’s creepy as fuck, and I am sticking to that.)
This is an uncomfortably bleak thing to watch, particularly when Coach Taylor is trying to tell Matt about J.D. starting in the next game RIGHT as Grandma Saracen comes home, singing his praises. Thanks, writers, for twisting the knife just a little bit further in. However, more than any other character in “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” there is a silver lining that no one expected. As Matt’s relationship with football deteriorates, his relationship with his mother improves. My gods, this is done BEAUTIFULLY, and the writers never force this growth on us. It feels organic, especially since it’s still a work in progress. Grandma Saracen still has her reasons for despising Matt’s mother, and Matt only opens up to her at the end of the episode, but the change is still there. It’s as if Matt is losing one thing to gain something else. And I’m damn excited to see where this goes.
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