In the second episode of the fourth season of Friday Night Lights, Eric, Tami, Matt, and Tim all must deal with the ramifications of choices they’ve made. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Okay, so maybe I won’t always split this up by which part of town I’m referring to. I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO IN THE FUTURE, THOUGH. So, let’s talk about “After the Fall.”
I think there’s a way to look at every character’s story in this episode as their struggle to bounce back from a choice that’s left them feeling like they’re at the bottom. In Matt’s case, his internship with Richard Sherman is degrading and demeaning, and he can’t help but feel like he’s made this terrible decision to stay in Dillon and go to the community college. To be fair, Richard Sherman does demean Matt practically every minute he’s with him. He’s crude, self-centered, and disinterested in someone who’s giving up his time to help himâ€¦ lug around rusty pieces of metal??? Yeah, no. I don’t blame Matt for feeling like shit. He’s being treated like it, and it’s not fair. I mean, I can be pretty cynical, but I am so bored by artists who think their art is a free pass to act like a jackass. So I have likeâ€¦ no interest in Richard Sherman as a character? I’m okay with that. However, I want to see whether his comments about Matt’s art inspire anything.
Seriously, I just have a lot of feelings about Tim Riggins. I hope that is all right. We’ve seen stories of people trying to return to Dillon without knowing their place. Lyla, Jason, Matt, Tyraâ€¦ it’s a common thread for all these characters because it’s the pull of a small town. (Which got me thinkingâ€¦ where are Lyla and Tyra? Are they not in season four? Did I unknowingly watch their final episodes? I’M ALREADY CRUSHED.) In Tim’s case, though, he’s never truly wanted to leave to begin with. His journey to San Antonio State was predicated on Lyla going there, and once she went to Vanderbilt, he didn’t exactly have the motivation to stay in college. But Billy’s already built a life of his own with Mindy, one that increasingly has no room for Tim. Tim took Billy’s threats to heart, and we see him awakened by a cop while he sleeps in the back of his truck. Out in the middle of nowhere.
Of all the Friday Night Lights characters, he’s been the most aimless, and that manifests yet again as he tries to figure out his life. There are a couple exciting developments for him, though, the first of which is his decision to HELP COACH TAYLOR COACH THE EAST DILLON LIONS. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. GO GET MATT TO HELP. THAT’LL BE GREAT. Then, he finds a place to stay: a trailer in Cheryl’s yard. Cheryl’s daughter (whose name I STILL DON’T KNOW OH MY GOD) is bound to appear more so she can make fun of Tim, and I fully support everything about this. EVERYTHING.
Yeah, this shit is unfair. Again, we see how Tami Taylor is set up as the scapegoat by the people running the show at Dillon High, and it makes me furious. But before I get to that, I wanted to comment on how amazed I am with the writing choices made for Luke Cafferty. To be honest, I think I expected him to act far more like J.D. McCoy, but instead, when faced with his new school, he is terrified. This kid dreamed of playing for the Dillon Panthers, so he’s actually heartbroken by what Tami tells him. However, note that he does not blame her. Not once does he lash out at her because he is mature enough to understand that this isn’t her fault! HE EVEN APOLOGIZES TO HER FOR LYING. He also shows up to practice at East Dillon, ready and willing to play, and I am pointing this out for one reason: NOT ONE FUCKING PERSON AT DILLON HIGH SCHOOL HAS AN OUNCE OF THE MATURITY THAT LUKE POSSESSES. Joe McCoy and Wade Aikman resort to bribing Tami, and then threaten to BLACKMAIL THE ENTIRE TEAM AND THE BOOSTERS AND THE PAST AND holy god you did not think that through, did you? Clearly, they didn’t, because Tami later throws it in Joe’s face at a meeting of the booster club, and it is one of my favorite Tami Taylor scenes ever. The thing is, I think she knew she was going to lose this battle. Despite that the redistricting wasn’t her idea, despite that by law she has to implement it, and despite that Joe clearly has a selective memory about what is and isn’t ethical in high school football, she knew she couldn’t win. She says as much at the end of this episode when she tells her husband that at the very least, she got to show the boosters, that wretched boys club, that she wouldn’t take their shit. She stood up for herself, knowing it wouldn’t change their minds, and I find that beautiful.
Fuck all those people booing her in the pep rally, though. Fuck each and every one of them.
So, let my last Friday Night Lights review stand as evidence of me colossally not getting a scene, or at least interpreting it poorly. I really thought that the players would appreciate Coach Taylor forfeiting the game, but the truth is that they perceived it as a weakness. It looked like their coach didn’t believe in them enough to let them finish the game. Yeah, in hindsight? I should have seen this coming, but alas, I didn’t, and clearly, Coach Taylor didn’t either. What we get from his character in “After the Fall,” then, is some of the most vulnerable scenes we’ve ever seen from him. As he struggles to get back the East Dillon Lions, he slowly begins to realize that he really fucked up, and that he’s going to have to set aside his own ego if he’s going to bring these kids back to the field.
It’s not an easy journey to that point, of course. We get a much better glimpse at what East Dillon is like, and it’s clear that this is new territory for Coach Taylor, literally and figuratively. I’m hoping that further attempts to portray East Dillon continue to be nuanced because I definitely felt myself cringing internally at some of the things I saw on the screen. I really think Friday Night Lights has some of the best depictions of people of color and racism on American television, so my hope is that the images of East Dillon in “After the Fall” are given some context. I teetered between feeling like this was a realistic depiction of a lower class neighborhood with mostly people of color in it and then worrying whether this would become a caricature or not. And at best, I think the portrayal so far of Vince’s mother is problematic, though, again, my hope is that the writers will explore her character in a caring way. I want the same treatment that Santiago and the Williams family got. (To a point, because obviously I don’t want Vince and his mother to just up and disappear at the end of a season like Santiago did.)
Thankfully, there were signs that the writers were going to be respectful about this. I loved that Vince outright rejected Coach Taylor’s awkward white savior behavior towards his mother, something that Eric never thought he was even doing. And that’s a dynamic I really appreciated seeing. Sometimes, y’all think you’re helping, but you make people of color feel depreciated through your actions. At the same time, I got the sense that Vince appreciated that Coach Taylor was trying. He did bring the team back to Coach, something that could not have been an easy feat. Yet there they are, and then Eric is making that big, grandiose speech, and I am so into the visual metaphors that he employs, and I love that he gives a genuine apology to these people, and Luke BURNED HIS DILLON PANTHERS SHIRT and thank you, Friday Night Lights. I really do love you. YOU’RE THE BEST.
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