Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S05E12 – Texas Whatever

In the twelfth and penultimate episode of the fifth season of Friday Night Lights, I can’t do any of this. No. If you’re still intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.

I’m not going to be able to handle the series finale. I know it.

Luke/Becky

So, let’s start with some of the smaller plotlines before we get to the two HUGE ones that tore me apart and no. NO.

I think Friday Night Lights has been utterly fantastic at capturing the little dramas of life and making them feel huge and important. A lot of that comes from how the writers are able to understand their characters and how they’d interact with each other, and that’s certainly the case here. Becky is a character who is mortified by rejection, so she has learned to come at people honestly and genuinely when she’s feeling slighted by them. She did that with Tim, with Mindy, and with Luke earlier in this season.

However, Luke’s own disappointment with the prospects of his college education causes him to lash out, and it’s such a disheartening and upsetting thing to watch. Luke really isn’t a mean person, so his callous disregard of Becky to her face is so goddamn brutal, y’all. It’s frustrating to watch because Luke just refuses to deal with reality. In this instance, it was brilliant of the writers to have him speak with Tim Riggins because holy parallel. It’s such a deliberate way to get us to re-think of Luke’s journey as one that Tim was on back in the first season. Football is what Luke loves, but that’s doesn’t mean it’s going to guarantee him a happy future. It didn’t guarantee Tim one.

Of course, the circumstances are drastically different for both of these characters, but I was fascinated to see how this overlapped for them both. It appears that Luke is going to take Tim’s advice and play State as if it’s the last game he’ll ever play. Which is great for the game, but really sad in a weird way. It’s kind of fatalistic for Luke, isn’t it? Also, he was a major asshole to Becky, and I’m gonna need this acknowledged and resolved in the finale. Because right?

Julie

There’s not much here to bring Julie’s story forward, so I think that “Texas Whatever” was more or less setting something else up for the finale. I was a little confused about Julie being in Dillon because… she totally didn’t go to her finals? Right? Timeline wise, wouldn’t she have come straight from Chicago? That wasn’t necessarily clear. Granted, I don’t know that I feel the need to be that nitpicky about such details. Julie’s confusion about her future is only made more complex once Tyra shows up in town to visit. (No one spoiled this for me, and it was glorious.)

Like Tim and Luke, I was totally into the idea that Julie and Tyra were deliberately paralleled by the writers. I actually didn’t find any of this repetitive. Instead, it gave me the sense that the writers were trying to show this second generation of Dillon residents that their struggles weren’t necessarily as lonely or narrow as they thought they were. Tyra dealt with her own sense of uselessness in Dillon. Tim dealt with the possibility that he didn’t have a future beyond the Dillon Panthers. And Tyra, like Julie, had complicated feelings for people she was going to leave (or had left) behind. (Oh god, where’s Landry? Who else from the show will appear in the finale? If Smash Williams shows up, I’ll burst into tears and never recover.)

So, Matt’s back in Dillon for the holidays, and we already know that Julie is still pining for him in her own way. Is there going to be a future for them together, or will they go their separate ways? I almost don’t want to find out because then this journey will be definitively over. šŸ™

Vince/Jess

It hurts. IT HURTS SO MUCH. I’m very happy that the writers found a way to get Vince to reconcile with Jess, but I can’t ignore that it’s amidst one of the most soul-crushing plot twists that this show has ever given us. The threat of the school board decision about the future of the East Dillon football program looms over the upcoming state championship, but Friday Night Lights instead focuses on the devastating effects it has on Jess, who had finally gotten Coach Taylor to let her shadow him. It’s been an important plot for her character, especially since she’s faced such a pushback against the idea of her being a coach. But it means so much to her! And hell, she’s damn good at it. She’s been raising her little brothers in football, her father played it, her boyfriend is obsessed with it, and it’s what she’s always wanted to do.

And yet, how is she going to continue being Coach Taylor’s shadow at Dillon High? You know those coaches wouldn’t be open to letting a young woman be a coach, so Jess becomes quietly distraught over losing her future. It’s here that Vince finally steps up and does what he always should have done for Jess: SUPPORT HER. Yeah, he has a vested interest in keeping the East Dillon Lions aside, but let’s be real. It’s not like he won’t have a team for himself the next year. He’ll be the focus of the Dillon Panthers, you know? So he fights for the survival of the program because of Jess. He goes to see Superintendent Carvill specifically to impart the importance of Coach Taylor and the Lions on his personal growth, and LITERALLY TEARS EVERYWHERE. Carvill was crying, Jess was crying, I was crying. When everyone on screen has tears in their eyes, you know shit is real.

I’m just so happy that Vince apologized to Jess for what he did. Of course, this development is bittersweet, given what the school district ultimately decides. But for Jess, I could tell she needed Vince to do this regardless of the outcome. She needed his unconditional support, and she finally got it.

Tim Riggins

TYRA IS BACK TYRA COLLETTE IS BACK I WAS CRYING THE SECOND SHE WAS ON THE SCREEN OH MY GOD.

Okay, I got this out of my system. So, Tim. Does your heart hurt? Because mine does. My heart hurts just typing Tim’s name. It is so hard to watch this because I don’t know how to help Tim. I don’t know how to help him feel better. He is so convinced that he has nothing left in Texas for him, and it breaks my heart. BECAUSE HE IS TEXAS FOREVER. The title hints at Tim’s mental state, and IT PAINS ME TO THINK ABOUT IT. But I can’t imagine feeling good about having gone to prison in the circumstances Tim did. Billy’s got his family. The East Dillon Lions found success without Tim. Most of his friends are gone. So what’s left for Tim in Dillon?

I love that it took someone else who left Dillon to help Tim consider the options he had left in town. First of all, I didn’t know that he got to keep his land! THAT IS TERRIBLY EXCITING. But Tyra’s presence in Dillon is fascinating because of the role she plays for Julie and Tim. She escaped, more or less, though she’ll always be drawn to Dillon for the rest of her life. So how does this affect Tim? Initially, not much at all. He talks with Tyra, but he’s generally disinterested in her. It’s not until she points out how Billy supported Tim during Tim’s worst moments that he starts to reconsider the choices he’s making in his life.

I don’t think this is heading in a direction where Tyra remains in Dillon for Tim. No, she seems quite happy with her new life at Vanderbilt. But she’s awoken something in Tim, and I’m excited to see what that might be.

The East Dillon Lions

I think that Friday Night Lights, beyond being a character driven show, has captured small town America with a stunning accuracy. One of the ways the writers have been able to consistently do this is by showing how events affect different groups of people. The impending decision to cut one of the Dillon football programs haunts people differently. Buddy is tempted by his old booster friends; Eric must try to focus with the worst distraction of his life hanging over him; Tami must cope with her husband’s dismissive attitude toward her; Mindy panics when she learns that she is having twins right when her husband doesn’t know if he’ll have a job the following year.

This sort of scope, which is both huge and tiny at the same time, is what makes Friday Night Lights such a layered and satisfying show. We don’t experience life in Dillon through a single lens. There are a million stories all existing on top of one another, and we get a chance to see as many of them as possible. Truthfully, this is a complicated issue! It makes sense that Buddy Garrity (the show’s most Slytherin character, possibly) would seek out a solution to this disaster that would benefit him. He can’t be far from exerting his own influence on football, so it would stand to reason that he’d gravitate towards where that power was. We’ve also seen some fairly obvious foreshadowing from Mindy regarding her fears about supporting another child, so it’s not surprising to see her breakdown after learning that she’s going to have children. (And can I just say that it is EXTREMELY refreshing to see a depiction of pregnancy on popular television that acknowledges the financial terror that can sometimes come with having a child when you are lower class? Thank you, Friday Night Lights, for being so honest. It’s why I’ll always love you.)

But truly, it’s the absolutely gut-wrenching drama between Eric and Tami that destroys me. The Taylors have, for better or for worse, the emotional core of Friday Night Lights. We have gotten a loving, realistic, and utterly respectful portrayal of a marriage in them, and no matter how bad things have gotten, there’s always been a sense that these two could figure shit out. It’s why what happens here in “Texas Whatever” is so brutal. When Tami brings home the news that she’s been offered the position of Dean of Admissions, Eric throws his walls up and treats Tami terribly. He refuses to have a conversation with her that isn’t defensive. He won’t consider what the opportunity would mean for the family and what it means for Tami. He openly courts the possibility of remaining in Dillon to coach for the “new” team.

It was bad enough that Tami had to remind Eric that she’d been a football wife for eighteen years, but the most emotionally destructive moment came after Eric learned that he’d lost the battle to keep East Dillon football alive. She congratulates Eric on his new coaching offer, and reminds Eric that he did not do the same for her. It hurts, y’all, not just because Tami is right, and not just because this is a deeply complicated problem. This is the first time that the marriage of Tami and Eric has ever felt like it was in danger. I think even Julie realized that something was off when she spoke to her mother.

Oh god, I didn’t expect this much emotional turmoil in the penultimate episode. How is this all going to be resolved in an hour?Ā How am I going to survive the finale? As I venture forth into the future, I just need to say that I KNOW I AM UNPREPARED. It’s gonna be a hard thing to watch because I desperately don’t want this show to end. This is, without a doubt, one of the best television shows I have ever seen. It pains me to think that I’m about to watch the last bit of storytelling thatĀ Friday Night Lights is ever going to give me.

h e l p

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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