In the twelfth episode of the first season of Friday Night Lights, Dillon waits in anticipation of another game to learn if they’ll go to playoffs. Meanwhile, multiple characters struggle with things out of their control. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
I don’t think any show in the history of this site has ever been so consistently perfect and mind-blowing and thought-provoking as this one. TWELVE EPISODES IN, AND I HAVE BEEN EMOTIONALLY DEVASTATED SO MANY TIMES ALREADY. What is this show doing to me? It’s ruining my life and all my expectations for the future.
Let’s do this.
What To Do While You’re Waiting
The writers of this particular episode do something clever by framing the story as one about control and inevitability. The entire town must wait to find out if Arnett Mead will be upset and Dillon will be in the playoffs. At the center of this narrative is the idea that there are forces in life we can’t necessarily control. Call them fate if you will, but I liked the idea that things happen because of the chaotic nature of life. Will each of these characters fight fate, or will they make their own?
Unfortunately, the stress of waiting for the Arnett Mead game is the least of Coach Taylor’s worries after he’s served with papers from Jason’s parents. My god, they went through with suing Coach Taylor. Not the school, mind you, but Coach Taylor himself. I’m amazed that Coach so quickly disavowed the notion that this was personal. If anything, I expected him to take it personally. Hell, I would have! But he knows that someone probably coaxed the Streets into doing this. And then we watch as Coach Taylor spends the rest of the episode being UNBELIEVABLY CALM ABOUT HIS TERRIFYING FUTURE. Even when he confronts Mr. Street, he knows when to back off and when he should not say anything further. When Jason comes up to him, he doesn’t scold him, yell at him, or make him feel terrible for what’s happening.
At the same time, Jason is surprisingly reasonable about the whole thing. Well, not initially, of course. I don’t think he would have reacted so poorly if his parents had just told him what was going on. HE FOUND OUT FROM A NEWSPAPER. That’s so shitty! But once his mother has an emotional breakdown about the cost the family faces, Jason starts to realize that this issue is a lot more complex than it seems. And I think that “What To Do While You’re Waiting” does a fine job of conveying that complexity. We feel terrible for Coach Taylor, who’s suddenly thrust into this nightmare, but we’re also shown that Jason’s injury has had a debilitating financial toll on the Streets. It’s a mess, and it’s not one that can be resolved with a snappy line. That’s why I enjoyed that Lyla offered her support of Jason regardless of what she wanted. She wants what Jason thinks is best, which is something that his parents didn’t do at all. (Which is not to imply that they’re misguided in suing anyone, because, like I said, this is far too complex to write off that way.)
I really like Waverly??? Like, I desperately want to be platonic best friends with her??? Aside from that, I’m exceedingly pleased with how her story is handled in this episode. Smash is not presented in the best light here. His own expectations for how women pursue him are destroyed when Waverly refuses to cater to his sexist and selfish view of her. Smash is used to women throwing themselves at him, so when Waverly wants to be the center of his attention, he goes to extreme lengths to impress her. Seriously, did he think lying about hanging out with Matt and Julie was going to work??? Oh god, he totally did.
When he realizes what he’s lost after Waverly storms off at the rodeo, I was impressed that he took the time to genuinely apologize to her. However, I was more impressed with what happened after this. Touching on the theme of the episode, Smash insists that he can’t really change who he is. It’s an immutable thing. His behavior, however, is not, and the writers make an important distinction here. Despite that he’s honest with Waverly, and despite that she is attracted to him, she chooses to reject him. His smooth words don’t work. In the end, she chooses herself and her own standards over the star running back. And while it looks like Smash is going to accept this and “live with it,” as he says, I was really happy that they didn’t make Waverly contradict her own views.
Oh my god, we actually got to see Tyra’s family. I WAS SO EXCITED FOR THIS AND I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW I WANTED IT. We’re back to the issue of control as we watch the cycle of abuse play out between Tyra’s mother and her awful boyfriend. It also puts Tyra’s previous interactions with men in context in a way that blows my mind. She’s grown up in a household where she’s seen her own mother devalue her own self-esteem. She’s watched men treat her mother abusively! And the thing about abuse of nature is that it’s cyclical. It’s a terrifying thing to break out of, and I know that from experience. But I also adore that Tyra’s story is about how much she loves her mother. She physically defends her from the man who hit her. She spends time with her at the rodeo to help her be alone. The only reason that she threatened to leave was because for once, she loved herself more. And trust me, when you’ve been in an abusive relationship, one of the hardest things to deal with once you’re out of it is loving yourself. Tyra cares for her mother deeply, but she also knows that she can’t be around the violence, the yelling, and the disappointment anymore. It’s why she rejects Tim, too. She can’t do this to herself, especially after she just berated her mother for the same thing.
But in the end, Tyra’s mother chooses Tyra. The feelings, y’all, THEY JUST WON’T STOP COMING OH MY GOD.
But no single story broke me more than Matt coming to terms with who his father is. There are some things in life you can’t change, and Matt spends this episode dealing with the fact that his father is a great soldier and kind of shit at everything else. First, let me say that whatever I feel about Buddy Garrity – and it’s not a lot of positive stuff, honestly – I can’t deny that he got Matt’s dad a job. In a single day. That’s amazing to me, and I won’t forget that.
But it doesn’t solve Matt’s problems. He’s just as overwhelmed as ever! His dad just seems to shut off when he’s at the house, unable to contribute in meaningful ways, constantly irritable. He’s not very good at his job, either. When Julie is forced to come to Matt’s after he forgets to pick her up, she has to experience what Matt’s life is like on a daily basis. It’s so frustrating for her to see that she immediately tells her own parents she loves them later that night!
Real quickly: The Taylors are perfect. Tami makes Matt and his family a meal. TO SAVE MATT TIME. They are literally Jesus at this point, and I don’t think I can take the Taylors being stellar human beings anymore. I can’t do this.
So, after a much-needed conversation with Julie, Matt realizes he’s fighting a force he can’t control. He can’t force his dad to be good at things he’s not good at. And while I’ll be sad that Matt had to come to this decision in the first place, I’m happy that the show is presenting this as Matt’s choice. It’s what he wants. He’d rather know his dad is happy than risk keeping an unhappy father around. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Matt, I love you so much. I don’t understand how Zach Gilford’s face works at all. And this show is going to ruin me because HOLY SHIT, THE DILLON PANTHERS ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS. Oh fuck, y’all, the show itself warned me of the chaos ahead. UNABLE TO DEAL WITH THIS.
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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!
– 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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