In the season one finale of Friday Night Lights, the Panthers are distracted but multiple last-minute revelations prior to their state championship game. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
Well, it’s happened. This show made me cry over a football game.
It’s a testament to the superb acting and writing on Friday Night Lights that I’ve come to care so much about a sport that I previously hated on principle. I despised the culture; I hated that my own masculinity was measured against how much I paid attention to the game; I wish it hadn’t kept me from bonding with my father. And yet, the writers have managed to help me understand the game. They got me to pay attention to football in a way I never have before. Obviously, I’m also deeply in love with all the character development and fantastic acting, but I don’t want to ignore that I know things about football now. I know things I did not know two months ago. Yeah, I still don’t understand about 75% of the terminology in the game, but that’s okay. I’m learning. And that’s genuinely exciting to me! It’s an unexpected side effect of this experience and one of the many reasons I’m so happy I chose to watch this show.
I love Friday Night Lights, y’all.
“State” opens with a shocker: Tami Taylor is pregnant. It immediately complicates matters, something you can easily read in Tami’s face. Her expression is an intricate collection of emotions. Shock. Relief. Fear. Joy. What is she supposed to do? Is she really going to remain in Dillon and raise a newborn while her husband is in Austin? Does it change her ultimatum to remain behind? She doesn’t make that decision during the cold open, and I didn’t expect her to. I was pleased, though, that Smash’s mother was there to help her out. She very matter-of-factly asks if Tami wants the child, and while it may have come out as crass, I actually appreciated that Ms. Williams wasn’t judging Tami in any way for what she might want to do with the child, even if she had asked for an abortion.
That’s not the path that Tami chooses. I got the sense that she did want the child, despite the poor timing of it all, especially since it was something her and Coach Taylor wanted at one point in their lives. Oh god, the timing really is bad, and that’s one of the reasons Tami waits until they’re all in Dallas to tell her husband. I was grimacing the entire time that Coach Taylor was being sarcastic with Tami at their home. DUDE, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT SHE’S ABOUT TO TELL YOU. YOU WILL REGRET YOUR BEHAVIOR. I PROMISE. Even when she does tell him, you can tell she’s frightened of what this information is going to do to her husband. Knowing what a tough time he’s having dealing with state, his future at TMU being revealed, and all the stress he has, she knows that she’s just adding one more thing to his life. But she also has to tell him that he’s going to be a father again! So I’m thankful that Coach Taylor’s response is unbridled joy. IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT.
Seriously, the Taylors are just such an incredible couple to me, as made clear by their final scene in this episode. Tami has so much faith in her relationship with her husband that she refuses to let him throw away his dream of coaching a division one college team. She knows that even if things worked out in Dillon, she’d feel guilty for keeping him away from his dream, and she doesn’t want to live with that. Who does this? WHO IS SO CARING AND LOVING THAT THEY’RE WILLING TO LET THEIR PARTNER LIVE APART FROM THEM LIKE THIS? Tami Taylor, you are my hero, I swear. I WISH TO BE YOU WHEN I GROW UP. Or… something.
Oh god, OH MY GOD. It’s telling that I largely love pretty much every character on this show, but there is a special place in my heart for both Lyla and Tyra, who I am endlessly fascinated with. It’s interesting to me that so much of “State” involves the celebration of the Panthers and the happiness their victory brings to the town. Yet not everyone is positively affected by the game, and I’m glad the writers have given Lyla and Tyra the space for their stories to unfold. Lyla in particular finds the game a challenge because there’s no magic and joy left in football for her anymore. Everything about the sport reminds her how her life has collapsed. Her father is there, basking in the glory of the victory parade, and he appears to be forgiven by everyone for what he did to her family. That has to be a jarring and disheartening experience for her, you know? She’s left with all this anger, hatred, and sadness, and I can only imagine how the rest of the Garrity family is feeling. And Buddy is happy. She also has to look upon her ex-fiancé, who is now an assistant coach on the team. So where does that leave Lyla? What is she supposed to do when everything in her life reminds her of what she has?
I found it very cathartic and empowering to watch her shed her reminders of the year she’d suffered through. She got rid of her father’s car. She threw her cheerleading uniform in the garbage. And she’s trying to be friendly with the one girl she’s fought with all year: Tyra Collette. Well, there’s more fighting before that, but when Tyra and Lyla realize that they share some common ground, they both make an attempt to put aside their animosity and actually spend time with one another. I love this?!?!?!? Can this be a thing in season two? THANKS. THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.
I know Landry was disappointed that his romantic car ride with Tyra was completely upstaged, but a roadtrip with the Collettes and Grandma Saracen? LITERALLY ONE OF THE BEST THINGS IN THE ENTIRE SEASON. I would watch an entire forty-five minute episode of all of them in the same car.
What an emotional ride, y’all. For a second, I wasn’t even sure that the Panthers could end this season with a victory. Once that reporter revealed Coach Taylor’s plans for TMU, it was like all the energy and hope was sucked right out of the team. Even worse, it wasn’t the only crisis the team faced. Matt took the news the hardest. Coach Taylor was the reason that Matt was starting quarterback. He was the only person to support him back at the beginning of the season, so he’s terrified of another year at Dillon without the same coach. I know that Jason is going to be fantastic as a coach, that much is evident. But it’s not the same for Matt. Of course, there’s the added weight of Julie leaving town, and I’d say that might even be more important to him than Coach Taylor leaving. So Matt feels this mixture of abandonment and resentment within him. (Remember, Matt has father issues because of his own dad, so Coach Taylor leaving is going to trigger those same fears and feelings, too.)
Then we’ve got the return of Ray “Voodoo” Tatum, which was TOTALLY UNEXPECTED. (Well, I’d forgotten he was playing for the Mustangs. The writers did mention that in a past episode.) That’s especially so when he asks Smash to come to West Cambria to play with him the next year. I DID NOT THINK THEIR TALK WOULD GO THAT WAY. So while I watched the first half of the Panthers’ game, I got a sense for how much stress these players were experiencing. It must have been overwhelming to be in the same stadium that the Dallas Cowboys play in. Add a packed crowd of tens of thousands of people. Add the pressure to perform well. Now factor in Coach Taylor leaving and the disappointment and rage that brings. HOW COULD ANYONE BE EXPECTED TO PERFORM WELL GIVEN THAT?
And the team doesn’t. God, the whole first half of the game is so disheartening. During halftime, I wondered what the hell Coach Taylor could even say that might inspire his players to get out on the field and win. I think he was smart not to say anything about himself, to choose to make his little speech about how these boys needed to face this battle with clear eyes and open hearts. GOD, SO MANY FEELINGS, y’all. So many feelings for the game the Panthers played, for Smash refusing to let a dislocated shoulder stop him from playing, for Coach Taylor trusting Matt Saracen in the final six seconds of the game, and for that last touchdown, which caused me to start crying with joy because this meant so much to so many people.
Oh, my heart.
I’m going to largely save my thoughts about season two for Thursday’s prediction post, but I do want to thank y’all. Thank you for consistently telling me to watch this show. It is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever seen, and I’m so appreciative that you’re joining me in this journey. I love this show so much.
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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!
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