Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S04E01 – East of Dillon

In the first episode of the fourth season of Friday Night Lights, the ramifications of the redistricting of Dillon, Texas are finally revealed. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.


West Dillon

At least for the time being, it might be easier for me to address the myriad of plot issues and character development/introductions by splitting my reviews based on where they take place. Oh shit, my reviews have been redistricted. All right, that was a horrible joke. ANYWAY, let’s talk about the unsettling horrors of Dillon High, because I AM SO FUCKING DISTURBED BY WHAT THIS SCHOOL HAS TURNED INTO. And I’d say that “East of Dillon” does an absolutely fantastic job chronicling the effects of the redistricting and how class and race intersect in the process. Dillon has turned into a school that appears to function at the beck and call of Joe McCoy and the boosters, and it’s a horrifying thing to witness. We experience most of this through Tami, who comes to understand that her role as Principal holds little power and a lot of scorn. I don’t want to ignore the blatant sexism, either, and that whole scene with Joe and the boosters asking Tami to be part of the coin toss is a clear indication that they’re aware that it’s a boys’ club at Dillon. It’s a sign that they know she isn’t in charge, and it’s demeaning. Plus, she’s the one who receives the brunt of the school’s anger over the redistricting, despite that it’s not her fault at all! It’s a horrible thing to see because in one sense, these people devalue Tami, and then when they have to deal with a difficult situation, then Tami is suddenly the one person they need. Yeah, I see what you’re doing, Dillon. Blame a woman for your problems, but then treat her as if she’s inferior at her job. So which is it? Is she all-powerful, able to take your child and place them in East Dillon, or is she a useless symbol? Spoiler: She’s neither, and that’s why she plays that little trick on the team during the coin toss. It’s a small moment, yes, but it was her way of saying that she is not some tool for these assholes to use.

In addition to this, three different characters must examine their role in the town as well. Tim drops out of college in the first week. (Though I must say that my own sister has to have set a world record for dropping out of college; she lasted less than six hours.) He expects that he can return home, live with his brother, and work in Billy’s garage. Unfortunately, he’s met with a harsh reality. It’s just not that simple anymore! I do think Tim is unfair to his brother, which doesn’t mean that Billy smacking Tim was a good idea. Granted, I don’t think people should be forced to go to college if they don’t want to, but Tim has to consider the choices other people have made.

I wish I knew that one girl’s name, though, the daughter of the bartender Tim slept with. BECAUSE SHE IS SO GREAT. SHE IS ENTERTAINING FOREVER. She accepts none of the Tim Riggins mystique, and I love it. Can she come back? That would be great.

We’ve also got Matt’s uncomfortable stay in Dillon as well. He’s delivering pizzas and trying to get in to Dillon Tech for art, but it’s not going as well as he hoped. For the most part, everyone is condescending to him about his choice to stay behind and take care of his grandmother, but none more so than J.D. McCoy. It’s clear that there’s been some character development on his part over the summer. Unfortunately, it appears his father has filled his head with a horrible sense of self-importance. In nearly every way, J.D. has started taking after his father, and it’s horrifying. But what else should I have expected? His father clearly controls the boosters, his personal coach is now the head coach of the Dillon Panthers, and he’s lived a life of utter privilege. Instead of choosing to examine his role in such things, he just accepts that this is how it is, and it’s turned him into… well, a jerk. An asshole. A presumptuous creep who thinks it’s perfectly fine to hit on Julie just because he’s the star quarterback. UGH, NO THANKS.

Now that Julie has decided to attend East Dillon High, I wonder if this will have an effect on their relationship as well. Of course, I’m more interested in what Julie’s experience at the school will be like. Will she make new friends? I WANT TO SEE MORE.

East Dillon

The more compelling material in “East of Dillon” happens on the other side of town. As I mentioned in the beginning, there is a very concerned effort to show that the redistricting plans affect the poorer folks of Dillon, the vast majority who are people of color. The contrasts between the two parts of town are absolutely stunning, but you know what? So much of this is what actually happens. Coach Taylor is faced with no real funding for a coaching staff or for a field that’s up to his normal standards. The guys who do show up for the team’s first practice are incredibly inexperienced, and many of them don’t even care to be there. It seems like the most impossible of situations, and it’s heartbreaking to realize that Coach Taylor isn’t going to get any support throughout this.

I was thrilled to see Michael B. Jordan show up as Vince Howard, not just because his character already is the most interesting of the bunch, but because HE IS SO TALENTED. I was first introduced to him on The Wire, then loved him in Chronicle, and will be happy to watch him in Fruitvale Station later this week. (Relative to when I’m writing this review, that is. It’s July 29th for me!) In Vince, we get a character who’s complicated in one episode alone. Forced to choose between a possible future in incarceration, he chooses to play football for Coach Taylor instead. He’s certainly talented naturally. There’s no denying that. He’s fast and agile, but like most of the players on the team, he has no experience with the game of football itself. A lot of what we see in “East of Dillon” is Coach Taylor having to teach his players the basic rules and fundamentals of the game, or teaching them about respect. The only support Taylor has is in Coach Stan Traub, who bizarrely idolizes Eric and often just repeats what he says.

Again, what is Eric supposed to do? He has no money! No one in town seems to care about him, other than the players on his team and his family. So it wasn’t surprising to me that they performed horribly in their first game against South King. Hell, it was, frankly, a disaster! However, I still think this first game is indicative of why Coach Taylor is so damn good at his job. He tells his players how important it is to have fun. All he wants from them is the effort, not the skill. I think that’s precisely why he chooses to forfeit the game. Despite that they got absolutely destroyed by the other team, suffering various types of REALLY SCARY INJURIES, not a single one of those players complained. There were no egos in that room. There was no whining. Everyone wanted to play. And after having coached a team full of nothing but whining and egos and fights, you could see the excitement on his face. These guys wanted to play. Why continue to let them get the shit kicked out of them? While I’m not expecting a win in the next episode, I’m interested to see what Coach Taylor is going to do next.

You better believe I’m excited for this season.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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