In the fourth episode of the fourth season of Friday Night Lights, I had this whole post planned about how this was one of the happiest episodes of the show, and then the thing happened, and now I am an emotional wreck. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
The amount of DONE I am with this show can no longer be measured. There is no scale. It is unknowable. I am now in a parallel dimension of done. The S.S. Done Forever left port with me on it and we are traveling to the Undying Lands. This is now canon.
Before I talk about Tami and her perfection, I just wanted mention how beautifully dense “A Sort of Homecoming” is. We deal with a lot in one episode, and it never feels muddled, confusing, or aimless. Obviously, I’ll remember this episode for years to come because of the THING, but even without this, this is a brilliant story, written with talent, grace, and an inherent respect for the issues brought up and the characters who inhabit it. Bravo, Friday Night Lights. This was one of the best things I have ever seen for Mark Watches.
So, let’s talk about Tami. I often talk about how Tami is the moral center of Friday Night Lights, and this is a perfect example of that. The outrageous and horrifying misogyny that the entire town of West Dillon displays here would be enough to make any person collapse and give up, understandably so. Everyone blames Tami for something she was required by law to enforce. These citizens are totally fine with turning a blind eye away from the laws that the boosters break to keep Dillon on top, but as soon as a woman does something moral and right, the whole town blames her for their inability to keep the Panthers on top. Notice how this is not Wade’s fault! The Panthers’ losses are not Wade’s fault!!! IT’S TAMI’S FAULT. And yet, she keeps going. She asks for funds for the library. She supports her husband, making dinner for the ex-Lions. She beautifully saves the conversation once it gets awkward. She is every bit as resilient, resourceful, and loving while still having to face the brunt of a town who hates her for the worst reason imaginable. It is not enough to say that I love Tami Taylor. It’s simply not enough.
Oh my god, so much character development for BOTH CHARACTERS. First, we’ve got Landry learning from his mistakes with Tyra and insisting that Jess not use him for a ride. That’s a big deal! He is so much more upfront in this episode, and I like that he’s respecting himself in the process. And this really is super complicated, not just because he’s attracted to Jess, but because Vince is doing that really gross dude thing where he tries to act all territorial over someone that isn’t even his girlfriend. Smash Williams called, Vince. He said, “ABANDON SHIP.”
So, while I am definitely invested in the idea of Jess and Landry dating, consider me way more interested in Jess as a character. The writers do a fantastic job of fleshing her out, showing us the dynamic she has with her family and with her father. Her younger brothers adore her and for good reason! Look how well she treats them! And I know this is a bit repetitive, but I instantly love shows that give their audience portrayals of families of color that are loving, sweet, and emotional like this. There are so few shows in America that ever had, especially considering that Friday Night Lights was a mainstream television show. Plus, they’re not repeating themselves. The black families aren’t a monolith here. The Williams had their own problems and stories, and the Merriweathers get their own, too. (I’m even more intrigued to see how the writers will deal with the Howards once we get there.)
In particular, Jess and her brothers adore the game of football, but their father wants to leave that part of his life behind. I appreciated the way in which Jess approached her father about the pep rally because it was such a blatant sign of respect. She doesn’t want to change her father or disrespect his desires, you know? I could tell how close this family was, and it meant a lot for me to see it onscreen.
Okay, WAY INTO JULIE AND DEVIN BEING FRIENDS AND GOING TO GAY BARS TOGETHER. I will say that it was a bit shocking to see a gay bar portrayed as being for all sorts of people who consider themselves gay becauseâ€¦ well, I don’t know if y’all are aware, but a lot of gay/queer communities are unfortunately quite segregated in these regards. I mean, here in San Francisco, I can only think of maybe two bars in the Castro that have nights specifically for queer women. Yeah, the whole Castro. On top of that, this city, despite being fairly diverse, has a terribly white gay community, so much so that you often feel super left out or othered in clubs or bars. (Hell, I once went on a date with a guy who turned me down for another date specifically because I wasn’t white, and I wish I was joking.) My community has a lot of misogyny and racism issues to work through, so it was both pleasant and weird to see a small town bar cater to everyone. But they do exist!!! And they tend to be my favorite sort of queer spaces, you know?
Anyway, just an interesting side note. From experience, I know how great it can be to have a straight sidekick when I go out, so I’m glad Julie was open enough to the idea to be a friend to Devin. I definitely want to see Devin date, and I hope the show pursues this, even if it’s a subplot, but okay. Okay. HOW DID I NOT CATCH ON TO THE FACT THAT STAN IS GAY. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD, IT’S SO OBVIOUS. EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE. EVERYTHING. Oh god, he’s totally in the closet, isn’t he? NOOOOO, STAN, STAN, PLEASE DON’T FEEL BAD. Granted, he has every reason to fear being outed because football, traditionally speaking, is not very kind to gay folks. Ugh, I just want him to be happy can this happen.
God, the man has so many things to deal with, and it’s amazing that he’s able to do his best given the circumstances. But he has shown that he can perform well under pressure. It’s interesting to me, then, that we get to see him work without a support system surrounding his team. Like Buddy tells him early in the episode, it’s not something you can fake. It has to be genuine and organic. So how exactly does he do that? Inviting alumni to his house for dinner is a start, sure! (Though we must make sure to note that it was Tami who suggested that idea.) But he’s up against more than a lack of support. He’s out of element because he came from West Dillon. I was so happy with that moment where Mo rejects Eric’s attempted lecture because it speaks to the greater issues that inform why East Dillon has so many problems. It is such a blatant rejection of casual classism and racism, and I adore it. BLESS.
Of course, I was just as shocked that it took Buddy Garrity showing up for the old players to open up because REALLY. REALLY?!?!?! I honestly expected them to hate Buddy, but I always forget that Buddy has been a part of football in this town for a really, really long time. Plus, it’s nice to see Buddy make these changes in his life. Like, y’all, I had feelings for Buddy in this episode. He rejected the entire booster culture surrounding the Panthers, and instead of moping around and feeling sorry for himself, he ended up helping out the Taylors. That’s so awesome of him!
In addition to this, Eric has the ongoing rivalry between Vince and Luke. Again, I really do think this show is tackling the unspoken issues about race and class in a way most other shows couldn’t even deal with, and it’s such a pleasure to watch it. Of course, both Vince and Luke are egotistical players, so it’s natural that they’ll butt heads. Both of them like taking shots at one another. Luke purposely set Vince up for failure to make a point, so Vince stole Luke’s wallet to make a point. Obviously, it’s ridiculously immature and petty, but it was a way for these two dudes to express their resentment and envy of one another. Why is it so easy for Vince to fit in? Why is Luke hanging out with his old Panther teammates? These are the questions Luke and Vince won’t ever ask each other, so instead they resort to childish fights and pranks.
But once it escalates beyond that, shit gets so goddamn real. I was so worried that Vince was going to be pulled off the team after his fight with Luke. What Coach forces here is a desperate move, yes, but it’s one where he makes these two do something for one another. Look, I don’t think their issues with one another are going to be solved with the threat that loomed over them in “A Sort of Homecoming,” but I’m hoping it’s the start of something. These two are stuck on the same team, and if they both want to succeed, they’re going to have to work together.
If the threat of jail wasn’t enough, perhaps the pep rally will help this team come together. It’s a beautiful scene, one that made me tear up. The Taylors and Jess’s father managed to get the people of East Dillon in one place, celebrating their town and their team, and it’s the first team that these players get a glimpse of hope. That doesn’t mean that they’ll win every single game from here on out; clearly, the team has a lot to work on. But they get a glimmer of what it’s like to be part of East Dillon’s football team. Like I said, it’s a start.
Oh lord, how did I not think about the possibility of Matt and Tim hanging out? They’re both the only characters from last season who tried to leave Dillon but ultimately weren’t able to. Actually, they have a lot more in common with one another than that. They both made decisions about their future based on their love for their girlfriend, and they’ve both courted women who they probably shouldn’t have.
Tim’s still dealing with Becky, who is clearly more attracted to him than ever. Still, I’m glad that “A Sort of Homecoming” addresses Becky’s mother’s absence and what the does to her. It was hard to watch the dress shop scene once I saw how well Becky and her mother got along earlier in the episode. I’m sure that makes Becky’s disappointment all the more fierce. She adores her mother, and yet she’s stood up time after time. That sort of abandonment is something Friday Night Lights has addressed in the past through characters like Tyra, Matt, and Tim, so it wasn’t surprising that Tim was interested in comforting her. Still, he knows that she’s attracted to him, soâ€¦ can we not? Can we not go down that road again?
I’m hoping that Tim and Matt’s conversation at the campfire will help Matt come to terms with what’s happening between him and Julie. Matt finally vocalizes what Julie already knew: that he is randomly getting mad at her because he resents the fact that she’s pursuing college in distance places. He stayed for her, but she doesn’t seem to be willing to stay for him. However, he does admit that she didn’t make this choice for him. He made that choice. So why resent her?
I’d say that Matt needs to get his shit together, but that would be cruel. It would be cruel because after an episode that is largely full of hope, that shows us how all these characters are able to face their problems with their support system or on their own, we are dealt one of the most brutal emotional blows ever. Gods, I had just commented on how adorable it was that Shelby and Lorraine were getting along when Shelby opened that door, and everything was ruined.
I will always remember where I was when my brother told me my father had died. I can’t forget it. And this episode presents us with a realistic and devastating portrayal of that sudden horror and sadness. Matt’s father was killed in the line of duty. Just when Matt was going to try and make sense of his life, it’s more senseless than ever. The horrible, horrible irony of this episode is that it’s now a sort of homecoming for Matt’s dad. It’s just in the worst way imaginable.
Done. I told you. Done.
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