In the fifth episode of the fifth season of Friday Night Lights, the rivalry between Kingdom and East Dillon comes to a head during a violent and important game. Meanwhile, Julie and Tami deal with their own problems. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
I LOVE THIS SHOW SO MUCH.
Even though I don’t think it does everything perfectly, and I am still just so mystified by the choice to give Julie Taylor this story. This is what her college experience has amounted to? We see her attend a poetry reading, but she leaves because of Derek. We see her deal with an all-nighter, but that’s because of Derek. She gets to ask her roommate to help her, but that’s because of Derek. She discovers the joy of having as much free time as she wants, but that’s through Derek. Julie Taylor and Derek Derek Derek Derek Derek. There’s my problem, spelled out for all of you: nothing about this reveals anything about Julie’s character. She doesn’t grow, she doesn’t change (inasmuch as she just acts so completely against her characterization for four seasons), and we get nothing insightful from this story. Everything is about Derek. It’s all rooted in Derek, and we learn so much more about his character through this than we ever learn about Julie.
I mean, it’s also frustrating because if you remove the whole marriage thing, Julie and Derek are kind of awesome together. And it’s distracting to see them get along because what the fuck are you doing? Now, Julie is going to face rampant slut-shaming at school, her reputation is probably ruined, and guess who will probably escape unscathed? Derek. Allison implies that this is not the first time that Derek has cheated, so I’m guessing that he’s gotten away with it before. Is this seriously happening? Can there please be a sliver of something that’s actually interesting happen? Because while I adore this episode and this season, I’m just completely bored by this storyline. And it sucks because I love Julie Taylor so much, and she’s getting a story that I don’t like at all. (Though, I suppose it could all be part of a later story, like Mindy’s character development. But y’all, that better be a spectacular story to make up for this.)
Ugh, heartbreak forever. The Lions plot takes up a huge part of “Kingdom,” but we did get a glimpse of Tami’s life without Eric and Julie, and wow it hurts. With Eric down in Kingdom and Julie at college, Tami has a girls’ night with Lauren, where she candidly reveals her loneliness ever since Julie left. I know that Julie and Tami were extremely close, but it’s still heartbreaking to hear Tami vocalize just how much she misses her daughter. AND THEN JULIE COMES HOME AND SURPRISES HER MOM AND LOOK HOW HAPPY TAMI IS. I have never seen such joy on Tami’s face, I swear to y’all. IT’S TOO AMAZING. TOO AMAZING. So I’m guessing that Tami will be able to provide the advice and support that Julie needs. Yeah, I do think Julie is going to tell her mom what’s happened, and who better to help with complicated problems than Tami Taylor? Literally no one, not even Jesus. I bet Jesus is jealous of Tami’s skills.
Well, now I’ve alienated everyone ever. Oh, well.
Aside from “The Son,” I don’t think an episode of this show has ever focused so completely on one plot. This is an immense leap forward in the story for so many characters, so I understand why it’s onscreen for so much time. VINCE. LUKE. EVEN HASTINGS. Holy god, where do we start?
- Picking up from “Keep Looking,” it’s clear that Vince has come to some sort of agreement with his father, allowing him into his life in a way that is surprising. I didn’t expect to see him in this capacity so soon, but I think it’s a way for Vince to demonstrate that he’s willing to try with Ornette. There’s a really neat moment where Ornette agrees to default to Eric on all matters of recruitment, and Vince looks at his father in shock. I don’t think Vince expected his father to put aside his own ego and allow another man to take control of an aspect of his son’s life. That doesn’t mean there won’t be conflict in the future, but I saw it as a neat gesture on Ornette’s part.
- CAN WE TALK ABOUT DUDES. Okay, there are multiple points in the video commission for this episode where I just shook my head and said, “Boys.” Because holy straight boy tomfoolery. I always did the “weird” sports in high school, so I didn’t have the “manly” experience that I see here. (Well, and we weren’t popular enough, despite winning all the time, to ever get the treatment I’ve seen of the players over the course of Friday Night Lights.) I also come at this as having the least manly upbringing ever, so I never got a chance to do all this male bonding like this as a teenager? Everyone thought I was too feminine or strange or bookish to ever invite me on trips like this. It’s got me thinking about how much I wish this show had done something with the three queer characters they introduced and then sort of forgot? No Mayor Rodell storylines, Devin disappeared, and Stan hasn’t once gotten a story of his own after Julie discovered that he was gay. Everything is so straight!
- That’s not necessarily a criticism of the episode. I just wanted to talk about how I relate to the text because that’s what I do.
- In a way, I think “Kingdom” presents one of the most positive portrayals of the Lions. The whole episode feels like a road trip story; it features many of the characters bonding with one another over the sport; and it’s remarkably hopeful. That’s really cool.
- LET’S TALK ABOUT THE HOTEL BALCONY SCENE. Wait, were those balconies? I think they were on the ground floor. anyway NOT THE POINT. For real, that whole scene where Luke, Vince, Tinker, and Hastings talk while Coach secretly listens in is ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS IN THE WHOLE SHOW. It’s so raw and fascinating! And then Hastings actually reveals something about himself. Finally, the writers are using him beyond comedic effect! Granted, it’s not nearly enough, but now I want to know more about his life before Dillon, especially given what we see from him after the Lions’ victory. How does he know these people? Where did he come from? What secrets are you hiding?
- While I don’t like the idea that hazing is presented so normally, I was into the fact that at the end of “Kingdom,” the Lions had accepted Buddy, Jr. as one of their own.
- THE GAME. THE GAME. So brilliantly filmed and acted, and football FINALLY SEEMS EXCITING AGAIN. Oh god, I loved it. It was fascinating to me to watch Eric make a very risky decision about the game given how Kingdom was playing. He is a man who sticks by the rules as much as possible, and we saw him insist on this during practice earlier in the episode. Except that once he sees how disadvantaged the team is by sticking to his rules, he tells Vince to break them. THIS IS A HUGE THING FOR ERIC TO DO, and it pays off. The Lions are on fire, and their victory is so satisfying to watch.
- There was also an interesting (and furious) dynamic at hand that I wish the episode had spent more time on. The Kingdom players were vicious and racist towards the Lions, and yet it’s the Lions who are called “thugs” and “undisciplined” after the game. The reporter even admits that the Kingdom team started the rough play, but it’s the team of largely poor people of color who are thugs? I see your racism, you assholes.
- At the same time, Eric worries that he’s lowered his own personal standards for the game by allowing his team to run rampant in order to win. This is all despite that his fellow coaches insist that Eric made the best choice possible. So what’s going to happen if they face another unfair competition in the future? Will Eric make the same choice?
- The scene where the main players all drunkenly bond is nice, but I want to talk about something else: I think Vince is risking his relationship with Jess. This is the second time that he’s ignored and dismissed her because of his desire to go to state. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that ambition! And I understand why this is so important for him. However, he’s got to find a way to keep Jess in that equation or she’s going to continue to feel left out. I won’t be surprised if she ends up ditching him if he doesn’t give her the attention or consideration that she deserves, you know?
How good was this episode? IT WAS SO GOOD, Y’ALL. I did have a very sad moment during the opening credits where I realized that this was the last season. I genuinely don’t want this to end, y’all. I adore this show.
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