Friday Night Lights “The Son” Review (4×05)

25 Jul


Here lies Henry Saracen.

Here lies Matt Saracen’s father, the father he hated, the father who wasn’t there for him, the father who’s now in a coffin, buried under the dirt that leaves Matt’s shovel. He wasn’t a monster, but he wasn’t a good father, either. The responsibilities that should’ve been his were taken on by his son at an early age, and Matt’s had to deal with situations that many teenagers have never had to face because there’s always been that one constant in their lives: a supportive family.

Yet, if there’s one constant for Matt Saracen, it’s his unwavering selflessness, the fact that he’s simply a good kid. It might be disappointing to see him stay with those around him–with Lorraine, with Julie–at the expense of pursuing his dreams, but those decisions encapsulate the essence of his character. Matt Saracen will be Matt Saracen, even if it may hurt him.

When his father dies, Matt Saracen tries to be Matt Saracen. It’s hard, though, because expectations don’t mesh with how he wants to feel, to act. Dillon’s a town that fosters a sense of community, and the idea of family is integral in such a small environment; when you lose a family member, you’re expected to act a certain way, to feel a certain way, because you loved this person and he or she loved you back. But Matt hates his dad. How is he supposed to act? How is he supposed to tell those around him this very fact? What exactly does grief look like?

We don’t know. It’s different for each person, and it depends on your personal experiences; you can’t place a length of time on grief, nor can you necessarily categorize it into various stages, nor can you expect a certain behavior to result from it. You might, for example, expect tears; it doesn’t mean that will be the response. Guilt is a common response–and I believe that’s what Matt feels here–especially for kids who’ve lost people with whom they had a tumultuous relationship with; they might’ve hoped that one day, their parents would turn out to be as loving as they’re supposed to be, or they might’ve felt that so much was left unsaid, left undone.

Matt feels guilty because he feels the exact opposite of what he’s expected to feel–slamming the door in the McCoys’ faces, though, I’m sure everyone wants to do–and because he’s such a good kid, his resentment of his father causes that guilt. Yet, he also has to come to terms with the fact that who he is isn’t merely the result of him being inherently good; it’s also the result of him making sure he didn’t follow his father’s example. In “The Son”, he has to decide: Do I go along with this “funny” version of my dad, or do I go down the difficult road of facing my true feelings for this man?

He has to face his true feelings, but he can’t even express those feelings to his father’s corpse. “I want to tell him to his face that I hate him, but he doesn’t even have a face,” he says at the Taylors’ dinner table, and we’re reminded of the horrified reaction on his own face once the casket is opened. Matt’s being Matt here, apologizing for being rude and trying to keep it together, but he’s also breaking down. It’s the simple things, like the carrots touching the meat. Hate is destructive, but concentrated hate deflects. He acknowledges that.

Where better to do it than at the Taylor household? Family is not just those who are biologically related to us. Family comes in many forms, whether it be the mother who supports you when you’re finalizing your funeral plans or the brothers who break into a funeral home to try and provide closure or the father who doesn’t give you a big speech when you rush out of his house in tears. He simply walks you home.

Family will cheer for you on Friday nights, but family will also gather for your father’s funeral. Family will listen as you deliver a eulogy. Finding words to express what you’re feeling is never easy, and he’s already done so with the Taylors and the guys from the team. Now, it’s some form of closure. It’s a beautiful eulogy that Matt gives, finding something funny in a story that doesn’t seem all that funny. It’s a good memory, though. It’s not just for the people listening, but also for himself. For, he never truly knew his dad, someone who found his own family and was his own person away at war; that knowledge is what’s feeding Matt’s mourning.

A gunshot. Lorraine shivers. Matt takes the shovel. There’s a flash of blood. Henry Saracen, buried. “Driveway” plays and we watch him, Julie standing beside him as he digs and digs and digs. Pain and resentment and guilt will never disappear, but in this moment, it all becomes catharsis. There are lots of things Matt Saracen doesn’t know, but one thing is for sure: only he can bury his father.

Here lies Henry Saracen, and here stands The Son.



-Lots of other stuff happens in this episode, and I was surprised to find out this was the case. It seems like everything falls back until all we’re left with is Matt, and my, what a performance Zach Gilford gives. Just incredible.

Photo credit: NBC, DirecTV, Friday Night Lights

6 Responses to “Friday Night Lights “The Son” Review (4×05)”

  1. ironhawk22 July 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    I watched the first four episodes of “Friday Night Lights” and couldn’t really get into it, maybe because I’m not into sports? When does the show really get going? Or is it just one of those things where you either like it, or you don’t?

    • polarbears16 July 26, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

      I actually think it really gets going right from the start. Later S1 episodes like “I Think We Should Have Sex” and “Mud Bowl” are even better.

      Maybe it’s not for you, although I definitely wouldn’t say that disliking sports is the reason. I’ve known many people who loathed sports but loved this show, and not liking sports is definitely the main concern of people coming into this show. However, it’s more a show about community and the characters than it is about sports.

      Maybe give it a few more episodes, or just watch something like the two eps mentioned above. If you still can’t get into it, then yeah, maybe you just don’t like it. (If you continue, be warned that season 2 is the worst season by a mile).

      • ironhawk22 July 26, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

        I’ll definitely give those two episodes a try. Thanks!

  2. carldec July 27, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

    Just finished watching this a few minutes ago. While some of this show can be a bit hokey and season 2 is a mess….. This was the most touching episode of television I have ever seen. The rest of the episodes are good, this was great.

  3. Matthew Thompson August 13, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Saw your latest review of FNL and had to come back and check this one out which I missed. One of my favorite episodes. Gilford was amazing. Great review.

    • polarbears16 August 16, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      Thanks! Zach Gilford is definitely amazing, and I really hope he can find some good roles soon.

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