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Friday Night Lights “Texas Whatever” Review (5×12)

11 Oct

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“Coach shows up and gives 100%. Every game, every practice. It’s more than just a game to us. Football is our life.”

Friday Night Lights has constantly tackled the ideas of what it means to be in Dillon and what it means to leave it, what it means to come home and what it means to move on. “It’s like a drug,” Tyra says as she kicks back with Julie on the hood of a car, listening to the sounds of Panthers fans celebrating the dissolution of the East Dillon Lions football program. “When you get outside of it, you see it for what it really is. But when you’re in it, it seems like there’s no other possible reality.”

It’s a conversation akin to the one Julie and Landry shared in “Expectations”–not just in content, but also in setting–one about what it meant to head off to college and about varying opinions on what they were leaving behind. In “Texas Whatever”, people like Tyra and Matt return to what they left behind, what they needed to stay away from but also what they’re still a part of. Things have changed–Grandma Saracen seems even more lost than before, and Tim’s recently been in jail–but Matt and Tyra don’t balk at the notion of change; they move with it while Dillon as a whole is still stuck in the mud of the past. A super Panthers team will be created, but it seems less like an improvement and more like an impediment to progress.

“So,” the penultimate episode asks, “can this devil town still retain the pieces it wants to retain?” Answer: maybe those pieces don’t belong anymore. Kyle Chandler, in his directing debut for the show, pulls back the camera on the town hall meeting and the reaction to the announcement afterward, showcasing the chaos and the crowd mentality ever so pervasive in this type of culture. When we zoom in, it’s to see the disappointed faces of the Lions, people we could never fathom playing for the Panthers, but people who’ll do so next year. “You are going to be the star quarterback of the Dillon Panthers next year, and you are going to shine,” Coach says as he gives Vince a hug in the parking lot, but there’s a sense of finality to the statement.

For, Coach simply won’t allow himself to be slipped right back into the Panther life; it’s difficult for him to let go of these players and the coaching, but he just doesn’t belong like Buddy wants to. His struggle with Tami highlights the fact that Coach is someone who’d rather have things not change; he’s tried it before, but it’s not for him. Of course, here’s Tami with the other side, with her accusatory “I’m going to say to you what you haven’t had the grace to say to me: congratulations” and “eighteen years”. There’s a tension here we’ve never seen before, a tension Julie picks up on in her short conversation with her mother, a tension that first causes Eric, then Tami, to walk away from a conversation. It’s difficult to watch, and each close-up of the two is of a face exhausted and disappointed and saddened by what’s occurring.

For all the close-ups of disappointment, though, and all the overheads of a devil town, there are also several shots of family and connection and emotional bonds. First, we see the Lions players on the field in a scene reminiscent of “Hello Goodbye” or Jason, Matt, Tim, and Smash in season one; football made them whole and they’ll never forget it, and no matter how much the camera pulls back, we still see the history they share. Pull back a little on the town hall meeting, on the other hand, and it’s clear how much animosity is still present in Dillon.

What’s great about the scenes we get with Luke and Vince and Tinker and co. is the fact that not all will be structuring their lives around football. I’m talking specifically about Luke Cafferty, who realizes that Warren Field State isn’t for him and that he has lots in common with Tim Riggins; “Let me give you some advice, Luke,” Tim tells him. “You’re going to State, correct? Nothing is going to be bigger than that. Play it that way. Play it like it’s the last time you’re ever going to lace up. Then let go. And move on.” It’s wonderful advice, and it’s from a man who was about to move to Alaska, someone who was ready to pack it up before Tyra Collette returned to Dillon. With just a simple question–“Alaska, Tim?”–it’s clear that Tyra’s someone who gets it, who’s the perfect person to dig Tim out of his rut. As we see the two sitting there on that gorgeous expanse of land, we get the sense that everything’s going to be okay.

As for the Lions, there’s one more game left. State is theirs for the taking.

GRADE: A

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-There are seriously so many great quotes in this episode that I spent about 15 minutes trying to decide which one to put at the top of the review.

-So many callbacks! The Saracen sign, Grandma Saracen’s foot tapping, Tyra on top of Tim…

-Hmm, no mention of Lance Landry?

-I love how the town hall meeting is followed by Vince making his own appeal for the Lions, one met by a simple “Thank you.” And here‘s a close-up that’s not one of disappointment; rather, it’s of determination and appreciation.

-Becky handles her situation well here. I hope she and Jess have some great payoffs in the finale.

-Joe and JD McCoy are apparently not here anymore (I kind of wanted some acknowledgment of that). Maybe we can look in Asshole Land?

-Billy, please don’t try to write while you’re driving, especially if all you can come up with is one sentence about a “football landscape” or whatnot.

-Billy and Mindy are having twins. There’s a perfect shot in here of Billy’s face and Mindy’s face side by side after hearing the news, Billy excited out of his mind and Mindy on the verge of tears. Also, I do want to see a spinoff about them living in a tent.

-Tami’s reasoning for not wanting to head off to TMU was because she didn’t want to leave the kids at school behind. Here, interestingly enough, that’s exactly what she’s doing; however, I think this is a bit different because for once, it’s her initiative.

-“Let me tell you something” count: two! I will miss that.

-Who will we see in the finale? Smash? Lyla*? A plethora of Santiago clones?

*Lyla, by the way, isn’t the one to help Tim here, and I believe that’s the right choice. Tyra and Tim had more of a mutual understanding than Tim and Lyla ever had.

-We HAVE to get one more “Texas forever” before the end, right? RIGHT?

-One more, folks.

Photo credit: NBC, DirecTV, Friday Night Lights

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