We're off to an emotional start as the final season of Friday Night Lights kicks off. Favorite faces are around, but for how long? And new favorites are moving in to replace the old. It's late August as we begin another football season in East Dillon, Texas and hot enough for the radio announcer to declare, "I'm sweatin' like a whore in church."
Tami Taylor / Mrs. Coach
Tami begins her new job as the East Dillon guidance counselor. Now, Tami is pretty much a super-hero in my book, but even she realizes she has an enormous uphill battle to climb at this terribly under-funded and staffed school. She immediately buckles down, determined to make a difference in her new kids' lives, but from no-show parents to a dead phone line, she realizes this may be an even bigger job than she'd already imagined.
Eric Taylor / Coach
Coach is still our favorite coach, now in his second year as head of the East Dillon Lions. He tries desperately to tune out all the noise and expectations surrounding his Lions (remember they upset the Dillon Panthers at the end of last season). Good ol' Buddy Gerrity is back with his endearing and meddling ways as he drags Coach along on a scouting mission for a new Lions recruit. They head to the neighborhood basketball court where a 6'5 wunderkind, Hastings Ruckell, is ruling the roost. Coach talks to Hastings who isn't shy in expressing his dislike of football. When Coach grills him, we find out he's recently moved to East Dillon to which Coach replies, "You live in Texas now. You love the game of football. You just don't know it yet..." Oh Coach, we've missed you!
Vince / Jess / Luke
Vince and Luke are essentially the new Smash and Riggins as the team leaders of the Lions. It's nice to see they now have a camaraderie and friendship with each other. Coach asks them to convince Hastings to try out for the team, so they throw a party at Luke's ranch and ineffectively talk his ear off. Vince sends Jess to close the deal with the logic, "you're the hot girl that gets football... you're irresistible." Hastings doesn't like to feel pressured to do anything so it's fun to watch Jess twist his words until she coyly calls him a coward for not trying out. We can practically see Hastings' chest puff up as he thinks, "I'm no chicken!" Hastings is in.
After the turmoil of last season, it's really nice to see Vince and Jess together and happy (though I did really enjoy her relationship with Landry) — those two deserve some joy in their lives. Vince has a sweet moment stepping in to talk with Jess's brother, Andre, who's been acting out. He's rebelling because his father is away, something Vince understands well — the difference is, Jess and Andre's dad is doing good for his family by opening up a franchise of his "Ray's BBQ" whereas Vince's father is in jail. Vince gently advises Andre that he's the man of the house now and he needs to act the part.
Oh Landry... I was so sad not to see him in the opening credits. I sure hope we get a few more visits from him throughout the season. Landry is going to Rice University (in my hometown, Houston) but before he departs, his Christian metal band, Crucifictorious, has a "Last Waltz" show. I'll miss seeing that nerdy and sweet crew jamming in Landry's garage! After their final show (attended by all of 20 people — and I'm being generous with that!), he and Julie rendezvous outside the Alamo Freeze (which only made me miss Saracen and Smash from their days behind the counter). Landry complains of his lame final night in Dillon, so Julie (shocking the heck out of me) takes him to The Landing Strip, the local strip club. Drunk-covered-in-strippers-Landry is a funny, funny sight.
Julie is ready to leave the nest though for the life of me I couldn't figure out which school she's headed to (please post below if I zoned out!). She's itching to get on the road and start her new life at college. It was very sweet to see several moments of Coach and Mrs. Coach looking longingly at her or soaking in a family moment because they knew they had to let her go. Coach almost broke my heart a few times (late night ping-pong...) and Mrs. Coach's goodbye was so sweet and supportive (I just love this family so much!).
We knew Tim was still going to be in jail (he and Billy got busted for stripping stolen cars), but it was heartbreaking to see the blankness on his face as Billy visited him. The former golden boy of the Dillon Panthers is no longer wearing Panther blue, but instead jail-house white. He seems like an empty shell of his former "Texas forever" self and didn't want to hear Billy's tales about life on the outside or declarations of guilt for letting little brother Tim take the fall. We learn that Tim has another three months in jail which means quite a while before we get to see the enigmatic Riggins back in boots and jeans. Damn!
Billy, clearly still haunted by allowing Tim to take the fall, has resolved to be a better man. He approaches Coach with the idea of becoming an Assistant Coach and tells him, "you're a molder of men... it'd be good for me to be around you right now." Coach, touched by speech, gives him a shot and Billy fumbles his way through the first practice and game with typical Billy style — he does try hard!
Becky's tough living situation has gotten even worse. Her frequently absent bartender mother is now a completely absent mother (she's working on a casino boat) and her Dad's latest flame and baby are crashing with her. This stepmom (I guess?) is a nasty thing and pretty soon Becky decides to trade that bad situation for a room at Chez Riggins. Billy and his wife, Mindy, aren't too thrilled about this but Tim has told Becky to consider them family and Billy's guilt is large enough to extend open arms to the runaway.
The Game: Lions vs. Cowboys
All of these events culminate in our first football game of the season: The Lions vs. The Cowboys. The beginning of the game is a disaster as the Cowboys score quickly and the Lions are an absolute mess. Vince, our star quarterback, takes matters into his own hands and runs the ball for a touchdown. The game quickly turns around as the Lions work as a team. As the final seconds tick away, Coach decides to trust Hastings with the ball — he can out-jump the Cowboy who's been intercepting their plays. Vince throws to Hastings and it's a TD! Luke runs it across for an extra two and The Lions win 29-28.
It's nice to have Coach back on the winning side — we were reminded The Lions were 2-8 last year, so kicking off with a win was huge. What did y'all think of the first episode back? Are you as sad as I am to say goodbye to Landry and Julie? How cute was that moment with Landry and Grandma Saracen (she even has Crucifictorious on her "MP")! Who do you most hope to see back in Dillon — Smash, Tyra, Lyla, Street?
We're off to an emotional start as the final season of Friday Night Lights kicks off. Favorite faces are around, but for how long? And new favorites are moving in to replace the old. It's late August as we begin another football season in East Dillon, Texas and hot enough for the radio announcer to declare, "I'm sweatin' like a whore in church." ...