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FNL & Texas Forever

“Texas forever.”_Tim Riggins, #33

Well, deep inside we all knew Tim Riggins would end up in prison, am I right? But no worries! We’ll get there. First, we have some other ground to cover. This is the second half of my Friday Night Lights discussion. The first is here, written about two years ago. As I watched through the third, fourth and fifth seasons of FNL again, I couldn’t help ruminating on the dude friendships involved…how well-written they are. Tim Riggins and Jason Street, Matt Saracen and Landry Clarke, Saracen and Smash’s relationship before Smash left Dillon, Tim and Matt, Tim and Landry. FNL nailed brotherhood in ways beyond how well-written Tim and Billy Riggins’s relationship is. I also thought a lot about surrogacy. How Tami Taylor is a surrogate mom for Tyra, how Coach Taylor is a surrogate father for Smash, Saracen, Riggins, his entire football team, in a way.

This is especially evident in the gut-wrenching so-hard-to-watch episode where Saracen’s dad dies and Saracen breaks down at the Taylor’s dinner table and has to leave. He runs out in the night, sobbing (Zach Gilford is so amazingly heartbreaking in this scene…how dare he?) and Coach follows him, saying his name. Coach simply says “I’m gonna walk you home.” And Saracen says “okay.” That scene, that image sums FNL up perfectly. Coach, walking one of the kids home. Coach, looking out for him, making sure he’s okay. Don’t we all just want to be walked home? Friday Night Lights is Coach walking us all home.

And Saracen has complicated feelings about his dad! So many FNL characters have complicated relationships with their dads! JD McCoy, the Riggins brothers, Vince, Lyla, etc! FNL nailed Daddy Issues, too, focusing mostly on sons and fathers and does a superb job of nailing it from a lot of different sides: infidelity, crime, emotional and physical abuse, abandonment. Saracen, the Riggins brothers and Vince raised themselves without fathers, although Saracen has his grandmother, bless his heart.

A lot happens in seasons three, four and five, but those things really jumped out at me as I watched. The brotherhood, the fatherhood, the community stepping in and locking arms when someone is hurting. Also, the Taylor house continues to be a safe haven for people in Dillon who need some extra love. Seems like every kid who rolls through Dillon High spends at least one night at the Taylors, having late-night chats with either Tami or Coach or both, noshing at their dinner table. And even in the most awkward of circumstances—like Saracen manning up to come over to talk to Coach after Coach caught Saracen in bed with his daughter, Julie (s3, e10, 7:56)—the Taylor backyard is still a cozy, soothing place. Coach is aggressively stress-scrubbing the grill as Saracen stands there in shame…Coach ending the conversation with “that is my daughter” which says all he needs to say in that moment. (s3, e 10, 29:35)

Since the last time I rewatched FNL I’ve also watched Bloodline which features our Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) in a darker role, a guy who is like the antithesis of Coach, but some things stay the same. Like Coach’s perfect Southern accent and his green-green eyes. Chandler has called them “mud puddle green” and I’m good with anything anyone wants to call them because they speak for themselves since they are ruheally beautiful perfectly-colored eyes…seriously though..the prettiest. My Bloodline feelings did nothing to change my Coach Taylor feelings! I still love him forever and he stays very Coach throughout the entirety of FNL. Want to know who also stays the same? Julie Taylor! She remains the worst. Saracen is too good for her! I will never change my mind about this and to be honest, I skipped over a lot of the Julie parts because I just don’t like her at all, considering she’s the worst. She goes to college and sleeps with her married professor and everysingledecision she makes is terrible so let’s stop talking about her.

Season three presents us with a lot of football drama which is right on brand. It’s actually a perfect amount of high school football drama. I was thinking that as I watched Saracen get so jealous of the new, young QB, JD McCoy. I thought wow I love this perfect amount of high school jealousy/drama. I also love how much FNL loves and takes care of its characters. Coach makes sure Smash is taken care of before he leaves the show and their scenes together are intimate and emotional. (Also, keep in mind Smash graduated high school before Tim Riggins and what I mean is that Tim is like forty-five this point. A beautiful forty-five, but a forty-five no less. No seriously though, Tim is a senior in high school for about five years. He should’ve been a senior with Jason in season one, but he wasn’t, although that was the only thing that made sense.) And one thing I wrote in my notes as I was rewatching season three was: JD McCoy’s dad is as bad as Julie Taylor.

Also, Matt Saracen has to deal with too much shizz! Way too much shizz. He reminds me of Dr. John Carter from ER in that regard. Dr. Carter couldn’t catch a break! No matter what, terrible things just continued to happen to that man! Same for Saracen, bless his heart! Saracen is important and special and a precious, sweet cookie. He is not perfect, no, but pretty dang close. S3, e2, 24:15: Grandma Saracen tells us what we already know when she talks about how sweet Matt was when he was a baby. Now Matt is in high school and takes care of his grandmother alone! He has no real help from his mother or father and he does it all with pretty decent attitude. He has a job, he goes to school, he’s (benched) on the football team. I am super-proud of Matt Saracen in s3, e2, 26:42 when he finally goes to his mother’s place and asks for help with his grandmother because Matt needs help and for the love will someone please help him. Seriously. Matt Saracen is a national treasure and deserves all the good things in this world. I still worry about him sometimes. Matt, if you’re reading this, I love you with a pure love. You are important.

Tim and Lyla’s relationship never quite feels like it has a chance to truly make it, but it makes sense to me. Their relationship is a car in neutral, the gas gunning. Same for Landry and Tyra. I never thought they’d stay together, but while it was happening, it made sense…in a weird way. And re: national treasures, Tami Taylor is one as well, with her Tami hair and big, swinging hoop earrings.

Some other things I loved about season three:

-e2, 33:18: Tim Riggins, uncomfy at a fancy dinner, ordering rare squab.

-e2, 37:48: Coach going to Smash’s house at night, telling him the good news about Texas A&M and how Coach smiles at Smash’s sister and says “hey kid” to her before he leaves. Swoon.

-e3, 5:45: Taylors being cute.

-e3: Tim Riggins being hilarious with the creep in the library saying “you win, buddy”

-e4, 40:05: Smash’s dreams come true!

-Herc stealing every scene he’s in and the whole Street, Herc, Riggins’ brothers flipping houses storyline.

-e6, 13:40: Riggins taking JD for a ride through town, esp. the part where he says “Leesa lives down this street..she’s good times” (for obvious, personal reasons).

-e7, 38:45: The Tim Riggins highlight reel and how Billy wants the best for Tim (although Billy gets Tim into the shadiest shizz!)

-e8, 37:15 Tim Riggins saying “Jason, I’m pregnant” when they’re in the taxi together. Then later, Tim telling Jason “you’re always gonna be my best friend.” Cue everyone crying.

Seasons four and five are a bit jarring since our Dillon Panther blue is now our East Dillon Lions red and we meet a lot of new characters. But first, Tim Riggins drops out of college and tosses his textbooks out the window of his truck (s4, e1, 10:00). Then, we meet Vince, Luke, Jess, Becky and there’s even a dude named Hastings Ruckle. There’s a cozy scene at a hotel in s5, e5 when Coach is sitting out on the balcony, listening to his football boys talk to one another. That scene feels very early FNL although for the most part, the entire series stays on track outside of the ridiculous Landry/Tyra murder storyline that Praise the Lord went away as quickly as it came. There is a teen pregnancy and abortion storyline and the usual emotional football drama in the rain. Also the Riggins’ brothers, now proud owners of Riggins’ Rigs get themselves in a nasty little spot when it comes to running a chop shop. It ends with Tim telling Billy he’s going to take the fall for him and go to prison so that Billy can stay free and raise his new tiny baby son he’s had with Tyra’s older sister, Mindy. Tim sacrificing himself so that his little nephew can have a decent father in his life—something neither him nor Billy had themselves—is almost Christ-like. And Tim taking that long grey-sky walk through the parking lot from his black Chevy Silverado to the Sheriff’s Department to turn himself in, Tim throwing his truck keys back to his brother, Tim walking inside with his Tim Riggins hair and his sherpa-lined jean jacket and boots? It’s all too much. And when Tim gets out, he’s changed. He’s angry, he’s quiet, he’s different. He gets better, slowly. And for the most part, everyone ends up okay! I firmly believe everything turns out all right. FNL treats its characters tenderly—even when torturing Saracen—and I appreciate that. The show stays emotional throughout, the connections stays documentary-style intimate, the Taylors’ relationship stays solid and sweet…realistically perfect if there is such a thing. The new characters from East Dillon grew on me, especially because we got Michael B. Jordan in the process. And God bless Michael B. Jordan.

What I’m saying is: I love FNL and Coach can walk me home anytime.

All of it. That dreamy, airy-moody soundtrack. That flat, dramatic Texas backdrop. All that space. The Taylors’ kitchen. Coach and Saracen playing QB and wide receiver in the street. The rope lighting in Tim’s bedroom. Lyla Garrity trying to be a good Christian girl, but not being able to keep her hands off Tim Riggins (one of the realest things I’ve ever seen on my TV screen, tbh). Landry’s band practicing in the garage, the guitar-shredding spilling out into the suburban night, all the way up to the big Texas sky-bowl of stars. I just kept thinking about all of these things and how that magic was bottled for five seasons for us to drink back whenever we want. How we can clink those bottles together and offer up this wholehearted toast when we say in our best Tim Riggins voice: Texas Forever. Texas forever.

Leesa Cross-Smith
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About The Author

Leesa Cross-Smith

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and writer from Kentucky. She is the author of Every Kiss a War and Whiskey & Ribbons. She is also the editor of WhiskeyPaper.

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