‘Friday Night Lights’: Season 4, Episode 2: ‘You’ve got to find your inner pirate’

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There have been plenty of desperate scenarios on ‘Friday Night Lights’ over its first three seasons. Racial tensions, a paralyzing injury, a self-defense murder, questionable college recruiters, a bitter divorce and an unjust firing, to name a few.

Husband and wife squabbles seem rather minor, in comparison. Yet when Kyle Chandler’s Eric Taylor and Connie Britton’s Tami Taylor argue, the whole balance of the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, seems off. The heart, the soul and the two constants over each of ‘Friday Night Lights’’ three-plus seasons, there’s a sudden and uncomfortable tension when Tami demands that Eric not his raise his voice to her midway through the fourth season’s second episode.

Perhaps it’s the documentary-style filmmaking that pervades ‘Friday Night Lights’ that brings an uneasy intimacy to the scene. The off-center camera angles, and the close-ups of the Taylors feuding in the kitchen, all work to make the viewer feel as if he or she is invading the couple’s space. Or perhaps it’s simply the talents of Chandler and Britton, who turn the language of the script into one less about love and more about respect, capturing a couple that’s constantly working at their relationship.

Be it the 9-5 or the family dinner table, nothing in ‘Friday Night Lights’ is accomplished without a little elbow grease. Indeed, if things looked bleak at the end of Episode 1, with the East Dillon Lions getting walloped and Joe McCoy (D.W. Moffett) firmly in charge of the Dillon Panthers -- and perhaps even the town -- it was nothing compared to the glued-to-the-couch drama of unrest in the Taylor household.


It all started with the best of intentions. Whether he’s shaking at losing his grip on the good ol’ boys in charge of the Panthers, or just not liking what he’s seeing of McCoy, Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland) became an unlikely ally to Eric, letting him know that a star Panther was using an illegal address to avoid being transferred to East Dillon. One hitch: The Dillon Panthers have used said address for years, and Eric knew it existed, a little tidbit he didn’t let Tami in on.

She, the principal of Dillon High, foresaw trouble, noting that if she pulled Matt Lauria’s Luke out of Dillon High, it would look like a ‘Mrs. Coach kind of move,’ even though she had no trouble doing the same to the non-football-associated Devin (Stephanie Hunt) last week. When Eric -- in need of a football team -- pleaded that she was doing the right thing, Tami responded: ‘These people are all about doing the wrong thing.’

The key in that sentence are the words ‘these people.’ The Taylors are adjusting to life in the new world order, one where they’re not the town’s favorite couple. If not enemies of Dillon, anyone seen as not working for the Panthers isn’t likely to be viewed as a friend. If the first episode this season grandly laid the groundwork for life in a post-redistricted Dillon, Episode 2 saw its star characters strapping on their boots and getting to work.

Eric knew he was putting his wife in a difficult situation. The football boosters wouldn’t sit well to losing Luke, and Lauria was perfect, trying to fight himself from breaking down on the field as his life -- and a fast-track to a college football scholarship -- flashed before him. McCoy showed-off his upper-class strut, tying to put an end to his battle over Luke with Tami the only way he knows how. He offered ‘new books for the library, new instruments for the orchestra, or what?’

She didn’t budge. What’s overlooked as inconvenient necessities by the haves -- such technicalities as phony addresses -- are weapons of the have-nots.

All ended right between the Taylors, but as they sat together on the couch at the end of the episode, there was a sense that they had been awakened to the new reality of Dillon. ‘You’ve got to find your inner pirate,’ a crackpot at a gas station (none other than Texas Tech coach Mike Leach) had earlier said to a down-in-the-dumps Eric. Indeed, the Taylors flashed their swords in Episode 2, but this fight is just beginning.

Other notes for Episode 2:

So quick! In going down from a 22-episode season to a 13-episode one, occasionally some subplots feel closed a little too soon. When Julie (Aimee Teegarden) told Eric and Tami that she wanted to transfer to East Dillon in Episode 1, the parents didn’t seem pleased, and were going to have to confront their own double standards. That all happened off-camera, and Julie was at East Dillon in Episode 2. Additionally, on the subject of Luke, the battle for his ownership was between Tami and the Dillon Panthers. His parents certainly had a say in this fight, but viewers didn’t get to see it. Small quibbles on what have been two exceptionally strong episodes, but we could have done with a little less of Matt Saracen’s (Zach Gilford) crazy art-internship, and a little more Luke.

A new star: Michael B. Jordan’s Vince excelled in Episode 2. On the run from the cops and forced onto the East Dillon Lions on Episode 1, he possessed a stare worth 1,000 words on Episode 2. Eric is leaning on him to be a hero, and Vince’s glare capture the inner turmoil, a young man stubborn enough to want to make it on his own, but also coming to grips with the fact that his lower-class, crime-ridden upbringing isn’t affording him many opportunities. Credit both Jordan and the writers for dealing with such complex issues with grace. Vince pulls the team together at the last minute. ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do,’ Eric tells him when it’s unclear as to whether East Dillon will have a football team, ‘but I’ll get another job.’ It’s a strikingly loaded statement, and Vince didn’t have to say a word to recognize its implications.

Post-graduation: One of the strengths of ‘Friday Night Lights’ in this fourth season has been illustrating how its young charters are adjusting to life outside of high school. Though a commenter disagreed, I’ve enjoyed Saracen’s pizza delivery boy gig. Life outside of the Dillon Panthers is one that doesn’t afford many opportunities. Buddy Garrity may own a car dealership, but it’s always seemed that his motivation for riches is to have a greater say in Panthers football. Saracen wants nothing but to leave his high school behind him, and he’s finding that to be impossible in Dillon. Meanwhile, Taylor Kitsch’s Tim Riggins is having the opposite problem. Greener pastures beyond the Panthers have eluded his mind. Though fans of the show were certainly happy to see him reunited with Coach Taylor at East Dillon, as Riggins offered his services to his former coach, there was no doubt a tinge of regret in Taylor seeing his former player. Here was a student offered an out -- a chance at college -- and here he was back in this depressed town. I braced for a Coach Taylor lecture, but as Taylor has struggled to rein in an unruly football crew -- one more worried about rent and bills than tossing around a pigskin -- Riggins’ poor life choices have become an accepted fate.

--Todd Martens

‘Friday Night Lights’ airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on DirecTV’s The 101 Network.


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Photos: Timothy F. Crowley as Coach Crowley and Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor. Middle: Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins. Bottom: Chandler’s Taylor. Credit: DirecTV / NBC