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07 March 2010 @ 05:54 pm
Friday Night Lights 4.07-4.13  
Yeah, believe it or not I watched all of these in one sitting. I think I shall call this experience 'Cryfest 2010'. ;)

When Matt Saracen drove out of Dillon, I emotionally froze up about Friday Night Lights. I couldn't imagine the show without him, it turned out, and so each week I delayed watching the rest of the season. Until this happened, I don't think I realised how deeply attached to him I was: I have always loved the ensemble aspect of the show and I thought I was happy to watch them write endings for all the original cast members, having enjoyed Jason's, Tyra's and Smash's farewells already. But after FNL produced some of the year's best television in the episode about Matt's father's death, I was even more immersed than ever in that one character, Matt Saracen.

Eventually though, the tug of FNL called be back, even though I thought we might have seen the last of him. I knew that the rest of the season was probably an emotional rollercoaster for the other characters, and I did want to see more of them. Waiting until I could watch them all at once seemed sensible because I didn't have to feel the weight of Matt's absence week by week.

Imagine how my heart soared, then, when we flashed to his Chicago apartment!! I knew I should be more sympathetic to Julie's position because he did totally abandon her. (A sure sign that I've fallen fully for a character is forgiving them when they do asshole-ish things!) But my heart went straight out to Matt again on the phone to Julie as he struggled to explain himself and reconnect with her. My tears started them and leapt to my eyes again when in 'Thanksgiving' he shyly appearing from behind grandma. It was such a relief to have him back. The season would not have felt complete without him, and while I'm cut up that this may be the end of him in the show, I *am* pleased that Julie and he got to have that convo, and that he reconnected with Landry.

Having had Tim follow Jason to New York and now Landry visit Matt in Chicago, the show has really built an atmosphere for the audience of believing that the characters may move on geographically but they never lose those bonds of friendship they had in Dillon. That helps ease the loss, greatly, though I hope we continue to hear well of Matthew Saracen.

Now on to the rest of the season which continued to surprise me emotionally and make me admire the show's willingness to write grounded character-centred narratives.

Vince and Jess
One of the surprises for this season for me... I liked Vince from the start, but I wasn't sure about Jess's role in the plot and particularly her relationship with Landry. For me, it was problematic for Landry to move on so fast after Tyra, and that blinded me to the fact that this plot was not, ultimately, really about Landry: it was about Vince and Jess, two new characters. And I'm glad it was. In the end I could live with it for Landry as well because he seems to be so habitually hapless in love (one day I want him to go for the less stunning but more *actually in to him* chick). However, I did end up appreciating Jess's continued attraction to Vince. My only reservation remains that I found the tension between Vince and Landry frustrating rather than engaging--I wanted them to get along and it felt like the one element that was a bit unnecessary in making up the obstacles facing the Lions. I was initially cautious about the racial politics as well, since Landry and Jess had so little chemistry and Vince and Jess had so much. I wasn't sure that was a great message to send, but in the end it worked for me because Jess and Vince were better able to understand one another through a shared cultural background than were Landry and Jess. Landry's relationship with Jess wasn't presented in a cliched way as 'impossible', it just lacked spark. So in the end, I was won over by the Vince/Jess 'ship'.

Also, I so badly wanted something good for Vince! I enjoyed his character a lot this season and I feel like the challenges he faced were the toughest of any character FNL has written. I couldn't begin to imagine the courage it took to say no to a gun in his face, and to bear that burden almost entirely alone. He never reached the closeness with Coach that other characters achieved and I am really glad the show textualised the idea that Coach does not know how to coach Vince. He does his best but I do see reservation between them--perhaps on both parts. And that was heartbreaking, because if anyone needs a mentor, it's Vince. Instead he's playing inspiration to his own mother and fighting crippling self-doubt. It was a powerful and tragic story and I think he deserves a good friend at his side in Jess.

Also fighting on an uneven playing field (a theme of the season, overtly), was Tim Riggins. Man. I cannot begin to describe how heartbreaking it is to see Tim end up in prison. I could hate the show for writing that, because I feared when he quit college that they would show this choice to be 'bad'. But it was far more subtle than that. The steps that led him there had little to do with his college decision (man, was I proud of him in that hole for telling Billy to back the f off about it!) and more to do with issues of resources (another theme of this season).

I have to admit, I find it very, very hard not to blame Billy here. I've never liked him and I think he was absolute ass to get his wife knocked up and not even think about health cover until something went wrong. He's older. He should know better. And his emotional reaction to everything is to get angry: I find that very unattractive, particularly when the anger is directed at his little brother, who he is meanwhile massively screwing over.

Yes, Tim did opt in for his own reasons, and yes, his dream to own land was perhaps naive, but I liked it better than Billy's plot because it was driven not by stupidity but by romanticism and a desire to find his centre in life. His dreams were not very grand: owning a block of land, building a house, being there for his family, going to tech college and running a workshop. I think these are meaningful goals and they seemed to mean more, on a deeper level, to Tim than Billy's did to Billy. Tim's crime was rushing the process, not saving money slowly for years... but he did pull out as soon as possible, unlike Billy, who seemed more glamoured by the lure of money.

I noticed there was a bit of a message that Tim did not understand the pressures Billy was under as a husband and father, so I was glad for that reason that in the end it was shown that Tim not only understood but privileged those so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own future. I don't agree that he should have done so (I frankly think Tim would be a better surrogate dad in Billy's absence than Billy could be, but that's just me...), but I understood why Tim felt that was the best decision. He has always wanted to be the caretaker in a relationship, to be able to protect and support others, as shown this season with Becky. It's about the only thing that gives him a feeling of purpose and being worthwhile in life.

I worry that he has internalised those messages about being a failure, a liar and never amounting to anything too much. He remains so silent in the face of them when women (or Billy) scream it at him. I worry that his decision was driven partly by the idea that he wasn't worth 'as much' as Billy, as a person, outside of the familial obligations. Since I personally find Billy a waste of space on this Earth, I'm particularly upset by that. At the same time, I find I can't help but admire the show for writing the consequences of taking the 'easy path' in life when you have no money. I wouldn't have wanted the irrealism of a happy ending to that storyline... it had to catch up with them at some point. I am just praying that Tim stays centred emotionally and comes out determined to chase his dreams legally. I also hope Billy repays the debt for the rest of his goddam life by supporting his brother--ACTUALLY supporting him--in every single thing he does from now on. *angry*

Becky took a long time to grow on me. I decided in the end that she had too much of her mother in her, even though it was realistic that she did. In fact, in Luke's mother and Becky's mother I felt we were getting the season of bad mothers... although I found Luke's mother's interfering and vendetta to be slightly more repulsive than Becky's mother's childish flirtations and petulance in the end. It was a close call though. Becky's mother never grew up. She acts like a child begging for attention. I find it frustrating in Becky, even when it's more age-appropriate, so in her mother it's unbearable. I hope Becky grows beyond her mother's stage of emotional retardation.

The pregnancy plot did make me more sympathetic towards Becky. She lacks the presence of a mature adult in her life, made obvious by her need for Tami's advice in such a time, and how destructive her mother's reaction was. I was glad she had Tim there, though I still felt uncomfortable about her crushing on him.

I have to say at first I was surprised by Tami's hesitant 'I can direct you to literature for that' in the counselling session with Becky. Of course, it served a narrative purpose to show Tami as the victim in the witchhunt against her. But I did feel a little let down by her in that moment. Not that I think she should be advocating abortion--but I did feel like her own personal feelings were leaking through there, with a bit of a hesitance to acknowledge abortion as an equally valid decision. In the second session she recovered herself by thinking about how she would feel if Julie was in that situation, and I believed her when she said she would support whatever her daughter decided.

I think what people say to someone considering an abortion can be really really scarring, and that was shown fairly well in this plot. It felt like watching Upside Down World to me, because in my own culture it would be far more likely that the girl would be pressured into an abortion. Becky's mother came the closest to doing that and it wasn't pretty. So pressure either way is damaging, but it's very hard for anyone to be impartial on such a topic.

Of course, I was on Tami's side completely in the witchhunt, especially as it reached ridiculous levels. I did think she was going to read the apology, as that seemed to fit with this season's theme of showing how people are forced to make unpleasant choices due to the imbalance of resources or odds being stacked against them. But I was also very proud of her for not doing so. And I love that she'll move to East Dillon.

Watching Coach and Tami continues to feel like a masterclass in marriage or sustaining long-term relationships. They are beautiful! Even when they're both fighting crazy odds and having ups and downs.

I realised while watching that I do trust this show, ever since it recovered itself from the wrong turns of Season 2. I trust it to get things right and to write emotionally honest and satisfying material, including farewells to all our favourites. Even when it writes heartbreak (MATT! TIM! *thud*), I find it so different to other shows that jerk us around in order to falsely create drama. I'm so grateful FNL got made.

And wow, Matty Saracen, you totally make my favourite characters of all time list. I want to hang in your apartment, I want to smell that coffee on the stairwell (bless!), I want you to take grandma there one day. I want you to go to music and film festivals and one day get your own exhibition, make new friends (who will find it hilarious that you were once a quarterback) and ... well I can't really imagine you with anyone but Julie but I do want you to find a good girl one day.

I am glad they are letting Julie chase her dreams as well (though also glad that she's not diving off overseas after ultimately shallow Habitat dude!). She does need to find 'her Chicago'. Maybe we'll get to see a little of that next season. :)

Oh and of course I'm glad the Lions kicked the Panthers' asses! Those smug bastards in their SUVs cutting up the Lions' turf was infuriating. I want to see them taken down. They came a long way, and it was cool to see Landry finally get his hero moment on field too. I hope things work out for Luke and I do hope Coach gets over his anger and fights to keep him, but yes, hiding that injury was stupid. It was surreal to be cheering so hard for the guys beating the blue team but those red Lions outfits do feel like they mean something now.
Current Location: sofa of comfiness
Current Mood: sadsad
chasa: fnlltschasarumba on March 7th, 2010 07:19 am (UTC)
I just...you know, Matt is really my heart on FNL. And I hesitate to say that because the show has SO MUCH heart and does such a great job at serving a very large cast of characters (and it's not always perfect, but God, they do it so well overall). It's the one thing this season that felt like it fell short...Matt drives away and then he eventually reappears and we didn't really get the in-between. I'm not complaining, really, because the stuff with his dad's death was so potent and amazing and how could you ask for more? But I want a Matt Saracen Show, I guess :-)

I appreciate FNL really going out on a limb this season and going to uncomfortable places where even the Really Solid People, like Tami and Eric, were totally out of their element(s). It was brave and they didn't provide many easy moments of victory for anyone and in the end, they built a new framework for the show. Like you said, now those Lions uniforms have *meaning*. And it was earned.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on March 7th, 2010 07:54 am (UTC)
Yes, I thought I was prepared for Matt leaving but I wasn't. I really wasn't. It definitely helped to watch the latter half of the season all in one go so that it felt like there was SOME Matt (never enough!), but yeah I could have happily followed Matt wherever he went. I know that wouldn't have been fair--we didn't follow Jason or Smash--but I will always miss him. I'm still grateful for the glorious episode about his father's death that they gave us.

Yes, I definitely admire the show reinventing itself and pushing Tami and Coach out of their element. That made it engaging for me in a new way, and that's not easy to pull off in a fourth season.
Kate: FNL: Mattymskatej on March 7th, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
God I felt *exactly* the same as you about Matt leaving. I haven't cried that much at television since Prison Break killed off Michael. And I too was not prepared for it - this is one instance where perhaps being spoiled might have made it easier. Although, again, like you, when he reappeared towards the end of the season I was so, so happy.

The abortion storyline pleased me, simply because it's American television and they allowed a character to *actually have an abortion*. Which is just. Unheard of.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL Matt Saracenbop_radar on March 7th, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
It was devastating! I was so shocked. I agree--if I'd known he was only in half of this season I think I would have been a little more prepared, but wow. The shock actually made me want to go back and watch the earlier seasons just for him because I hadn't realised how attached I was!

Oh, yes, good point! She had the abortion! Yeah, actually the story makes much more sense when you realise that it's playing to an audience that expects the girl to eventually decide to have the baby... that moment when Becky said 'I can't look after the baby' was really moving because it was her own conclusion.
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K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL Matt Saracenbop_radar on March 8th, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's it... FNL has given me many characters to love, but it's Matt who'll stay under my skin. And I am so psyched for a rewatch now. At least I can do that calmly now, knowing he ends up in a good place!
kassrachel on March 7th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
I absolutely loved this season. I thought they did a gorgeous job of articulating some of the racial and class tensions between the two schools, and I wound up really loving Vince and Jess (and to a lesser extent Becky -- like you, I found her pretty frustrating and found her mother incredibly frustrating!)

I thought they did a nice job of giving Matt a proper send-off -- and yes, I love knowing that the bonds of friendship forged in Dillon will endure even once some people leave.

It was surreal to be cheering so hard for the guys beating the blue team but those red Lions outfits do feel like they mean something now.

Yes. Yes. So much.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL silhouettebop_radar on March 7th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
Yes, Vince and Jess were wonderful--I was surprised how attached I became to them, and I'm glad the show dived a bit further into racial and class issues.

Your icon is so gorgeous! I definitely need a Tami/Coach OTP icon. ;)
tariel22: clark-devoted footballtariel22 on March 7th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC)
From the very first episode, Matt has defined FNL for me. I just fell in love with him, I think, and watching the struggles he went through over the years, his triumphs, his mistakes, and his impossible, devastating challenges, is what gave this show a permanent place in my heart. At the end of last season, I braced myself for his departure, and when he stayed, I rejoiced. But then I felt guilty for doing so, because it was so obvious he needed to escape, and find the life he is meant to live far from Dillon. So I think I've been waiting for him to go all season, although it didn't make the shock of him actually driving out of town any easier to bear. *cries*

I love that this show does what is REAL, even when it breaks my heart, and makes me angry, and makes it hard for me to watch. As soon as Tim agreed to be a part of Billy's chop shop scheme, I just knew he was going to end up sacrificing himself when someone inevitably had to pay the price for that. And it killed me, because Tim is my HERO, but of course one of the reasons for that is precisely because he does things like that, especially for the people he loves. Still, Billy has always been incredibly selfish, and I hate that he let Tim do it. I couldn't agree more that his child would be better off being raised by Tim while Billy went to jail. Grrr.

And what can I say about Eric and Tami? What was so great about this season for me was showing that Eric is not a god, that he can get lost just like the rest of us, and watching him fight his way through that was amazing. And then showing us, again, that Tami rocks SO HARD. I had resigned myself to her reading that apology, and already grieved for what she sacrificed to do so, and then she DIDN'T, and it was incredible! The Taylor family went through so much this season, and so much of it wasn't pretty, and out of that they pulled this unbelievable happy ending, hard won and made of small victories, but glorious in every way. And this couple, they show us what we all should aspire to, in love and marriage and life. I love this show SO MUCH.

I was so afraid I wouldn't want to watch the show anymore after this season, without Matt and Tim, but the new kids snuck up on me, especially Vince, and I find myself all in for the fifth and final season. I am so thankful that this show has found a way to survive. I watch a ton of TV, and I still can't quite believe that something this good even exists, much less fights on through cast changes, budget cuts, and abbreviated seasons to stay on the air, and without losing any of the qualities that make it truly great.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL Matt Saracenbop_radar on March 8th, 2010 10:09 am (UTC)
I felt guilty for doing so, because it was so obvious he needed to escape
I know! I remained in a selfish bubble but I felt that too, and I definitely felt guilty about wanting him to stick around.

couldn't agree more that his child would be better off being raised by Tim while Billy went to jail. Grrr.
I'm glad someone agrees with me on that one! ;) I know Mindy would be devastated and times would be tough at first. But I also know Tim would do 150% for that child, especially as he'd also be doing it for his brother. Whereas I fully expect Billy to feel bad for a bit, then go on a drinking spree, stay out late, leave Mindy at home with a screaming bub, get into trouble again, etc. etc.

Yes, so true that Eric was not a god this season! And I was really pleased to see that. I like characters more when they are real, and I liked seeing him out of his depth. I think I especially liked the section which had him try to do something for the kids down at the oval and be really out of his depth culturally and racially.

The new kids totally snuck up on me too and I'm totally signed up for the last season. And yes, it is seriously this shining beacon of what television should be and so rarely ever is...

I think I won't ever need couples counselling now... if ever I run into trouble I'll just think 'what would Eric and Tami do?' ;)
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K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL Matt Saracenbop_radar on March 8th, 2010 10:16 am (UTC)
Billy is a totally normal human being, yes. I do dislike him but I know that's got to do with my own frustrations with rather-hopeless men, and it's not very compassionate of me. In the end, I'm left feeling that Billy is ordinary but Tim extraordinary, and in the end the extraordinary people in this world get screwed over.

Hee! I'm glad to know you recovered from Tyra so well. I think I *thought* my heart was in Tyra when she left, but apparently not. ;)

Tami's line did feel honest, yes absolutely.

we never got another conversation between Tami and Becky either during or after the witch hunt. Seriously?
Yeah... actually that and the fact Eric never found out it was Luke who was involved and Luke's mum who was pursuing Tami, that we never got fallout about that, were two areas where I felt like the shortened season really showed. I am sure if we'd had more time we would have explored more angles of the story.

Yeah, I feel like Landry is resilient. He has a little sulk but then he hangs with Matt and next week he bounces back chasing after some other hot chick... ;) So I'm ok with Vince getting the girl. Especially because Vince is so completely alone.

I think emotionally I REALLY NEEDED things to come good for Vince at the end of the season. I could take, with resigned sadness, Tim going to jail, but Vince not getting out of the gang quagmire? That I could not have taken!

I swear to god though, if next season does not see some good news on the horizon for Tim (like good behaviour?) I will be very angry. :( When he gave away his '33' keyring I sobbed. I wish he'd kept some talismans for himself--he'll need them.
shadowplays are figments of their own imaginationsciaan on March 10th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
FNL makes me cry basically every episode.

I thought what Tim did at the end was utterly in character - of course he would sacrifice himself for Billy. Tim is so bad at doing things for himself, and so good now at doing things for the people he cares about. It was weird in the beginning of the season watching him flail around with no one to look out for. And I too have been noticing how he doesn't defend himself when people insult him, he just stands there and takes it.

Thinking about him being in jail, and then the blight on his future career and etc options that will be, is just too too tragic. I'm trying not to contemplate it.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on March 14th, 2010 03:34 am (UTC)
I agree: the sacrifice was totally in character for Tim. And yes, it was strange when he had no one to take care of! He is a lost character when he's like that and I had liked that he'd found, in the land, something that was actually for himself. But I too can't bear to think about the realities of him going to jail. I've just shut down about it emotionally!!
Charlotte; Possy Magnet.: TV | FNL | East Dillon Lionselsmoka on March 13th, 2010 12:30 pm (UTC)
I finally watched all the eps myself and could finally read your post here. And it is a beautiful post. I agree with everything. I didn't know if the Lions would win because you never know with this show and I was SO happy when they did.

I am so heart broken about Tim going to jail. And I am so proud of Tami for the way she handled the whole crazy abortion fallout. OMG, Luke's mom makes me so mad. As does Joe McCoy. I hardly ever hate characters as much as I do with FNL!!

Beautiful season.

I am very sad that the next will be the last. But I am confident, that the writers and actors will bring us a very nice end. :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL girlsbop_radar on March 14th, 2010 02:51 am (UTC)
Thank you, it's lovely to hear from you! It was such an emotional end to the season. And yes, I want Joe McCoy and Luke's mom to have ... I don't know... something HORRIBLE done to them! They upset me very much, they're both such poisonous characters. Poor Luke seems really vulnerable to his mother too... he's a good loving kid and you can feel is conflicted feelings about his mother.

I feel in such trusted hands with the FNL writing team! It's a wonderful feeling. I know I will be very sad when it ends but I trust them to also give us some feelings of satisfaction and closure too.