Friday Night Lights, Season 5

Dillon Gets Its Own Julian Assange
Talking television.
Dec. 15 2010 6:15 PM

Friday Night Lights, Season 5


Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor.
Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor 

Two episodes back, David mused that despite Coach's attempts to hold back the violence of football, the violence will out. This episode brought that point home, not just about football but about life as well. We see it for example in Vince's father, Ornette. After that beating he gave last week, something was unleashed in him. And watching him come into his own is a scary thing. He's devious, fearless, and aggressive. He will stop at nothing in his attempts to secure his son's future in football. Last week, FNL producer David Hudgins praised Cress Williams, the actor who plays Ornette, and I agree—he's impressive. He moves with ease from deceptive to vicious to polite, first coldly lying to Eric about their agreement to let all recruiters go through Coach, then telling Eric he won't be one of the bitches he pushes around, then topping it off with, "I'm gonna get me some pie. You want some?" his body now chillingly relaxed.

Ornette gives FNL a new set of father/son dilemmas. His motivations are constantly shifting and it's impossible to know whether he's acting out of fatherly concern or thuggish self-interest. He's like J.D.'s dad with a loaded gun. And the stakes are higher, because Vince, unlike J.D., has kept our affections. Also, as Hudgins hinted last week, Ornette is the perfect pawn for the brutal world of football recruitment that FNL is about to explore. He's a dad who thinks he can play the system, but no doubt the system will ultimately play him. This week we learned he can almost be bought for a pair of sneakers.


On the field the violence also explodes. The Julian Assange of Dillon has dug up the juvie records of various players and posted them online, demoralizing the players just before their big game against the Panthers. Eric gives them a locker room speech saying not to fall for the trick and go out on the field and be blinded with anger. He is appealing to their gentlemanly selves, but the speech only half works. They go on the field no longer blind but still angry. It's their juvie selves playing out there, knocking players nearly unconscious, racking up fouls, gloating in the end zone and then capping it off with a gratuitous 60-plus yard throw from Vince, to the disgust of the assistant coaches and the radio commentators. The Lions have in one game completely wiped out their noble underdog status and are now the town's football thugs. Even Tinker turns into a jerk, rubbing the lopsided victory in the Panthers' faces.

There is one place where being a jerk works beautifully. After getting advice from Billy, Luke tries out some Game tactics on Becky, ignoring her and being as rude as he can muster being. In the end, she comes to him and he confesses all, telling her someone said she would like him better if he blew her off. Becky says she likes it better when he's nice and they finally have their first real kiss, after which Luke laughs and says, "It totally worked." He's right, of course, and that makes for a truly winning and surprising teenage-romance moment.

With all this action (and I haven't even discussed the training session with Luke in Billy's backyard—I'll leave that pleasure to one of you) it's hard to spend a lot of time in Julie's morose head. I get it, she's stuck, depressed; can't move forward, can't move backward. But, boy, is she a pill. The only bright moment was the confrontation between Tami and the jerk in Julie's life. Tami sees the TA and figures it's him—and then hesitates. But she chooses to say nothing. "She's fine," Tami says when he asks how Julie is doing, and then she picks up the folder and leaves, thus delaying the resolution of the Taylor family crisis. I am having trouble guessing how Tami and Eric will fix this one. You guys have any guesses? I'm hoping for sooner rather than later, though, because there is only so much I can take of mute Julie sitting on the couch. Also, is that some new college rule that if you pick up and leave your mom can come fetch your books for you? Don't recall that being an option at my university.

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Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.



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