Friday Night Lights, Season 5

FNL Likes Its Women as Loners
Talking television.
Nov. 4 2010 10:33 AM

Friday Night Lights, Season 5

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True, Emily, pigs have been associated with many things in history—greed, prosperity, uncleanliness, intelligence, Texas barbecue—but rarely tender love. Maybe this was a tiny wink that this episode was going to be more in the Porky's school of teenage cinema than the usually chaste Friday Night Lights. This was, after all, a rare FNL episode that featured many staples of raunchy teen flicks: a slutty cheerleader, panties in the locker, a girl fight over a dude in the school bathroom, beer bongs, and a sullen dangerous girl who smokes on school property.

Where you saw efforts at caretaking, Emily, I was more tuned in to a sense of general isolation and failing to fit in, especially among the women. The episode with Jess highlighted how poorly she fits into actual high-school life. Jess is revealed to be at heart a football nerd and also psychically 20 years older than everyone at that school. She read the Vince situation incorrectly and then got played by slutty Maura—who, yes, comes from a different show but is, for me, a welcome dose of teenage Texas bitch. David, do you still think Jess is better suited to Vince and not Landry? She's hot, yes, but like Landry, she lives many cerebral miles away from the actual action at Dillon High.

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Tami, similarly, doesn't know what to do with herself at a party. Remember when she tried to flirt with the head of the school board at breakfast? Similar failure at the school happy hour. When she gets into righteous wonk mode, Tami, like Jess, gets stuck in her head and fails to read the relationships correctly, and winds up with drink on her skirt. FNL has long liked its women as loners—Tyra, Becky, Lyla, and now Tami and Julie are women who don't really have girlfriends, who never talk about frivolous girl stuff like boys and clothes, who are smart, independent, and proud but who seem to exist to create a place for their men to come home to. (How long did it take for the show to find Julie a new love interest?) In this episode we get the loner misfit girls of FNL in all their pain and glory, and also their new queen, the improbably named Epic, a Sheryl Crow rocker type who's really not having any fun.

There is some parallel between the girl misfits and the Lions, who, after their brief moment of glory, are back to being the underdogs. I love the way that storyline played out. Eric responds at first like a rigid parent, focusing only on the teammates' misbehavior and refusing to acknowledge the substance of their complaints. Slowly, though, he comes to acknowledge the underlying injustice. And instead of giving one of his patented talks, he scribbles a single word on the board: STATE.  That's elegant storytelling and takes us right back into their world, where state is what matters. I was so moved by it that I failed to notice what you pointed out, Emily: That Coach just lumped the treatment of Luke into that storyline and thus glossed right over the head-injury question.

Now to my seasonal ranking of favorite subplots:

  1. Luke and Becky. I can't help it. I need someone to take Matty's place in my heart. And even though Becky is no Julie, I will try harder to love her.
  2. Vince and college. Vince is no Smash. He has an Obama, down-to-earth cool about him. But then he's squeezed by his mother, Jess, his own popularity, and the improbability of going to college. Plus, Michael Jordan is such an appealing actor.
  3. Julie and college. The TA? Not exactly scandalous but maybe something there, although I hate when the show leaves Dillon.
  4. Hastings Ruckle. He has that maddening, blank, Tim quality, but maybe his stoner self will stir things up. Also, I like Luke's semi-irrational hatred of him.
  5. Tami and Epic. Too obvious.
  6. What happened to J.D.?  

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.