Friday Night Lights, Season 5

Where Does Tim Go From Here?
Talking television.
Jan. 26 2011 1:56 PM

Friday Night Lights, Season 5

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Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins, Adrianne Palicki as Tyra Collette. Click image to expand.
Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins and Adrianne Palicki as Tyra Collette

Well, the action sure sped up this week. This episode was in a hurry to dispense with the playoffs, with snippets from three games, and also with Ornette's downfall. Did you believe in this sacrifice to the TV gods? For me it was way too abrupt. I can imagine an ex-con trying to rep his football star son, falling short, and heading back to drug dealing and wife beating. But not in the space of five minutes. You both said you were tiring of this plot line, and it seemed to me that the writers were tired of it too. They made Ornette into all kinds of bad—he brings home beer, shows up at the BBQ house drunk, tosses leather jackets at Vince and his mother, and finally terrifies them by trying to bust open the door of the apartment when they change the locks. And I left out the part where he hit Regina. Did the show really have to destroy Ornette utterly to send Vince back to Eric? Wouldn't a little moral ambiguity, a fraying around the edges of their relationship rather than a total unraveling, have been more interesting?

I'm much happier with Tim's return to center stage. Surely one of you will make fun of Taylor Kitsch's acting, which has gone a little early-Marlon Brando. I don't care. Tim is in a box: Becky and Luke are smooching in one corner. Buddy is marveling at Smash on TV and telling Tim to change the keg in another. And Billy's punchable, guilty mug is in a third. The one way out is the old trailer, and to me Tim's retreat there struck the right note of bleakness and desperation. I want him to find his way back to his land and the team but I'm not sure how he gets there in only two more hours.

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One of our readers, Mary Allison Wiles, predicted last week that the school budget cuts would cost Eric his job. Excellent work. I didn't see this coming and I find the East Dillon-West Dillon showdown to be manufactured—except that, of course, it's perfect in its own way. Eric has the team going to state and he could still lose in the end. Is this how Tami will get to go to Graemore? I can't quite see it. On the other hand, maybe Eric's dig about how Tami was taking off just when "I need you the most" because "who's gonna cook dinner for me" was the show's sexism alert. That small show of unsupportive behavior will mean Eric must repent in Philadelphia.

Speaking of Eric and sexism, I have to say I loved the bald incredulity in his reaction to Jess' request to shadow him, after she waved around the clip about Natalie Watson (who seems to be made up, though here's a high school football coach named Natalie Randolph and another named Natalie Robinson). Jess is a pest, as you have to be when you're busting through gender barriers. "You'll never be a football coach," Eric blurted. "Because I'm a girl or something?" she asked, deliberately clueless. Then we got Eric's speech about how men play football, men who are fierce and angry—just as you would have scripted it, David.

Hanna, what did you think of Eric's pregame prayer? Why haven't we seen that before, or am I forgetting a similar moment in one of the other seasons? His invocation of family set up the closing scene for me. The whole town comes out to celebrate the Lions' victory, and we see Vince look anxiously for his mother, and find her, and then Eric looks automatically for Tami, who isn't there. Actually, maybe he won't have to go to Graemore: That small moment is enough comeuppance for grumbling that she's not home to make him dinner.

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Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

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