“Are you going to let them take that dream away from us? Are you going to let them take that away?” — Coach Taylor to the East Dillon Lions, as they move one step closer to State.
After a season of so many dead ends, tonight—at long last on Friday Night Lights—we’re seeing the wide open road unfolding in front of our tenacious East Dillon Lions. And what a joy it is. Thank you, writers, for finally, finally allowing our Dillon residents to have a little hope for what comes next.
I should start by saying, however, not everyone is hopeful right about now. Vince’s dad—the vitriolic thug and bully that he is—definitely isn’t hopeful. He’s drunk and high and truly spiraling off the deep end, wreaking havoc for Vince and his mom and trying to break down their door once they’ve changed the locks. While it seems like, by episode’s end, they may be clear of him, I worry. I worry for his mother’s safety, and I hope that I’m wrong with this concern.
Also, it should be noted that Tim is the opposite of hopeful as well, and I’m confident that I can speak on every longtime viewer’s behalf in saying that Tim’s struggle to find himself after his stint in jail is heartbreaking—truly split-yourself-in-two devastating. Tim has returned from prison as a different man, and rightfully so. Sure, before he was a little pissed off at the world, but now, he’s ragingly angry—angry at Billy for ruining his life, angry at football for providing what has turned out to be false hope, just angry at the world. Resentful in a way that is so embedded, I worry that he may not pull himself up. He refuses to forgive Billy (punching him in the Landing Strip parking lot), he refuses to attend the Lion’s playoff games, he refuses to see happiness anywhere.
Which is truly a bummer because, at long last, there is indeed happiness to be found. Tami is finding happiness in a recruitment package from a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. They fly her there on a Friday, which forces her to miss the game, and she and Coach have this wonderfully realistic marital argument in the car, in which he can’t believe that she’s truly pursuing this—and leaving him to fend for himself for dinner (ha!), but really, potentially asking for something much bigger in their relationship—while she gently points out that he’s been pursuing opportunities like this for the duration of their marriage. I loved that. So on-point and something that so many real life couples struggle with. In Philly, Tami is such a force to be reckoned with that she’s offered not the associate dean position, which is what she interviewed for, but the role of dean of admissions. It’s pretty fortuitous timing because while all of this is happening, Coach Taylor learns that due to budget cuts, he may not have a job at East Dillon anyway.
But there’s no time to dwell on that. Because there’s more happiness to be found, mostly on the football field. Lion pride is seen everywhere: from when the players show up on Coach’s lawn in the middle of their workout to prove their dedication, to Jess’s pursuit of being one of the first female high school football coaches in the state. I adored this plotline: how she asks if she can shadow Coach, and how he so begrudgingly agrees (so in character), how he knows that everyone, no matter how long the odds (in her case, 1 in 14,000), deserves a chance to attain his or her dream.
It doesn’t hurt that the Lions are annihilating the competition in the playoffs—we actually see a series of games this week, which is both fantastic (I love the football sequences) and crappy (they all felt a little rushed because of the shortened season), but the end result is that, despite the last-second nail-biter of the semi-finals, the Lions are going to State!
The episode ends with a fabulous scene and montage of the Lions returning home from their away game and driving up to the field to their awaiting friends and family. It’s inspirational, it’s heart-warming, it’s enough to make you literally stand up and root for these kids who have finally caught a break. As Vince scans the crowd for his mother—who opted not to attend the game because she recognized that she needed to attend an AA meeting or else risk a relapse, we collectively hold our breath. Please don’t let him be let down. Please finally let this kid taste a moment of glory that he’s worked so hard for. And then, there she is. They see each other, run toward each other and soak up the golden moment of the Lions’ achievement. It’s a perfect moment for this perfect show.
Up next: State. Go Lions. We’ll be cheering for you all the way.