Welcome back to Dillon, Panther fans. And Lions fans! Because we’re Lions fans now. Okay, to catch up. When last we left the good folks of Dillon, Coach Taylor had lost his job as head coach of the Panthers to his conceited QB’s private coach. He is now the coach at under-funded, athletically gerrymandered East Dillon High. Tami is still the principal at the now-renamed West Dillon High. So: conflict. Matt Saracen has been accepted to art school in Chicago. Lyla has gone to Vanderbilt and Tyra has gone to UT and we will miss their pretty, pretty hair. Tim is…going to college? Kind of? And also: Clear eyes, full hearts.
So when we pick up in season 4, Coach is heading off to survey the situation at East Dillon. The situation is: Shit pie with crap sauce. The field is basically Oklahoma in 1931. The locker room is covered in graffiti and, we assume, the equipment is sub-par. And the Lions? They wear red. Coach’s coloring is just not made for red.
So he sets about assembling a team. Landry, it turns out, has been reassigned to East Dillon, and he haz a sad. I’m not sure why, since his lady and his only friend, other than Kastor, his friend who plays in Crucifictorious who got beat up by Bobby Reyes back in season 1, have graduated. So Landry, as Matt later astutely reasons, will be a Lion, and the Lions are so crap he might be a starting Lion.
Tami is still the principal of West Dillon, and has to deal with the irate parents of her now former students who have been randomly reassigned to East Dillon, which, since we saw how Tami was struggling to buy either toilet paper or chalk for West Dillon last year, we have to assume is even more tragically underfunded and understaffed. I mean, when a Texas high school can’t afford to resod the football field, do you think their history books include the Vietnam War? Me neither. Mid-episode, Julie announces she’s decided to go to East Dillon. Because she is not the same girl who was reading Moby-Dick in the pilot. Baby Grace has hair!
Matt. Oh, Matt. Matt has decided not to go to Chicago for art school in order to stay in Dillon and take care of Grandma Saracen, like the upstanding, self-sacrificing man he is. This means he’s delivering pizzas, including to Dillon’s revolting, spoiled crapbag of a QB, J.D. McCoy, who’s made it his mission to hit on Julie. Which makes Matt hulk out at a Panther party where, sadly, no one gets thrown in the pool. Grandma Saracen, we learn, is deteriorating more and thinks that Matt is still on the team and Coach is still Coach. I kind of think it might not be so bad to live in Grandma’s dreamland. And I can’t explain how Louanne Stephens, who plays Grandma, is just so incredibly heartbreaking every single time she’s on the screen.
J.D. has become a complete fucking asshole, by the way. Remember last year, when he was all drinking milk and being corrupted by Tim and that little redheaded girl? Yeah, now he’s drunk at house parties (ah, sophomores) and hitting on Julie and just generally becoming a walking Axe Body Spray ad. He’s as horrible as his dad is. I kind of think Peter Berg & Co. need to back off on how incredibly awful J.D. is, because even the villains on this show, like Buddy Garrity in season 1, have some complexity, and right now the McCoy men do not. They might as well be wearing black cowboy hats and twirling their mustaches while tying Julie Taylor to railroad tracks.
Tim has gone to college for, like, a day, and decided that he’s just not the collegiate type, as you see above. So he throws all his books out of his truck window on the highway and moves back in with Billy and knocked-up Mindy, who are none too pleased to have drunken layabout Tim back at home. Um, I’m going to have a room free in December. We’ve seen he can handle himself in New York. Tim Riggins, you are more than welcome to move in here. But he doesn’t. Instead, he meets bartender Alicia Witt, and bangs her, as you do, and the producers give us a splendid little split-second shot of Taylor Kitsch and all of his abdominal muscles in his tighty-blackies, and then Tim meets Alicia Witt’s—teenage daughter? Alicia Witt is old enough to be cast as the mother of a teenager? Jesus jellybeans. The teenage daughter bears an unsettling resemblance to Tyra, and Ricca and I think that Riggins is going to go for another mother-daughter matched set this season. Which seems kind of icky for some reason.
So: Coach’s team. Is awful. He has a bunch of kids whose only exposure to football is Madden and who can’t do that running-through-tires thing to save their lives. And he has one juvenile delinquent who, spoiler alert, is going to become Our New Smash. As the cops tell Coach when they bring him, Vince, over for his second chance on the football field, he can run really fast, and he’s gorgeous, so you know he’s not a one-off guest star. (The actor’s name is Michael B. Jordan. I think he’s going places.) After Coach boots the unmotivated, blinged-out, disrespectful half of the squad with one of his Rousing Locker Room Speeches, the East Dillon Lions take the field Friday night…and get the living shit kicked out of them. Like, broken teeth, high ankle sprains, bleeding-from-the-mouth shit kicked out of them. I was getting some unpleasant flashbacks to The Jason Street Incident during the unholy beatdown they were getting from, I think, South King. They get so beat up in the 45-0 first half that Coach forfeits the rest of the game, and I cry.
So that’s where season 4 kicks off. With pain, and separation, and broken dreams. We’re back, kids.