Friday Night Lights: The Son

Posted by sara December 3rd, 2009 at 09:00am In Friday Night Lights

Welcome back! When last we left the East Dillon Lions and the people who love and antagonize them, Tami was in hot water with the Dillon boosters and fans, Coach still had his hands full with his fractious players and unsupportive school administrators, Tim Riggins had decided to become a personal shopper for idiotic pageant girls, and Matt Saracen’s father was killed in Iraq. This week: I bet there’ll be crying. Some of it might even come from the people inside the TV.

I guess this is not the right time to mention that I got into Brown.

I guess this is not the right time to mention that I got into Brown.

The episode begins in the middle of another lopsided East Dillon game. The Lions, well, they are having trouble. So Vince takes it upon himself to start calling plays rather than running what Coach has told him to run. Goody-goody Luke argues, but Vince insists that he’s totally ready to run the wildcat offense, despite the fact that you, like, need to practice that. Unfortunately for the whole listening-to-Coach principle inherent in football, Vince’s gamble works and he runs for a touchdown. Which: Yay!

Coach pulls the team over and gives Vince a bit of an ear-scalding, then tells him to go ahead and run the 3-4, which produces another touchdown when Vince passes to Luke. The Lions still lose, 24-14, but there is a decidedly less funereal atmosphere in the locker room afterward. Luke and Vince exchange patented sports movie Looks of Grudging Respect. Landry is all thrilled in the background, because as the placekicker (remember that?) he contributed two of those points. Coach brings everyone down, though, by announcing the news of Henry Saracen’s death in Iraq, and invites the whole team to the wake, which is a little weird. Landry (whom Coach is still, hilariously, calling “Lance”) leads the team in the Lord’s Prayer and it’s just the opening salvo in this episode’s theater of cruelty.

The next day, Coach wakes Vince up to tell him that he’s been named one of the local paper’s players of the week (alongside, we find out later, odious J.D. McCoy), and that he’s invited to a pancake breakfast (in a couple of days, I think. Sunday maybe?) at 1 p.m. to talk to Pop Warner players. Awww! Vince and I immediately wonder why it’s called a breakfast if it’s in the afternoon. But a free meal is probably a good thing, Vince finds out, when he discovers that the electricity and water in his apartment have been shut off, and the milk in the fridge is sour. And worse, his mom is passed out on the porch. Oh, man. It’s a testament to how good these actors are that I want to adopt every single one of these lost boys and just put them in flannel pajamas and feed them peanut-butter sandwiches and big glasses of milk all day.

Alicia Witt and her jailbait daughter have roped Tim Riggins into attending pageant preliminaries, and some girl is playing the glockenspiel. Tim Riggins looks like his eyebrows are about to rocket off the top of his head. There’s some subplot mumbling about how Alicia Witt asked Becky’s dad to be there for the pageant (where Becky will be singing “Popular,” from Wicked, as you probably could have guessed), but he flaked. I see a pattern!

The wake at the Saracen’s house is as ungodly depressing as you might imagine. Buddy Garrity is spouting off something about how Matt’s dad was a patriot and he should be proud of him, while Matt is just sitting, catatonic, kind of staring at a corner of the ceiling. Julie is worried. Outside, an Army rep has come to offer the family his condolences, telling Matt that Henry was a really funny guy who always had his whole unit in stitches. Matt loses some of his grip here, because he never once saw his dad smile and this guy has never met his dad, and who the hell does this guy think he is? Landry basically has to pry Matt off the recruiter/condolence man and herd him inside.

There’s a knock at the door, which Landry totally should have dealt with if he hadn’t been a little shell-shocked too, but Matt gets it. It’s J.D. and Revoltin’ Joe McCoy. J.D. is holding a giant fruit basket or something and Joe starts in on some canned spiel about how they’re on behalf of the boosters…and Matt slams the door in their faces. Oh Matt. I love you so. Tim, Billy, and Landry decide that they’re going to get Matt wasted later, because if there’s one lesson no one on this show has learned, it’s that grief can swim.

Tami and Matt at the funeral home. Jesus Christ, this episode just gets harder and harder. The funeral director recommends a closed casket—oh MAN—and is telling Matt how the Veteran’s Administration will be paying for all the funeral costs so he should totally pick this fancy package. Matt is still sort of numb and glassy, and Tami interrupts and sends Matt out to the car, where Julie and Grandma Saracen are waiting, and then Tami starts to lay into the funeral director. She’s quite clear and cutting: “Does it look like that boy can spend $9,000 to bury his father?” She gets the funeral director to admit that the VA won’t pay for the whole funeral, and takes him back to the beginning so he won’t gouge this family that basically lives on pizza delivery money and Social Security.

Some dude is teaching Vince and his bug-eyed friend how to hotwire cars. Oh great! I’m sure this will not end in Coach making his Disappointed Face or anything. Somewhere else in town, Luke is running along a road threaded between like eight million acres of corn when J.D. and one of his clown car of fools pull up alongside in a Jeep and give Luke shit for being the second-best player on a crappy team, or something along those lines, holding up the paper with the players of the week: J.D. and Vince. For some reason, despite the fact that these guys are hateful and he appears to know it, Luke agrees to go paintballing with them the next day.

I have nothing to add to this.

I have nothing to add to this.

Tami and Julie come home from the funeral home to find Coach watching football with Grace, and telling her what the offense is doing in the most adorable way possible. Tami takes Grace off for a nap and Julie just crumples into her dad, because other people’s parents dying reminds you that your own are mortal as well, and sometimes you just need to lose your shit when you realize that. Coach just hugs her and says he’ll always be there, and did I mention that this episode is making me a little verklempt?

At the pancake breakfast, J.D. is basically being the opposite of Jason Street. He’s arrogant and show-offy and falsely jocular and basically awful. Vince observes as much to Coach, who totally agrees with him. And then the guy from the Gazette hands Vince his plaque and asks him to talk to the anklebiters about football or life or maybe just to be less of a greaseball than Luke. Vince doesn’t know what to say, so he just kind of blurts, “Play hard. Be good. Make money.” The kids go wild.

Panther field. Site of so many glorious season 1 victories, and that fantastic time Tim, Smash, Matt, and Jason all got drunk and slept on the field in a big pile of pretty. Oh man. That episode was great. So the boys are shotgunning beers. Texas forever! And then drunkenness gives Matt the ability to talk about how much he’s dreading giving the eulogy at his father’s service, that he doesn’t know what to say, that Henry resented his mother, drove his wife away, and didn’t want to parent his son, so he reenlisted over and over again as a way to shirk his responsibilities back in Dillon in a way no one could argue with. Coming out of Matt’s mouth it’s both scathing and pitiful. He finishes by saying that even if he could tell his father(’s casket) how he feels tomorrow, he doesn’t even know if he’ll be talking to anyone, or to the right body, since the casket will be closed. And that gives them all a terrible idea.

This is a bad idea.

This is a bad idea.

Matt and the boys break into the funeral home. Which isn’t empty; the funeral director is there, and Matt demands to see his father’s body. Landry, Billy, and Tim have all kind of realized that this is a lousy, heartbreaking idea, and they’re shifting nervously as Matt relentlessly demands to see the body. The funeral director finally acquiesces and opens the casket. The whole episode here, of course, is a showcase for Zach Gilford, but the few seconds when the lid of the casket is open might be the most painful acting I’ve ever seen him do. It looks like the bones of his face are caving in from grief.

Over in Things That Don’t Matter land, Becky came in third in the mall beauty pageant. She tells Tim this as poor, grief-stricken Tim, struggling with feelings of impotence for the first time in his brief and virile life, is drowning his inability to help Matt in a relaxing backyard beer. And then she decides that it might be a good idea to make out with Tim Riggins.

I have to take a moment and say that I always think it’s a good idea to make out with Tim Riggins. But she’s, like, 16. He’s about 27 or 35 at this point. DUDE. Tim, to his credit, has matured slightly since the season 2 premiere, when he was sauntering around in a cowboy hat and aviators, nailing everything with tits and a pulse, and he pushes her away. Because he’s saving himself for me. AND because Lyla’s back for the funeral. Surprise!

Becky stomps off to the local Gas & Go in a snit and tries to buy beer and an armload of candy. As we’ve learned, you can only buy beer in Dillon when you’re under 21 if you’re personally winning football games. The guy behind the counter gives her a pretty good bitch please face, but Luke, shirtless and surly after a bit of a falling-out with his paintball buddies (he’s got a sizeable welt on his rather nice bare torso from where J.D. shot him at close range with a freaking paintball gun. J.D. is such a dick), comes to her rescue with his passable fake ID. And then he gives her a lift home, and, I hope, bangs her six ways to Sunday so she forgets about Tim Riggins. Because Becky + Tim is almost as bad an idea as Landry and Tyra killing that rapist, and because Lyla will cut a bitch.

Back to the Swamps of Sadness. Matt stumbles up to the Taylors’ house, where he was supposed to have dinner. Julie is kind of helplessly trying to fix what’s wrong, which of course she can’t, and Matt, in his grief, is just pushing at his food and finally tells Tami, pitifully, “Mrs. Taylor, I don’t like carrots, and I don’t like when they touch the meat…” and then he loses it and breaks down, crying out that he hated his father. And my heart is breaking for the fictional character. Matt stumbles out of the house and Coach follows him. He offers support merely by offering to walk him home.

At the funeral, Matt delivers the eulogy mostly by pulling out one good memory of his father (which was from when he was 6). After the mourners leave, Julie sits by, trying to hold it together, while Matt physically buries his father, shoveling dirt into the grave.

We haven’t had an episode of FNL this emotionally wrecking since season 1. It featured a really incredible piece of acting from Zach Gilford, but I wish it had come with a Xanax or something, because now I feel drained and broken. I’ve always found it incredible that this show can keep inflicting pain on its characters (and the audience) and we keep coming back for more. So, um, see y’all next week, unless we all decide to take hot baths with a straight razor and a bottle of whiskey.

Photos courtesy of DirecTV’s The 101 Channel.


  • 1. brett  |  December 4th, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    My favorite episode of the season, it should definitely win some awards. I think it really solidified the fact that Matt Saracen is the best character in television right now. He has so much character depth, yet it never is forced, and everything he does seems so natural. Here in this episode we are shown some different sides of him, but they all make sense in context. Brilliant writing, really.

    Also, some good music choices in this one. I thought “Driveway” by Great Northern was the perfect song to use during the funeral processions. FNL the movie did a perfect job with its music, and it’s good to see that the show recognizes the importance of music as a mood-setter, too.

  • 2. Gdh  |  December 10th, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I’m pretty sure that Vince says to the kids just what the car thief tutor guy said to him and his buddy. “Stay calm, be cool, get paid.”

  • 3. sara  |  December 11th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    You’re probably right—that would make more sense.

  • 4. lo  |  January 11th, 2010 at 2:20 am

    because Lyla will cut a bitch. (LOL!)


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