Whenever people start talking about television and sophomore slumps, Friday Night Lights is inevitably at the top of the list. While Season Two has reached mythic status in the television pantheon for how bad it is, how does it actually hold up fourteen years later? You might be surprised. Joining us from the #ClearEyesFullHearts fam are newbies Graeme and Heather and series veteran Jen. Let’s get to it before NBC gives us some more network notes. –Kim
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- Favorite Episode?
Heather: I liked the premiere “Last Days of Summer” the best. It opens with Grace’s birth and propels us into the season with a ton of energy and tension. Besides, who doesn’t love a new baby?
Sage: In a chaotic season, “There Goes the Neighborhood” feels like old times. Much like “Mud Bowl,” it takes shape around a small disaster, with the tornado damage forcing the Panthers to share space with their opponents and one seriously unpredictable coach. We get my favorite subplot of Season Two, Tim living with the Taylors, which shows how he flourishes when he’s in a stable environment and how quickly he develops attachments to people who show him any kindness. A Tim and Julie friendship has also seemed unlikely up to this point, but Tim instantly gathers her under his wing, hustling her out of the diner when Matt and Carlotta show up, calmly threatening the little piece of shit who brags about getting her drunk enough to hook up with him, and, oh, by the way, SHIELDING HER WITH HIS ENTIRE BODY when the tornado hits the store where they’re shopping. (More on that in Hero Moment, obviously.) There’s some good Landry and Tyra stuff too, with Tyra trying to figure out if there’s more to them than just the traumatic experience they shared and Landry knowing his value. Plus, Coach loses his cool when the Laribee coach actually lays hands on one of his kids, ratcheting up the tension between the teams (and their adults) even more.
I’m picking this episode even though I find that last scene so incredibly difficult to watch. Loving Tim Riggins means being witness to so much unfairness – unfairness met with resignation. You want to yell at Tim to set the record straight with Coach – to wake up Julie and have her dad see why Tim is in the situation he’s in. But he’s not that person. He won’t throw Julie under the bus like she eventually does him. And there’s a part of Tim that accepts Coach’s fury because in his heart, he believed that his stay with the Taylors was just too good and safe and loving and normal to be true. Someone take care of this boy!
Kim: “There Goes The Neighborhood” is the standout episode of the season for me because it’s the one where feels like they’ve gotten their shit together, finally free from the murder plot and kicking off a strong five episode run that ultimately closes out the season. As a Tim Riggins stan, it offers an overwhelming amount of content when he moves in with the Taylors, from Tim bench pressing Baby Gracie to watching Oprah with Shelley (and knowing the guest schedule!) to 5 AM ping-pong with Coach (who is THRILLED to have a boy in the house TBH) to how he becomes Julie’s surrogate big brother. It’s so gratifying to see Tim flourish in the Taylor household (the way he immediately obeys when Tami tells him to put the beer away!) which makes it all the more devastating when Coach misunderstands what’s going on with Julie and immediately kicks him out. Julie does a lot of unforgivable things this season, but the way she lets her father think the worst of Tim Riggins for even ONE SECOND is high up on the list for me, if not at the top. PROTECT TIM RIGGINS AT ALL COST.
Aside from all the Grade-A Riggins content, “There Goes The Neighborhood” feels like a Season One episode in the best way. The rivalry with Laribee and the way the tensions ratchet up when the teams are forced to share space feels like a back to the basics moment. It’s crazy to me how MUCH football feels put on the back burner this season, considering they are defending State Champions and I imagine the pressure to defend the title would be even greater than the previous season. For as much as Friday Night Lights isn’t entirely about football, football is still its foundation and, quite frankly, it’s a relief to get back to it.
Jen: I have to go with “Leave No One Behind.” Even the side plots are great. I could have watched a lot more of Coach Tami Taylor and her star volleyball player, Tyra. It’s the coming together theme of the pressures on both Saracen and Smash that truly makes this episode stand out. I’ll get more into Smash’s storyline later. His hijinks with Riggins start out on a humorous note but the uncomfortable note deepens. Matt Saracen always had to fall apart. But he doesn’t have time to fall apart for long – Grandma Saracen needs him. Zach Gilford goes from the teen brattiness of insisting he doesn’t need a pep talk to a heartbreaking acknowledgement of his loneliness. And you see Coach trying to recalibrate what to say and responding with the simple, “There’s nothing wrong with you.” This scene is etched in my brain and I cry every time. Both here and when he breaks the scholarship news to Smash you can see Coach doesn’t quite know how to comfort his boys in these moments.
Graeme: I’m not going to lie. I really struggled with this question probably more than any other. Season One, it was only hard in that I had to decide “Did I like ‘Mud Bowl’ or ‘State’ more?” (The answer is “Mud Bowl,” obviously). The fact is there isn’t an episode as outstanding as the top 5 of last season. But I’m going with “Leave No One Behind” because the storyline with Smash losing everything was heartbreaking, and then it doubles down on that with Matt’s complete breakdown. It also has a great Coach moment, the wonderful storyline where Tyra finally realizes she loves Landry… but honestly, Gaius Charles is astonishing, going from the speech where he rallies the team to sheer desolation moments after. That’s FNL at its best.
- Least Favorite Episode?
Jen: Watching Tyra and Landry go from teens buying snacks for their sweet movie date to horrific violence will forever rank as one of my least favorite story shifts and for that reason alone, “Last Days of Summer” has to get this spot. It’s an even more violent and terrifying version of the scene with Tyra’s attacker in the first season. Jesse Plemons and Adrianne Palicki act the hell out of that scene and the entire plot that stems from it but it always feels so out of place with the rest of the show. There’s a point later in Season Two where Tyra is talking to Julie about Landry and the school dance and it is so utterly jarring. Do people go through traumatic events and hide it from their friends? Of course. But you’re telling me these events in a small town had such little effect? I get that Landry’s cop dad covered it up and yes it was self defense, but do bodies get pulled from the river all the time in Dillon?
Kim: “Seeing Other People” is a bit of a disaster episode. First of all, there is the problem of Matt Saracen. What were they doing with him this season, you guys? I recognize that Matt is super saintly in Season One, but as our pal KatyBeth said, season two is like we’re watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as far as Matt is concerned. Do you mean to tell me that the same Matt Saracen who could hardly string two words together as far as Julie Taylor was concerned, the King of Consent Matt Saracen is the SAME Matt Saracen who is now juggling two women, dead ass asking one of them if they could be in an open relationship, thanks to some ill-advised advice from Smash. Nope! Does not compute!
Speaking of Smash, the college visit he does feels completely disposable, especially in light of the similar and more impactful storyline he gets in the back half of the season. And Julie and her John Irving recommending English teacher who WAY crosses the line is just…ugh. And don’t even get me started about the police coming to Tyra, A MINOR, at her SCHOOL (WHERE IS ANGELA) asking her if she would be willing to meet with her attacker’s brother. That is 100% not legit and while it’s honorable that Landry goes in her stead it’s also a weird way to continue to dog pile on his sense of guilt by trying to humanize a serial rapist by having us meet his brother. Everything about this episode is a MESS in an already messy season.
Graeme: I remember saying to Kim while we were watching “Seeing Other People”, “This is an episode where everyone is making low blows.” Eric’s jealousy over Glenn is so far from being a good look it’s five time zones away. The skeevy teacher had me learning “No! Just don’t!” in twelve languages (Croatian: “Ne, samo nemoj!”). Everybody is terrible to each other. (Even Tami, who had a great moment ripping the skeevy teacher a new one, was an utter jerk to her sister.) Smash having to flee the scene, so to speak, half-naked and needing Saracen to pick him up was pretty funny, and Tim’s apology tour was lovely…but everything else in this episode was really, really bad.
Sage: On the other end of the spectrum from my last answer, one of the only redeeming plot points of “The Confession” is at the very end, when Tami finds Tim sleeping in his truck in their driveway and Coach silently sets him up in the garage. The rest is a lot of histrionics, starting with Julie’s indefensible behavior around Gracie Belle’s christening and including Landry’s somewhat out-of-character insistence on being punished for killing Tyra’s attacker. I like the come-to-Jesus argument between Buddy and Santiago and, naturally, Tim becoming the gymnastics team’s biggest fan, but it’s all overshadowed by the culmination of the murder storyline. On top of that, Jason’s dating exploits, while being an interesting exploration of the fetishization of disabled people, is a reminder that the writers couldn’t really figure out how to integrate his arc this season. (BTW, if you’d like to hear me talk more about this episode with two native Texans and FNL superfans, check out my guest appearance on the TX Forever podcast!)
- Underrated Episode?
Sage: I’m just gonna say it: murder included, the season premiere is not that bad! “Last Days of Summer” does some important work catching us up on what’s happened over the summer after State and how the euphoria of Dillon’s victory has wilted in the oppressive Texas heat. Some developments that remain unearned are sprung on us, i.e. the long and painful fade out of Matt and Julie, but it’s still exciting to see where these characters are now. In that vein, my thoughts on this episode are totally biased by watching it live. Friday Night Lights was a perpetually on-the-bubble show, so we felt lucky that we were even able to watch Riggins set sail on the S.S. Tatas. Loving a show that’s always in danger will do that to you.
Kim: After the dramatic upheaval of the first four episodes, “Let’s Get It On” feels like an attempt to try and right the ship, even in the midst of the ongoing storm. It’s another spectacular showcase for Jesse Plemons between his rousing “Live together, die alone” speech in the locker room during halftime and then the devastating scene at the after-party where, unbeknownst to him, Tyra breaks up with him on his father’s orders. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, his arc in this episode is Friday Night Lights in a nutshell.
“Let’s Get It On” is also a HORNY episode, with Julie trying to get back into Matt’s good graces post the Swede debacle, Eric trying to get back in Tami’s pants for the first time post-Baby Gracie, and whatever kind of energy is happening between Tim, Jason, and Lyla down in Mexico. Speaking of the Mexico trip, I know a lot of people roll their eyes at it, but the much needed emotional catharsis those three go through on that booze cruise is something else. Tim and Lyla love Jason SO MUCH, okay? And that music director has the NERVE to score Jason jumping off the boat to The Cinematic Orchestra’s “To Build a Home”? It’s just rude.
Jen: There is a moment during the brawl with the Laribee players where Tyra pulls the Carrot Top player by the hair and shoves him into a window. This moment in “There Goes The Neighborhood” should be celebrated more. I never know what is underrated, so let’s just say we should all talk about the fierceness of Tyra more.
Graeme: I agree with everyone about how terrible the murder storyline was. Everything everyone else on this panel is going to say about how it undermined the show is absolutely true. And honestly the only thing that made it work at all was the utter conviction of Jesse Plemons and Adrianne Palicki. But… “The Confession” is a pretty good episode. Again, most of it is down to Jesse Plemons, who treats this like he’s playing in a very good production of The Crucible on Broadway. Landry wants to do the right thing so badly and everyone wants him to not be punished. It’s a ridiculous conflict, but it works somehow. The scene where Tyra convinces him not to be a martyr is surprisingly affecting television… possibly even more so, when you consider how contrived that whole arc was.
- Favorite Character?
Sage: The one upside of the murder plot – and it’s not an insignificant one – is that it’s an incredible showcase for Jesse Plemons. Up until then, Landry had mostly been around to give Matt funny advice and be a contrast to the popular folks of Dillon High. The events of the premiere lead to us learning how Landry ticks, what he clings to, how he behaves when his back is against the wall, what he chooses to protect, and what he just can’t live with. He grows up so much this season, by not just experiencing tragedy but having an active hand in it. Every kid in Dillon is dealing with more than they should be, but Landry (and Tyra, of course) take the cake as far as stolen innocence is concerned. Jesse turns in such an incredible performance, showing us every aspect of Landry grappling with his actions without ever losing sight of the goofy kid who made us laugh in Season One. You can see the career that Jesse currently enjoys taking shape in this storyline.
And his scenes with Adrianne Palicki are especially nuanced. These teenagers should be going on mini golf dates and exploring their mutual crush, not having grief sex because they don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. The way they play off of each other highlights that heartbreaking dual quality of their relationship.
Graeme: As I just said in the previous answer, the very fact that he can make the most ridiculous contrivance ever foisted on a television show seem…okay means that Landry is one of the greatest characters in an ensemble drama ever conceived. (The fact that he can be retooled into a member of the Dillon Panthers and still be an intellectual force – the speech he gives in “Let’s Get It On”! – is further proof). The character is grounded and decent (and this season we realize a lot of that is down to his dad, who is one of the only non-dysfunctional family members in this show: the man was willing to risk his job for his son and prays for God’s forgiveness when he sets his car on fire.) But oh my god, Jesse Plemons is a revelation every second he plays the role. I never really liked him in Breaking Bad or Fargo but here… how did he not even get nominated for an Emmy?
Kim: Listen, my head knows that this season rested on the shoulders of Jesse Plemons’ Landry and that Plemons turned in what was truly a career defining performance at the tender age of nineteen. I know that!! But at the same time, the heart wants what the heart wants and my heart has ALWAYS belonged to Tim Riggins. I’m trash, I’m sorry!!
Except I’m not sorry, because Season Two is truly a breakout season for Taylor Kitsch. It’s not that Taylor wasn’t good in Season One, because he was! It’s just that the character got a little one-note at times, which can be expected in a first season where both writer and actor are still getting to know the role. Taylor truly takes control in Season Two and finds new depths with Tim, peeling so many layers from the fiercely loyal friend to the honorable man to the deeply wounded little boy who just wants and needs a family but doesn’t think he deserves one. It’s such a nuanced performance and to me, after Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins is the defining character of the series. Number Thirty-Three for life!!
Jen: One of the joys of a rewatch is discovering an aspect of a show you didn’t appreciate before. And it’s been a delight for me to fall in love with Brian “Smash” Williams. My memories of him were that he was cocky. Does he have that streak? Sure. But he’s just as multifaceted and precious as any of these boys. Smash knows he is a talented football player and a charismatic guy. He’s got a lot going for him. And throughout this season he’s surrounded by adults telling him what to do about his future. Of course, he wants the fame, money, and girls that these colleges are dangling in front of him. Am I annoyed when he doesn’t listen to his mother about getting an education? Absolutely. And I also think Smash knows that football is his ticket to success and more importantly security for his family. It’s too much for any teenager and watching Gaius Charles portrays this struggle with bravado and pain is a revelation. Just watch the end scene in “Leave No Man Behind” from Smash’s rallying speech to the final shot of him standing in the locker room alone.
Heather: Tami Taylor’s portrayal of new mother reeks of authenticity. She was so together, so confident, in Season One. And now, here comes baby Grace and she is reduced to a pile of rubble, having to put herself back together again in the brand new configuration of an older, working mother.
- Least Favorite Character?
Kim: I’m just saying that if Landry and Tyra had killed The Swede in addition to her trash man rapist, I wouldn’t have been mad at them. And then maybe Matt Saracen wouldn’t have been such an angry boi all season!
Jen: Men who make threats of violence and then pass it off as a joke are trash. When the ferret man busts into Tim’s room with a gun and yells about feeding the ferrets, I knew I was putting him down for least favorite character. I hope those ferrets get revenge.
Sage: I do empathize with Noelle, who has parents even more terrible than she is, but there’s not much to like about her. She latches onto Smash, seeing him as her vehicle to a glamorous life, and then leans on him hard to get what she wants. (i.e. to be an NFL wife.) Brian talks a big game, but he’s easily influenced by anyone who strokes his ego or casts doubt on his future. Her manipulation is so blatant, you almost have to respect it. But playing agent in a meeting between Smash and Coach? Boxing Mama Smash out the conversation about her son’s education? These things are unforgivable. Go away, Noelle.
Heather: Tim Riggins, but more for how the character was written this season than the character himself. His victimization at the hands of others, combined with his unwillingness to defend himself, made me feel hopeless for him as the season wore on. I appreciate that the writers gave him something to fight for with his feelings for Lyla, but chasing after a girl isn’t the same as self-respect. While I did love the three-minute scene when he’s is on the radio, talking about football, while the depths of his competency about the game shines like a beacon through his stringy hair, ultimately his character was poorly served. The gay-baiting, with the hinted at possibility of a threesome with Tim, Jason, and Lyla, and then the frequent enough, casual homophobic remarks the writers put in his mouth, spoken within the context of that ultimate bastion of patriarchal, toxic masculinity- American Football -really left a sour taste in my mouth. Taylor Kitsch is an amazing actor, and the fundamental characteristics of Tim Riggins are great, but WTF with him this season? All I can say is that this guy better find a backbone and a boyfriend sometime in the next three seasons.
Graeme: Okay, I’m just going to put this out here: Jason Street is going to one day vote for Trump. He has all the delusional magic thinking of a QAnon cult member. From thinking that shark stem cells would cure him right up to suddenly deciding he needed to move out of home to pressuring a waitress he had a one-night stand with to have a baby. (And let’s not forget last season when he thought he was god’s gift to Quad Rugby and was going to marry Lyla). Why is Tim friends with him!? What did Lyla see in him!? He’s a selfish jerk who is incapable of ever stopping and thinking about his actions. I liked last season’s arc landing with him discovering his ability to coach, which was abandoned… just because.
- Best Moment on the Football Field?
Graeme: Come on. Given my overall endorsement and adoration of Landry, it’s gonna be the one where Landry wins the game in “Let’s Get it On.” The kid by his own admission hasn’t played a single down of football on the field but Coach knows it’s his moment and calls “Lance” to the field.
Heather: I’m torn between Landry scoring his touchdown and Coach Taylor letting the other team make a touchdown when they were down by over 30 points. It’s a toss-up.
Jen: Four seconds left. The Panthers are down by five. Landry Clarke has never played one real down of football. He’s just given a rousing pep talk to his team. Landry has so much heart. He loves fiercely and talks about what he loves with a passion that can be the best quality of a nerd. And he goes for the football team with the same level of passion. But heart only goes so far when it comes to athletics. Saracen throws the ball to his best friend and it sails past as he’s tackled. Apparently, you can’t end a game on a defensive penalty and so there’s one more play. Smash gets the winning touchdown because this show is realistic about who the star players are. But it’s Landry’s moment to shine because he made the final play possible. It makes me remember why I love team sports.
Sage: Riggins’ relationship with football is so much different than Smash’s. He doesn’t see it as his future or a way out of Dillon. There’s an incredible amount of pressure on Smash’s shoulders when he plays; for Tim, it’s a lifeline in a different way. It’s literally the only stability he has in his life. In Season Two, he loses that lifeline, and takes it upon himself to get it back.
The scene in which Tim decides to assert his squatter’s rights on the field until Coach officially takes him back is so beautifully in character. He doesn’t make excuses for himself. He doesn’t tell Coach that he was busy in Mexico trying to prevent his best friend from a dangerous experimental surgery. He doesn’t talk about his living situation or the chaos in which he grew up. He focuses on the team – calling them by their numbers, making them laugh with typical Tim self-deprecation, showing him that he was paying attention. And they accept him back with warmth and friendship, because anyone who’s actually close to Tim Riggins knows that he is hardly ever operating with an intent to harm.
Kim: I don’t know if it’s the BEST moment, but certainly the most MEMORABLE moment on the football field this season is when Laribee’s Coach Dickens suddenly goes all Cobra Kai “NO MERCY, MERCY IS FOR THE WEAK, SWEEP THE LEG” and literally inserts himself into the game, exploding off of the sidelines and tackling Tim Riggins HIMSELF because his defense just couldn’t get it done. It feels completely in character, like we’ve been building to this moment from the start, given this fucking guy’s previous erratic behavior, especially in regards to Riggins, but it still feels SHOCKING, doesn’t it? Sage and I had both seen the episode before (it was my second time seeing it in less than three months!) and yet we both GASPED and recoiled when it happened. That’s some good shit!
- Best Tami Taylor Queen moment?
Jen: Why weren’t Tami Taylor and Corinna Williams given more to do together? Would they have been too powerful? When Mama Smash is being hassled by the recruiter in the grocery store, Tami swoops in for the assist. When she tells him to step away, you know not to fuck with Tami Taylor.
Kim: May we all have the confidence of a nine-months pregnant Tami Taylor waltzing into the PACKED community pool with no fucks to give, whipping off her cute AF white eyelet cover-up and revealing an equally cute AF olive green halter tankini that showcases her amazing pregnancy boobs, much to the chagrin of her teenage daughter. Julie’s mom has got it going on, y’all.
Honorable mention to how Tami saves Corinna Williams from that aggressive recruiter in the supermarket. It’s a beautiful way to payback Corinna for helping her out with the pregnancy test in Season One, and shows what a lost opportunity it was that the strongest two adult women in Dillon didn’t have more scenes together.
Sage: Coach thinks he’s realllll slick sending Tami off to book club to get wine drunk with the “friends” she barely tolerates. But your first clue that you’ve gotten bad getting-laid advice is that it came from Buddy Garrity. Tami calls Coach’s bluff, however, and comes home good and tipsy. Unfortunately for Eric, the nothings she wants to whisper in his ear are that she knows exactly what he was up to.
“Every single girl at that party had a six-week story…The story of their husbands wanting to have sex before they were ready to have sex after they had the baby. Isn’t that funny?”
And off Queen Tami goes to pump and dump, leaving her loving, scheming husband with a “don’t touch me.”
Heather: There are so, so many Tami Taylor Queen moments. How’s a girl to choose? The one that sticks in my mind the most happens in “Let’s Get It On,” when she goes out for book club, accurately seeing through Coach’s secret sex agenda, all the while fully intending to cockblock him until she is good and ready to get it on.
Graeme: I’m counting on everyone to talk about the scene at the DMV and saving Julie from (checks notes) the Swede, the skeevy teacher and herself, generally. And I loved watching her run circles around Eric when he was trying to get some alone time with her in “Let’s Get It On,” but I just loved watching her take the losers that were the Dillon High School Girls Volleyball Team and make them at least competitive in, what 48 hours? And she models all the behavior that Eric should with the football team: she’s encouraging, gets them to play to their strengths (even if it’s to get Tyra to spike at Tim!) and takes them all home for ice cream when they win. I’d be totally down for a spinoff called Wednesday Afternoon Lights.
- Favorite Coach pep talk?
Heather: I think the “Best Coach Pep Talk” award for this season should go to Smash for his inspiring talk to the team during “Leave No One Behind.” When we first meet Smash, he’s a self-focused, arrogant, high school star athlete. His primary motivation was to strut his stuff as frequently as possible on and off the field. However, by the time we get to “Leave No One Behind,” he’s been force-fed a huge humble pie via a public incident fired and fueled by racism. Rather than collapsing into a pile of pity and blaming, Smash uses the humiliation served up via the court of public opinion to inspire the Panthers to fight on that field, for him and for themselves. After a season and a half, I felt pretty satisfied to see Smash find his “team player” heart.
Sage: Confused and restless, Julie goes to a bar to see the Swede’s band and ends up stranded there because (spoiler alert to anyone who’s never been a teen girl) he doesn’t actually give a shit about her!! She has to call her dad for help, tail between her legs, and Eric proceeds to systematically debunk Julie’s guilt over growing apart from Matt and humiliation over how her evening turned out.
“Listen to me: If you leave Matt, no one is going to love you any less. You realize that, don’t you? You got that? The other guy sounds to me like, you know…he’s some other guy. He’s just some other guy.”
Jen: Is it a pep talk to say you’re disappointed in your daughter? Julie Taylor is hard to watch this season. In part because I know that I made some of the same terrible choices and had some of the same sort of screaming arguments with my parents. It’s real. The fact that she lets her father think so poorly of Tim is her low point. Tim who has nowhere to go. It does give us one of Eric’s strongest parenting moments. He’s honest with her that it is not easy to gain back trust. And he lets her know that she is loved.
Graeme: I’m gonna cheat a little because my favorite Coach moment the whole season was in “Jumping the Gun” when Eric went over to Riggins’ house to apologize for what he did when he threw Tim out of his house. It was a classy apology – if only everyone could be as honest as Eric Taylor in this moment – and Coach allowed himself to see the good person Tim actually is, and said so. I felt proud of Tim when Coach called him honorable.
Kim: One of my favorite things about Eric Taylor is that when he gets something wrong, he always owns up to it, even if it takes a couple of fumbling apologies to get there. (See the barbecue debacle in Season One.) It can’t be easy humbling yourself in front of a seventeen year old, but that’s exactly what Coach does when he shows up on Tim Riggins’ doorstep, immediately apologizing to him once he finds out the truth about what happened with Julie.
Coach Taylor: “Let me talk to you a second. I jumped to conclusions. I’m well aware of what happened the other night. I apologize. I was wrong.“
Tim: “It’s fine, Coach.”
Coach Taylor: “No, it’s not fine. I couldn’t have mishandled it any worse, and I apologize. The last couple weeks I have been giving you hell. And not once have you come to me and complained. And then…then you got it where you protected my daughter, and you’re not letting me think bad of her. And again, you don’t say a word. Not a word. And I’ll tell you something, not as a coach, but as a father…you realize what an honorable thing that is? That is very honorable.”
Tim: “Thank you, sir.“
I think my favorite thing about this moment is the way Tim tries to brush him off by saying it’s fine and Eric looks him in the eye and tells him “No, it’s not fine,” and he tells him he has HONOR. I don’t think anyone has ever said those words to Tim Riggins before and it shows all over his face how much it means to hear those words, especially from his Coach. As does for all of his boys, Tim Riggins has a special place in Eric’s heart that’s his and his alone. I think in that moment Coach sees Tim for who he truly is and he tries to tell him that he should expect better from the people in his life. Because TIM is better. I need to lie down.
- Favorite ship?
Jen: “I love you and I will knock you out and take you back to Dillion if I have to.” I don’t know all that happened on that trip to Mexico but Tim/Lyla/Jason are my OT3.
Sage: Amid a rough season for ships (there are so many unfortunate ones, y’all), Tim and Lyla fall into this really interesting push-and-pull. We learn in the premiere that Lyla’s response to all the upheaval in her life was to throw herself into religion, something that Tim initially mocks her for but comes to respect. And while Lyla sees her faith as a grounding force, Tim decides that his grounding force is (or might be)…her.
He pulls her pigtails, and she calls him on it, but Tim is not easily dissuaded. And on some level, he is right – he does know Lyla better than she knows herself at the moment. She’s on the run from her recent past and is yet to find a happy medium between worshipping how she wants to and also having a life outside of that community. The person she is with Youth Group Chris isn’t entirely her. The Lyla who almost had a threesome with Tim and Jason down in Mexico is also valid, and she’s still in there – something Tim is ready and willing to remind her.
Heather: I like Landry and Tyra. A lot. They see each other’s faults quite clearly, and love each other all the more for them.
Kim: To quote from the 1994 masterpiece Speed, “Relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last.” This is 99.99% true, but how can you not root for Landry Clarke and Tyra Collette to be the exception to the rule? Even before they were brought together by murder, we had a classic opposites attract love story going on with the nerdy boy and the vixen finding common ground and tentative friendship blooming into potential love. It’s definitely some degree of wish-fulfillment but also Landry and Tyra bring out the best in each other. She instills confidence in him, while he boosts her self worth. While the murder understandably ups the ante and the intensity of their relationship (nothing like some thank God we’re alive but I’m scared for you comfort sex!), you can’t help but think these two would have gotten there eventually anyway.
The back and forth of their relationship DOES make me a little nuts, especially the hesitancy to commit on Tyra’s side. (GIRL HE KILLED FOR YOU.) However, my favorite thing about that constant push and pull of the whole will they/won’t they dynamic is that Landry never loses sight of HIS value and isn’t afraid to tell Tyra that if she doesn’t snatch him up, someone else will. He’s made it clear how he feels about her and he won’t wait around for her to make up her mind. No choice but to stan!
Graeme: By every conceivable measure – not the least of which is my own lived experience as a nerdy teen in high school that was often in love with girls totally out of my league – Landry and Tyra are wish fulfilment for any nerdy boy who wished he could date the most beautiful girl in the school. But – and this is the crazy part I don’t entirely understand – they somehow made it seem actually earned. Not only in terms of the ludicrousness of the murder plot, but just in general. I have no idea if this can stay together, but for one shining moment Landry Clarke is my hero. And so is Tyra Collette.
- Best Warm Fuzzy?
Heather: Landry and Tyra holding hands at school after they make up.
Graeme: This follows from my favorite ship. It’s Landry telling Tyra in “There Goes The Neighborhood,” “The thing is that I know that you’re better than this. Better than the girl that has to sit over here alone because her date is too stupid to stay sober for one night. I know that you’re better than that. The thing is that you don’t. I don’t know what I have to do to make you see that. But I can’t just keep waiting around until you finally realize that I can’t.” Landry sees Tyra as she truly is, but he also has the self-respect to know he shouldn’t keep having his feelings hurt by her, either. It’s a beautiful moment.
Kim: Listen, we all know, as evidenced by my pick in this category for Season One, I am a SUCKER for the moments that the boys rally together to help one of their own, whether it’s getting some six packs and talking about their feelings all night or literally teaching each other how to better their game. Santiago really has no business being on the team, because he has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s a big guy and he has the drive and the desire to do well. I can’t help but think that Tim sees a bit of himself in Santiago as he watches him practicing with the tackling dummies. Once Santiago assures Tim he has no interest in Lyla (“She’s my friend, dawg.”), Tim starts teaching him how to properly tackle, how to keep his head up and how to hurt the other team without hurting himself. In that moment, you see why he is Coach Taylor’s pupil. Then, Tim manages to rope Smash and Matt into their little session, and suddenly the sun is setting over Dillon, Texas as these boys play the game they love so much and all is right in the world.
But what really pushes this scene into heart-exploding warm fuzzy territory is Coach stopping and watching them as he makes his way to his car, pride written all over his face. It’s the type of moment that reminds Eric why he’s a coach, and he can’t help but toss them a little bit of advice as he watches them play. He may tell Riggins that he’s still in the doghouse, but I guarantee you that Eric went home and told Tami how proud he was over dinner.
Jen: When Tim Riggins apologizes to the team, it’s a real apology. He had his reasons but ultimately he let the team down by going to Mexico. And all times he’d shown up a practice drunk or hungover for that matter. He’s funny in his apology and it slightly hides the vulnerability it takes to stand on the field and ask for forgiveness.
Sage: Friday Night Lights has this habit of putting unlikely pairs together and showing you why they make sense. Buddy and Santiago are both alone and looking for another shot when they meet each other, and the hesitancy and fragility of their father/son thing really destroys me.
The moment that hits me the hardest occurs after the house party that Buddy allows Santiago to have with his old friends, wanting the kid to feel at home and putting his affection for him over his (totally valid!) concerns about said buddies. When Santiago goes to retrieve Buddy’s watch from Devin, Devin taunts him by saying that Buddy only sees him as a workhorse for the team and doesn’t really care about him. You can see Santiago waver there, wary about being used, but he persists anyway. And when he returns to Buddy’s with a black eye as well as what he left for, Buddy doesn’t even glance at the stolen jewelry. Santiago’s well being is his first priority. It’s an echo of his conversation with Lyla under the bleachers back in Season One.
It’s only a game. It’s just stuff. And Buddy is a better human than we give him credit for.
- Thirstiest Moment?
Sage: Season One: Landry’s plan to woo Tyra with the music of his Christian speed metal garage band is played for laughs.
Season Two: Tyra, the hottest girl in school, wakes up in a Crucifictorious tank top and is also sleeping with their lead singer.
Kim: LISTEN. That Mexico trip is a LOT for our fave should-be polyamorous trio of Jason, Tim, and Lyla. A lesser, more tawdry show would have shown them having a threesome after Lyla shares a dance and a kiss with each of her best boys while the other looks on fondly as sultry music plays in the background. Instead, I’m just thinking about it. Much like Lyla, I gotta go pray.
Jen: I refuse to choose between the moment of Tim Riggins with a baby and THAT Lyla/Tim/Jason scene.
Heather: As per usual, there were no queer women (well…Landry’s two-second flame, Jean, definitely signals queer, but she fades away once Landry and Tyra reunite) in our FNL cast of characters, which means no thirst for me.
Graeme: I think it’s a hoot when everyone else does this and I enjoy reading the responses but … I’m a 51-year-old straight male and I think it looks…skeevy for me to take part in this. But I will definitely love everyone else’s answers.
- Right in the Feels moment?
Jen: I hate when painful things happen because of misunderstandings. So much of Tim Riggins life is painful things happen to him because people misjudge him. When Coach makes an assumption about what is happening between Tim and Julie, I just hate it. I hate it in the way that I just want to stop it from happening. I just want them to play more ping pong. I just want to stop Tim from having that resigned, sad face.
Sage: Most of the characters she interacts with tend to treat Lorraine like she’s oblivious to the subtler strains of what’s going on around her. And perhaps she is, but she also knows her grandson. And she knows when he’s in need of the kind of parenting that she can’t provide. It was already endearing, the way she fawns over Coach Taylor every time she’s in his presence. But in “Leave No One Behind,” amid her usual offer to feed Eric, Lorraine speaks up for Matt. And the simplicity of her plea is heartbreaking: “Sure glad you came by, ’cause I think Matthew needs your help.”
(IMO, Grandma also knew about Matt and Carlotta the whole time, but that’s another story.)
Graeme: I found “Leave No One Behind” really hard to watch because of Matt’s total spiral out of control (I mean, really, Matt? Did that art teacher deserve that?) But then came the moment when Coach shoves a drunk Matt into a shower and all of Saracen’s pain and abandonment trauma – including Coach Taylor’s own abandonment of him – comes flooding out… and like any kid, Matt thinks he’s the problem, screaming, “There’s something wrong with me.” I was a sobbing mess.
Kim: If you aren’t moved by the way Santiago admits that he’s never had a real bed of his own as he looks in awe at the bare bones bedroom Buddy cobbled together for him practically overnight, then you’re made of stone.
Heather: In “Jumping The Gun,” Tami says to Eric, “What I dread now is what in the world we’re gonna do with Gracie Belle while we’re at work?” When Eric replies, “That is not our burden, that is our gift,” the hearts of working mothers round the world just stop beating, slayed.
- Best Hero Moment?
Heather: In “The Confession,” when Landry confesses to murder, I couldn’t help but admire his integrity and commitment to do the right thing. I ask you, has there ever been, will there every be, a purer heart than that of Landry Clarke?
Kim: I don’t know how you can expect me to say anything other than the moment that Big Tim Riggins stares down a motherfucking tornado and then runs back into the grocery store and grabs Julie Taylor’s hand, dragging her into a more interior aisle and shielding her with his whole ass body. A HERO.
Sage: The thing about Tim’s heroics (yes I know I’m talking about him a lot, but it was a STELLAR Tim season) is that he never expects credit for them and he never hesitates. It’s in his nature to make sure that Julie is safe, just as it’s in his nature not to say anything to change the way her parents look at her.
Jen: Look, a man who is aware enough to pay attention to creepy party dynamics are heroes. They shouldn’t be. It should be basic human behavior but that’s the reality. Tim notices that Julie is in a tough spot and acts. He’s a good big brother.
Graeme: I’m not a member of the Church of Tim Riggins that most of my other panelists are (though I think John Carter is an amazing film and Taylor Kitsch is wonderful in it). But Tim protecting Julie from her latest bout of petulant self-destruction at a drunken party, taking her home and then taking it on the chin when the Coach mistakenly thinks he was inappropriate…well, I can understand why so many of my friends go to this church.
- Favorite pop culture reference?
Sage: Some kid on the school paper pitching The Knife’s first show in Texas as a story.
Kim: I am a theatre kid and am therefore helpless to the on the nose Sharks vs. Jets West Side Story comment Landry makes as the Laribee team storms into the cafeteria looking for a rumble.
Jen: Wrath of Khan for a date. 100%
Graeme: It’s not really a pop culture reference per se, but Tami’s sister buying them a Keurig and the obvious product placement involved in selling it to Tami and Eric (and the viewer) reminded me that in the mid-to-late oughts tons of NBC shows were doing this kind of product placement and cross-promotion (Medium did it all the time and it was just as annoying).
- Favorite Friendship?
Kim: I think my favorite thing about Eric Taylor and Buddy Garrity’s friendship is that Eric has absolutely no idea how he wound up being best friends with his most eager and overbearing booster, but he is now and he just leans into it. Whereas any unexpected appearance by Buddy at the Taylor house in season one was met with an eye roll and a hushed conversation between Eric and Tami behind closed doors and usually through clenched teeth, now Tami just welcomes him in, usually with a deadpan comment like, “Buddy’s here. He has a box.” That’s her husband’s best friend, y’all!
Heather: Tyra and Tami. Yes, there’s a mother-daughter thing going on between them, but without the angst and necessary growing-up business that burns between Tami and Julie. Tami and Tyra just get each other and it’s a joy to behold.
Sage: I love Tami and Tyra’s friendship for what it is on its own, and I love it for how her reaction to it illuminates Julie’s character. Tyra needs a Mrs. T in her corner, and it’s nice to see Tami become as involved with one of her students as Eric is with some of his boys. But while her other tantrums just feel like teen posturing, Julie’s sadness about how easily her mother gets along with one of her peers is very real and relatable! At a time when her own relationship with her mother is so fraught and explosive, it really does hurt Julie to feel like maybe Tami would like her more if she were more like Tyra, or just less herself. That’s not true, of course – no parent is as hard on their kids’ friends as they are on them, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier for said kid to deal.
Jen: Friends can get integrated into our families, sometimes in ways we never anticipated. The scenes of Tyra at the Taylors for dinners and doing homework are precious and lived in. Julie doesn’t always deal with the competition for her parents’ attention well but I love the unlikely duo of Julie and Tyra.
Graeme: I haven’t had a chance to talk about how much Lyla Garrity both delights and infuriates me, so let’s talk about her and Tim Riggins. Lyla becoming a born-again Christian this season in some ways limits her interaction with the cast, and yet… it feels accurate (I went to a church like Lyla’s, and I knew guys like Chris in Bible College, and guys like that were making lines like “You are an interesting girl, Lyla Garrity. It’s too bad you’re so hard on the eyes.” back in 1989 I can assure you.) I applaud them for capturing that part of small town culture. Now, the downside of this is it makes Lyla even judgier than she was in season one. The upside is, it gives her even more of a moral center and I love how she interacts with Tim. She wants to help him. She cares for him (and more) but she does not tolerate his bullshit in any way, shape or form. That’s a lot of fun to watch.
- Sum up your feelings about the season in a paragraph or two?
Jen: This is not my favorite season. Without saying too much, there are plotlines here that get dropped when the show comes back after the writers’ strike. The combination of two Latinx characters, Carlotta and Santiago, who never truly get developed is unfortunate. I was honestly glad to see Carlotta go because I did not care about that story. I did get invested in Santiago and somewhat clueless but well-intentioned dad, Buddy Garrity. I have mixed feelings about the Tyra and Landry storyline. I didn’t like the decision to turn them into secret murderers but once the show went there, I wanted there to be repercussions. Instead, it felt at times like they were in their own show. And why were there multiple subplots or jokes about adults with underage kids?
That being said, there is so much to love about this season and a subpar season of FNL is still fabulous television. Matt, Smash, and Tim form a solid trio of Coach Taylor’s sons and I love watching their problems and triumphs.
Kim reminded us repeatedly as we neared the end of this season that it was cut short by the writer’s strike. Therefore, I am content to lay the twitching remains of this shrug-offable season at their feet. I am promised better in the seasons to come and, having drunk the Friday Night Lights kool-aid, I believe.
Graeme: Everyone warned me about this season of Friday Night Lights. And they weren’t wrong: this is a mere shadow of the glories of Season One. And a lot of the problem is out of the control of the producers: from NBC fiat decreeing that a murder shall happen in Dillon to the Writers’ Strike ending everything abruptly. But some of it was in their control. Four episodes are spent getting things “back to start” after moving Coach to TMU in the season one finale. That’s four episodes spent with everyone in suspension, waiting for things to develop while the writers (and, inside the universe, Buddy Garrity) contrive a way for Eric to walk away from his dream job and end up back in Dillon. That’s self-inflicted wound the show doesn’t really recover from.
Worse, it felt like everything the show had built up to at the end of Season One took a giant step back: Matt and Julie break up and Julie becomes more of an infant than her baby sister. Jason gives up coaching to sell cars on Buddy’s lot. Lyla goes from the verge of self-awareness to being even more of a judgmental prig. Smash goes from being a genuine team player to being all about selling himself on the field. About the only character who gets genuine growth this season is Buddy, who finds a way out of the hole he was in by becoming a foster father of sorts. Add in the murder, the addition of Tami’s sister (who added nothing), Carlotta (who added even less), Tim’s bout of homelessness and the trip to Mexico (which as soon as shark stem cells were mentioned I tapped out)…this season was a mess in its construction.
But…there was so much I enjoyed this season. And a lot of it was down to Landry. And I think it was starting to really come together in the last three or four episodes such that, had the writers’ strike not happened, I really think it might have pulled things off. (Gaius Charles was really starting to step up). But honestly, had Jesse Plemons not performed the acting miracle of the past 25 years, this might have been the season that killed this show.
Sage: The real heartbreak of Season Two isn’t the murder plot, it’s the writers’ strike. Friday Night Lights was just getting back to where it needed to be and setting up a handful of storylines that should have played out when production was halted, leaving us all hanging. It’s tough to look at it as a finished product when it’s not that – this wasn’t what anyone on the creative team intended. We should have seen Smash’s last playoff season and Tyra and Landry dating out in the open and Tim getting through to Lyla. There’s a lot more good in what we’ve got than is usually remembered, but I still feel cheated by it and always will!
Kim: Season Two of Friday Night Lights is both an urban legend and a cautionary tale, thanks to NBC’s fundamental misunderstanding of what made Season One so special in the first place. Season Two is fraught with maddening choices from the infamous “Hey why don’t we have Landry and Tyra kill a guy and cover it up?” plot to swaying to the opposite extreme with Matt and Julie’s characterization to significantly slashing the time we spent on the football field. It’s an urban legend I almost wouldn’t believe had I not watched in horror as it all unfolded in real time. But, upon rewatch, I discovered something that no one really acknowledges about season two: for as much as it’s maligned, much like the Dan Harmon-less season four of Community, Season Two of Friday Night Lights is still WATCHABLE. At times it’s even enjoyable!
Is it the same show? No. But it’s still watchable, and that all boils down to how good the cast is. The murder storyline works because Adrianne Palicki and especially Jesse Plemons sell the shit out of it, turning in week after week of moving performances. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are as good as ever, anchoring the show even as the Taylor family deals with some growing pains. Julie Taylor is maddening but the reason she makes us all crazy is BECAUSE Aimee Teegarden is so good at it! Taylor Kitsch truly becomes the Tim Riggins that I know and love in season two. Gaius Charles does his best with limited material, nailing both the cocky senior attitude and his fall from grace. Buddy Garrity becomes a fully rounded character in Season Two, for fuck’s sake! There’s good stuff that happens in this season and it should be mentioned in the same breath as all the shitty story choices.
In fact, the worst thing about Season Two is the way it just ENDS, thanks to NBC not putting the show back into production after the writers’ strike. It’s so upsetting because those last few episodes put down a lot of groundwork for what they clearly had planned for the rest of the season. (I will always mourn the lost story arc for Smash, especially in light of where we pick up for Season Three.) Jason Katims and his team of writers had managed to pull themselves out of the hole NBC dug them into and the show was JUST starting to feel like itself again and then…nothing. It’s terrible to think that we could have easily never heard from Dillon, Texas ever again. The strike killed SO MANY shows and somehow, Friday Night Lights survived, against all odds. For as much as the murder plot is an urban legend, the fact that FNL ran for another three seasons after that is one too. And at the end of the day, as frustrating as Season Two gets, it’s STILL Friday Night Lights. Frankly, I’d watch Season Two over something like Glee any day.
Want to follow our rewatch? Track the hashtag #ClearEyesFullHearts – Season Three kicks off tonight!