Friday Night Lights, "Thanksgiving": big cat clash

Quick Take: Friday Night Lights, "Thanksgiving"
"You look around at each other right now and ask yourselves: what kind of a man am I?" – Coach Taylor

Review: Friday Night Lights, "Thanksgiving"
(S0413) All in all it was a pretty terrific season finale to a pretty terrific season of Friday Night Lights. Granted, there were some rough patches (I'll resist the urge to make an analogy to East Dillon's roughed up pitch here!), but overall the transition to a new chapter in the story this season – to East Dillon, and with many of the established characters of the show now having graduated and moved on – was a fully satisfying and entertaining and moving experience.

Personally, I got a little antsy at times this season when the focus shifted too far away from the football field, so I was delighted that the "big cat clash" between Coach Taylor's East Dillon Lions and the Dillon Panthers took center stage this week and provided what was perhaps the most exciting football sequence in the history of the show. Not only was the action itself well paced and produced, but the emotions surrounding the entire build up to what essentially is the Super Bowl for this Texas town made for a thrilling experience. Additionally, it's much to the show's credit that I did not know who would win until Landry's (Jesse Plemons) unlikely 46-yard field goal in the closing seconds sailed through the uprights. It was an odd feeling to have, but I really felt a similar emotion to when a favorite "real" team of mine has won a big game. And on a deliciously vindictive level, it was fun to see JD McCoy (Jeremy Sumpter) and his dad Joe (D.W. Moffett) get taken down a few notches for once.

Meanwhile, there were a bunch of other storylines that needed attention, and the episode did a masterful job of juggling them all heading into the hiatus until the fifth and reportedly final season of the show. While Matt Saracen's (Zach Gilford) return to Dillon was interesting, Tim Riggins' (Taylor Kitsch) eventual decision to take all the heat from the Riggins Rigs chop shop bust (with a likelihood of heading to prison for at least a year) held the most emotional weight. We spent a lot of time with Tim this season, and brother Billy (Derek Phillips) and his new wife and baby as well. When Becky (Madison Burge) unloads on Tim, telling him, "My mom was right. You're just like every other guy and I gave you too much credit. My mistake," it feels like a well earned gut punch. It turns out that Tim, while wearing a world weary face for a young man, is still rather naive when it comes to the ways of the real world. He knows that he can't hold onto his high school football glory days forever, but bought into a Texas Forever fantasy about chopping stolen cars and cutting corners in order to get to the other side of the rainbow.

What's interesting is that Vince Howard (Michael B. Jordan) has gotten away with his illegal activities, at least thus far. One could read that the moral implication that the show is trying to impart is that it's okay to break the law and help stomp on some dudes who owe your shady friends money if it's all for the cause of getting your mom into rehab (and as long as you're an Upstanding Citizen otherwise). I wouldn't go that far, and would be rather surprised if Vince doesn't feel some fallout of this double life he has been leading next season (particularly from the one former "friend" who has vowed revenge for Vince's last second bailing on an attempt at a reprisal murder.

As I mentioned, Matt's return was interesting, but I sense that this will be his last appearance on the show. Julie (Aimee Teegarden) was able to finally get some closure on her relationship with him ("You'll be there, and I'll never follow my dreams," she says with regard to her decision not to visit him in Chicago), and there was also some great comedy and nice moments in his reunion with best buddy Landry.

Where do things go from here? Very hard to say. With Landry and Julie graduating from high school and Tim likely heading to prison for a spell, we are left with the smallest crop of well known and loved characters yet with connections to Dillon high school, football, and Texas small town life yet. Can the new season build around Vince, Tinker (Lamarcus Tinker), and Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria) trying to get East Dillon into the playoffs? I suppose Becky could be in the mix, though it seems highly unlikely that she'll have any kind of future with Luke (and who could blame her, with that mother of his), and Billy Riggins might stay in the story as the connection to small town working life and to keep Tim's story in the slammer alive.

Other thoughts on "Thanksgiving":

  • "Promise me that you'll give me a second chance to earn back your trust." – Tim to Becky
  • "You really hate Crucifictorious?" – Landry  "I have feelings for Vince… I'm sorry." – Jess (Jumee Smollett). Poor Landry!
  • It's nice to imagine a world where high school girls (that being Julie) pick up the grandmother of hated ex-boyfriends for Thanksgiving dinner, isn't it?
  • You can buy the Crucifictorious t-shirt  – pretty rad!
  • "I had to get out of here. If I'd tried to say goodbye to you, I never would have left." – Matt
  • Tami Taylor's (Connie Britton) eventual non-apology over advising Becky about her options in dealing with pregnancy did not have quite the dramatic punch as other storylines, and in fact in retrospect her entire season arc seems like a maneuver to get her over to East Dillon to work with husband Eric.

    Video: Friday Night Lights, "Thanksgiving"
    Check out the Season Four finale of Friday Night Lights in full while available from Hulu:

    Recap: Friday Night Lights, "Thanksgiving"
    Matt comes back to Dillon just in time for the big game, Tami agonizes over her public apology, and Tim makes a life-altering decision.

    From Around the Web: Friday Night Lights, "Thanksgiving"

  • TV Fanatic: For viewers that watched a self-centered Riggins bed his (paralyzed) best friend's girl early in season one, it's a satisfying arc to watch him end his regular appearances on the show with a truly selfless action. It does make me wonder if Billy and Becky will be around next year, however. These two have very loose connections with any main character aside from #33.
  • TV Squad: That someone like Tim Riggins -- someone who has only a high school education, was raised in a home without parents, has no real ambition, uses alcohol and is involved in crime -- should end up in jail a few years after graduating high school is not surprising. It is so common as to be a cliche. What 'Friday Night Lights' offered us was the chance to understand why someone like that would also have a loving -- if dysfunctional -- family that was devoted to him. Why a beautiful, bright girl might be waiting for a guy like that to get out so they could get married. Why no matter what kind of trouble a guy like that gets up to, there is someone who will defend him, bail him out, offer him a place to sleep, a job, a second chance.
  • Slate: For my part, I was totally swept away by the power of Coach, which has been doled out in precious little spoonfuls throughout this season. After several episodes of deprivation, we got Coach on an overdose of motivational tapes.

    By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

    About the author

    Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at] 

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