Quick Take: Friday Night Lights, "The Son"
"I've never even seen him smile." - Matt Saracen
Review: Friday Night Lights, "The Son"
(S0405) About 20 minutes into "The Son," I thought I would lead off this piece about how having Matt Saracen's (Zach Gilford) dad die while off in combat in the Middle East was a semi-tired way to make an interesting character who has since graduated from Coach Taylor's (Kyle Chandler) high school football program feel relevant again (see: Jason Street, Brian "Smash" Williams).
I was wrong.
What unfolded was a deeply moving and refreshingly realistic portrayal of how a son, still a kid really, is left to deal with being the "man of the house" in the wake of a tragedy and as someone with deeply mixed feelings about his father's passing. Like with most things on Friday Night Lights, the story had a slow and ambling build, which in of itself remains noteworthy and praiseworthy versus body count-per-minute action or shocking reveal-per-minute reality TV. We see the stages of shock, the attempts to act the role of the mourning son "properly" and politely (when really there is absolutely no such thing), nicely symbolized by Buddy Garrity's (the always great Brad Leland) little speech about how Matt's dad died doing an honorable thing.
It was Landry (Jesse Plemons) and the Riggins boys who, unknowingly, helped to move the grieving process along by pulling Matt out of the "land of deviled eggs and death" and onto the football field for a good old late night beer drinking session. Matt snapped out of his shock and realized that he needed to see his father's body, no matter the consequences. He breaks down finally at the Taylors house, and rawly and honestly admits that he hated the man – a humorless and remote figure who fled off to war because he could not face integrating into his family's life in any real way – and doesn't know if he has the strength to say any kind words about him at his eulogy. "I've never even seen him smile," Matt relates to the honor guard soldier assigned to the wake (who ironically has "heard" that his dad was the life of the party over in the Middle East). After Matt runs out of the Taylor house, an especially nice touch is how Eric Taylor runs after him, but instead of giving the "big speech" for which he's so famous, he simply offers to walk Matt home. Classy and spot on and mature play calling, Coach.
The funeral itself is cathartic for both Matt and the audience. Matt delivers a perfect eulogy in that he is both honest and tells the best anecdote he can recall, about his father's frustrated (and ironically funny) reaction to his mother's (Matt's grandmother) comments about his selection of toilet paper (he fills the shopping cart with every brand he can find on the aisle). And then he transitions into a tribute about his father's service and about though he missed many of his birthdays and the lion's share of his growing up, the very fact of his service allows those birthdays and all the freedoms associated of living in a free society to be possible. It's the kind of scene that could have gone over the edge into sappy very easily, but didn't.
There were a lot of other things going on in "The Son" but they felt pretty peripheral this week so let's handle them in the "thoughts" segment:
Video: Friday Night Lights, "The Son"
An FNL not to be missed, in full from Hulu, while available:
Recap: Friday Night Lights, "The Son"
Matt faces his feelings about his father; Vince is conflicted by the adulation he receives as a football player.
From Around the Web: Friday Night Lights, "The Son"