"Friday Night Lights" Season Four Review (Thus Far)

11/29/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Todd Larkin

I didn’t get started on “Friday Night Lights” until last year, its third season, and I regret not starting sooner. The show mixes great raw talent with football and as you are starting to figure out, anything to do with football draws me in. “Friday Night Lights” has a strong following and with its hard-hitting finales, the show has been picked up for its second season on DirecTV and for its fourth season on NBC.

Just as the writers have successfully done before, they’ve taken the puzzle of high emotions and plot strands that they so meticulously and perfectly pieced together last season and smashed it--along with our hearts--to bits. They’ve turned our heroes into massive underdogs once again.

(Spoilers ahead: If you don’t have DirectTV and are awaiting the return of “Friday Night Lights” on NBC this spring, I strongly recommend not reading on, as I will be divulging many of the details of the fourth season).

As expected, Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) takes over the East Dillon team, and it’s a mighty huge fall for what is perhaps the best high-school coach in Texas. He has to build the East Dillon team from nothing--a crappy facility, no coaching staff, and none of the returning stars that Dillon High still has, including Joe McCoy’s (D.W. Moffett) son, their starting quarterback, who has suddenly turned into his jerk of a father. Coach Taylor can barely field a team. In fact, half his players walk out on him when Taylor pushes them too hard in practice and what he’s left with could barely be considered a football team. For instance, perpetual bench-warmer, Landry (Jesse Plemons), is a starter this year, which is about all you need to know about the quality of the team.

Just how bad are things? During the first game of the season, after his team plays their guts out and still goes down 45-0 at the half, Coach Taylor walks out, swallows his pride, and forfeits the game to save his team from further injury--both physical and emotional. This from a coach who has lost only four or five games over the last three seasons combined and once held a college-level coaching position.
In fact, by the episode’s conclusion, there’s not a silver lining in sight, although scenes from upcoming weeks suggests that rock-bottom hasn’t been hit yet.

Meanwhile, Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford)--after being accepted to the University of Chicago art school--is being turned away from the community college arts program in Dillon and spending his days delivering pizzas. He’s also caring for his grandmother--who is now mentally unstable--and trying to keep his relationship with Julie intact, though she’s being hit on by Dillon’s quarterback, J.D. McCoy (Jeremy Sumpter), who has given up the naive, innocent pretense and turned into an arrogant jock.

Then there’s Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), the guy you can’t help but root for no matter how much he continues to mess up. Well, he messed up again. No more than a few days into his freshman year at college, he abandons ship and returns to Dillon and immediately shacks up with an older waitress (whose daughter is attending East Dillon). Once again, Riggins has thrown it all away. At some point, we’re going to stop rooting for the guy. (Probably not this season, though.)

Meanwhile, Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) has problems of her own at Dillon High--parents of kids who were redistricted into the poor East Dillon school are up in arms, and she’s still got to contend with the men who pushed her husband out of a job. Suddenly, the Dillon High football team is the enemy, along with a very guilty-looking Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland), who chose Dillon over his friend, Coach Taylor, yet I have a feeling Buddy will change his loyalties.

There is, however, a possible savior for the East Dillon team: A troubled running back with incredible raw talent, but also a police record. He’s the Smash of the future, but he’s going to take a lot of molding.

It’s not too hard to see where the storylines are heading this season, but it hasn’t been in past years, either. It’s the journey that keeps us engaged and the promise that some things may come out the way we hope, but that we’re still guaranteed to have our hearts crushed again. Of course, we’re all being set up for a Brett Favre-like return to Green Bay. At some point this season, Coach Taylor is going to have to return to Dillon High and battle the Panthers, but unlike Favre, Coach Taylor doesn’t have Adrian Peterson to rely on. He has Landry Clarke and a team of misfits and nobodies. At some point in the season, it looks like Goliath is going to gobble up David.

In either respect, after only a couple episodes, I’m once again fully invested. I cannot wait for that grudge match. I can’t wait to see that smirk erased from Joe McCoy’s face.

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