Monday, September 6, 2010

Friday Night Lights 4.05: "The Son"

“I’m not going anywhere.”

To analogize, as we lawyers tend to do, “The Son” was to “Friday Night Lights” as “The Body” was to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The episode deals with the after math of the death of Matt’s father, and it is raw and emotional. While a very high quality episode overall, the one place it falls short of “The Body” is in a slight lack of focus. “The Body” was all about the death of Buffy’s mother and how that affected Buffy and all her friends. “The Son” tries to deal with a few of the season’s other side plots while still trying to spend adequate time exploring Matt’s grief. I wouldn’t say the episode entirely succeeded, because of the aforementioned lack of focus, but it certainly didn’t completely fail either. This was really a wonderful showcase for Zach Gilford, and it’s a shame he chose to submit himself in the guest actor category for the Emmys. That’s a crowded category where it was easier to ignore this performance.

The episode doesn’t begin with Matt, though. We begin with a Lions game. Luke and Vince decide to ignore Coach and call their own play. Their brash move results in a touchdown, but Coach is still just a bit pissed at the insubordination. Coach gets over it pretty quickly, though, and he congratulates the team for losing by a respectable margin and not getting completely creamed. Through the rest of the episode, we see a bit of Vince and Luke dealing with the aftermath of a (relatively) successful game. Vince promises Coach he’ll go to this pancake breakfast for little kids just starting football, and soon after Coach leaves, he finds his mom passed out on a bench. At the actual pancake breakfast, the idea of being a role model has Vince feeling a bit awkward, especially as he watches JD McCoy, the other high school football player invited, work the crowd like a pro. Also the fact that he was learning how to boost cars the day before doesn’t help, either.

Luke is still trying to find the balance between his old life with JD and the Panthers football guys and his new life as a Lion. He’s walking down the road when JD and his cronies drive up in the Jeep. JD claims that he wants to make amends for the incident that resulted in Luke spending a bit of time in jail, and he invites Luke to go paintballing with the group. This turns out, not surprisingly, to be a really bad idea. Luke, JD, and the other Panthers boys all have pretty volatile tempers, and they’re really not all that ready to forgive the incident that put Luke and Vince in jail. The guys (minus Luke) are paintballing random vehicles as they drive to the actual paintball place, and Luke, who is driving, isn’t too thrilled about that. He ends up kicking the guys out of his truck, and of course the truck gets covered in paint as he drives away.

Much of the rest of the episode is devoted to the death of Matt’s father. Julie and Landry show up at the Saracen house to try and cheer Matt up. They have brought all the necessary ingredients for a bad movie night. Matt goes along with it just to make his friends happy, but it’s not helping him at all. Everything really starts to get to him even more at the wake the next afternoon (at which Becky calls Tim because she’s pissed at her mom…seriously…she then goes on to have what will most likely be a fateful encounter with Luke at a liquor store…oh Becky…you are so naive). Anyway, Matt’s pretty overwhelmed at the wake. He snaps at the soldier whose job it was to deliver the body. The soldier says that he tries to learn about all the fallen soldiers he accompanies, and he hears Matt’s dad was a really funny guy. Matt screams that there’s no way he really could have tried to learn about his dad, because he was most definitely never funny. To make matters worse, JD and his dad then show up at the door offering condolences from the Panther Boosters. Matt slams the door in their faces, which made me quite happy.

Later on, there are arrangements to make for the actual funeral. Luckily for Matt, Tami’s got his back. The sleazy funeral home director tries to sell Matt on a lot more bells and whistles than are really necessary, claiming that the VA will foot a large enough portion of the bill that Matt won’t have to worry about it. He frames it as Matt’s father being honored in the way he deserves. Tami sees right through it and knows that even with the VA subsidy, Matt would never be able to afford the bill. She handles the situation like a pro, suggesting Matt go outside and hang with Julie a bit while she finalizes the deal. Once Matt’s gone, she lets the funeral home director know that she saw right through his game, and they get down to real business. Outside, there’s some awkwardness between Julie and Matt when Julie invites Matt over to dinner as an opportunity to get away from all the funeral craziness for a while. Matt says he’ll try to make it.

At the Taylor house, Coach is watching the news, and there’s a brief story about Smash being a standout player on his college team. I liked that little shoutout. It’s good to know that some departed old favorite characters aren’t forgotten in the universe of the show. When he looks up from the television, Coach can see that Julie is really upset. During the earlier awkwardness with Matt outside the funeral home, Matt inadvertently said that the death of a parent is a normal thing. It happened to him, and it will happen to Julie. Julie breaks down in tears in her dad’s arms, and Coach assures her that he’s not going anywhere.

Matt, Landry, and the Riggins boys are out on the football field, drunkenly trying to forget their troubles with a little football reminiscing. Matt goes on a tirade about how since the soldier that delivered the body didn’t really know his dad, there’s no way he can know that it’s really his dad who is dead. Tim has a really, really bad idea. It comes from a good place, but it’s still a bad idea. The guys take a trip to the funeral home and demand to see the body. The funeral director reluctantly opens the casket, and the guys are horrified. We can’t see what Matt sees, but given that Matt’s father was killed by an IED, it doesn’t take much work to imagine what they probably saw, and it isn’t pretty.

Anyway, Matt shows up for dinner extremely late, and the Taylors are nice about it, giving him a plate of food that they saved. Matt has yet another meltdown at dinner, yelling about how he can’t say what he really wants to say at the eulogy. He wants to say that he hated his father- that he made his life and his family’s life miserable. He can’t say that, and he can’t even say it to his father, because his father doesn’t have a face anymore. Matt rushes out of the Taylor house, leaving Julie in tears. Coach follows Matt out and offers to walk him home. This was a really heartwrenching moment, even though it was comforting that Coach was there for Matt. It reminded me of that iconic night time one-on-one practice session between Coach and Matt back in the Season 1 episode “Eyes Wide Open.”

The episode ends with the actual funeral. It feels like the whole town of Dillon has assembled. Even Lyla Garrity is there, which I find kind of bizarre. Sure it resulted in some hot looks between her and Tim (yeah, I’m a Tim/Lyla shipper…sue me), but it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Lyla is in college out of state, and I can’t really remember her and Matt ever interacting at any point in the series. Why would she travel all the way back to Dillon for his father’s funeral? We hear the minister say the Lord’s Prayer over the grave, and instead of having the emotional reaction I should be, I’m wondering if anyone in this town is capable of any other prayer. When Coach asked Landry to say a prayer for the Saracens after the Lions game at the beginning of the episode, he broke out the Lord’s Prayer, too. And if I know anything about Bible belt style Christians, they can bust out with freestyle prayer like nobody’s business. Heck, I’m a pretty lazy, most definitely not evangelical Christian, and I probably could have come up with an original prayer for the occasion. I guess it just stood out as a brief moment of inauthenticity in a show that’s usually painstakingly authentic. To end on a positive note, the final image was brutally authentic. Matt starts helping to shovel the soil on top of his father’s grave.

No comments:

Post a Comment