Friday Night Lights Review: Fathers and Sons
Family’s always been an important theme running through each episode of Friday Night Lights, but never has it been more prominent than in this week’s episode, “The Right Hand of the Father”, where several residents of Dillon struggle with the meaning of their role in their respective families.
In the aftermath of last week’s big party that saw one drunk rally girl cross a line and get treated as puppet, literally, parents express outrage after the incident is uploaded to the internet in video form. To keep students from being expelled, Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) has implemented some new rules, including jackets and ties on game day and a little community outreach at the local supermarket, neither of which goes over too well with the East Dillon Lions.
For her part, Tami (Connie Britton) brings in a speaker to teach the young women of the school about the affects and impairments associated with alcohol abuse, which again doesn’t go over too well. In the end, she does manage to reach out to the troubled girl featured in the video in a way that is equal parts tragic and satisfying, proving again just how real the emotions run on this program. Tami also manages to put Jess (Jurnee Smollett) in the position of equipment manager with the team, which doesn’t go over well with her boyfriend/star quarterback Vince (Michael B. Jordan). Basically, a lot of downtrodden people are not really feeling happy with their circumstances this week in East Dillon, Texas.
But the real message of the hour is the role a father plays in his son’s life, brilliantly illustrated this week through the relationships between Vince and Coach Taylor, Buddy (Brad Leland) and his estranged son, and Vince and his real father, who’s fresh out of prison. I’m glad to see Buddy return to the forefront of a storyline, having been sidelined since the transition from West to East Dillon last season.
Buddy’s opened a self-named bar & grill that’s become host to the Lions’ after-game parties. He’s also a lunchtime confidant of Coach Taylor again and in this episode, comes to words on the phone with his ex-wife over his son’s behavior. I’m not sure the last time we saw his son, has to be Season Two at least, but apparently the boy’s fallen into the wrong crowd and Buddy’s ready for him to come home and see what he can do about it.
The big struggle of the week comes for Vince and his mother, who after working so hard for everything they have, which isn’t much, are at odds over Vince’s dad’s return. Vince makes no secret that he doesn’t want him around at all while his mother urges him to give this a chance. Michael B. Jordan flexes some of the dramatic muscle I’ve been wishing he’d get to use on NBC’s other Jason Katims-produced series Parenthood, in one intense scene, nearly coming to blows with the man he hasn’t laid eyes on since childhood.
Jordan’s QB further spirals, reflecting on the pressures that he’s faced over the course of the series, having been pulled in a lot of different directions. He melts down in Coach Taylor’s office and, in one of the moments that first made me love this show so much, Coach Taylor calmly and collectedly pulls him out of it.
Continuing her college adjustment, Julie (Aimee Teegarden) gets a less than satisfactory grade on her first history paper. She goes to see her TA Derek (Gil McKinney) and he challenges her to be more daring in her future works. At a mixer later, the two share a somewhat wine-influenced kiss and end up sleeping together. There’s just one problem, Julie learned earlier that night that Derek’s married, and even discussed he and his wife’s estrangement on a walk before this unsavory events. She sneaks out and when confronted the next day, Derek apologizes for taking advantage of their student/teacher relationship.
What is happening to our little Julie Taylor, Friday Night Lights fans? This is not the girl I remember as Matt Saracen’s eager yet supportive girlfriend. I’m sure this isn’t the last of this pairing for the season, but I’m more eager to see Tami’s and Coach’s reactions when they inevitably learn about this situation.
Season 5, Episode 3: “The Right Hand of the Father” (Original Airdate April 29, 2011)
Friday Night Lights airs Fridays at 8/9c on NBC.
Images courtesy of Justin Stephens and NBC.