Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

With Peter Berg confirming that a Friday Night Lights film is in the works, we think it’s high time that we revisit this series.

We just finished watching all five seasons of Friday Night Lights, which certainly deserved all the praise it got in its five-year run. It is set in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and concerns the struggles and victories of its football team, its football coach, Eric Taylor, his family, and the close-knit circle of the football players. It is heartwarming, engaging and sincere, and we’d recommend it to anyone, football fan or not.

Personally it got me interested in watching football, though don’t ask me to explain the rules to you. I’m actually planning to watch the Super Bowl for the game, and not just the halftime show.

Anyway. FNL makes for excellent television, but it’s not flawless. It has plot holes large enough for Smash Williams to charge through, and the show has the tendency of dropping character arcs and characters just like that.

If you haven’t seen the entire series, stop. SPOILERS!

(Note: Eliza‘s comments are in black, Jaykie‘s in blue.)

  • Julie Taylor. Oh my God, where do I even start. What a waste of a potentially interesting character. She was introduced in Season 1 as a precocious high school student, who somehow turned into a college student making the stupidest decisions. She sleeps with her married T.A., gets humiliated in school, goes home, and has the audacity to act like a thankless git around her parents. And that’s the extent of her college experience. Of all the people the show could have followed to college, it has to be this boring, unsympathetic character. I am annoyed and frustrated every time she appears onscreen. She’s only likeable when she’s with Matt Saracen.

I agree. I may be the minority in this, but when she actually is with Matt, she really is quite endearing. I think it’s primarily because you get to see her more for how she truly is, as opposed to being constantly annoyed by her many, many bad decisions and/or poseur-y tastes.

She’s attracted to hippie/vegan/educated/literary types, perhaps because they symbolize a way out of Dillon, but ends up with Matt Saracen. Matt could have symbolized Dillon, being a Panthers quarterback, but then he turns into an artsy type as well. So good for her, she got herself the “alternative” lifestyle she’s always wanted and found her way out.

What’s really disappointing in my opinion is the fact that during the first season, Julie was portrayed as being smarter-than-average but balanced with a down-to-earth attitude, which is something that pretty much all residents of Dillon need to be. But that was quickly tossed in the second season, and Julie quickly became that annoying hipster friend that we all have.

  • That arc about Matt being passionate about art. That came out of nowhere. There was a brief foreshadowing of him sketching and shit, but his room doesn’t look like the room of an artist. If you’re that passionate you’d sketch all the time, your walls would be covered with sketches and studies. The sketches only appeared after it was announced that Matt’s going to the Art Institute of Chicago, as though the production crew looked at the script and only then realized that they had to re-decorate.

To be fair, they did mention he liked to draw, and the show never portrayed him as being highly scouted. But I’m a bit surprised he didn’t enlist in the military, because there were times when it just seemed the natural progression for him.Speaking of which, I was more blindsided when Luke Cafferty enlisted. I was like, seriously? How did that happen? I get that he wasn’t being scouted by the schools that he’d like, but the show (or rather Tami) gave off the impression that he had decent grades, and that he could get into college if he worked hard enough.

I agree. That really threw me off. Luke deserved a football exit.

  • Matt meets an artist who creates something “ethereal and haunting”, and then the artist disappears. Like he fell off the edge of Dillon.
  • Matt’s grandmother has a very plot-convenient form of Alzheimer’s.

I’m a bit split here, actually.

I like that they used it very minimally, but it wasn’t all that realistic, either. I mean, did you notice she only forgets about her relatives? I don’t recall her once being unable to recognize Julie, Coach Taylor, et. al.

  • Mr. Merriweather! Who hates football and then suddenly became supportive and then disappeared from Dillon (show says he went to Dallas). What was his deal? Why did he feel so terrible about Dillon football? What’s your trauma, Mr. Merriweather? Tell us!
  • So Dev and Julie goes to a gay club and meets one of the Lions coaches there. Is he gay? That storyline was never explored and this upsets me.

Coach Stan, who works at Sears. I’m of the opinion that the story line got cut last minute for whatever reason, though it could be argued that this was an attempt to explain the coach’s quirky behavior. But I’d opine that that isn’t the case.

If he’s really gay, he’d be funny-quirky, not annoying-quirky. Haha. But then they do live in small-town, uber-Christian Dillon. But then they have a lesbian mayor. I’m confused.

  • Lyla Garrity. From rally girl to Christian (what?) to Tim Riggins’ girl (WHAT?). Apparently Dillon summers are the site of major upheavals.

What bugged me about Lyla is that she didn’t come back near the end of season 5. She would have made more sense to me than Tyra, especially since the latter had worked so hard to break out of what she recognized to be a bad relationship for her. I suppose there were just some real life issues that they had to work out.

  • Whatever happened to Santiago?
  • There was this basketball playing hippie in Season 5, but he just stopped being a hippie when he played football.

He was the one character who probably added the least to the story. I mean, even Santiago had his share of interesting episodes, like when Buddy was debating whether or not to leave his possessions around the house. But Hastings was there just so the Lions could get a WR, and that’s about it.

  • Dillon football can fix anything, even the ruined relationship between Buddy Jr. and Buddy Garrity.
  • Landry was able to escape jail after committing murder (well, self-defense) but Tim Riggins gets imprisoned after stripping cars.

Though, to be fair, it probably didn’t hurt that Landry’s dad is a cop.

  • I can’t believe JD McCoy turned into a jerk. He was such a sympathetic character in Season 3.

It was a real 180, this one. All season long it seemed like he wanted his dad off his back anyway, but as soon as the Taylors do what their job requires them to do, he clings on to dear old dad and starts being a major brat.Also, what happened to JD, anyway? He was a freshman in season three, but during the Lions-Panthers game of season 5, the (West) Dillon QB is clearly not JD. I guess it’s safe to assume that the McCoys moved, but it would have been nice to actually see it, even in just one scene. Or, in true FNL fashion, someone could have just talked about it (“Did y’all hear about Joe McCoy packing up and moving to Austin?” or something).

  • That entire redistricting arc (plus the “Dillon will only have one football team from now on” episode) just strikes me as fantastic and implausible.

It could probably happen, but I’d like to think that school boards are just a tad better prepared for such possibilities in real life.

  • Epyck with a non-epic exit.

On second thought, Epyck could easily challenge Hastings for least relevant character.

  • I just want to add that, for all the glaring plot holes one can find throughout the show, I really did enjoy it quite a bit. I found it to be an interesting look at life in a small town, and on some level it made me feel like I was part of the community. In a way, I’m more forgiving of the inconsistencies than I probably would be on any other show, because honestly, living in a tight-knit community is just like that–you’re gone for a few months and the wimpy kid next door is now the starting quarterback, or that the it couple has broken up, or the brothers from across the street had an illegal chop shop, etc.
  • And on the whole, I have to say the writing is actually very good. The show certainly has a good dose of drama and some genuinely funny moments. Plus, it’s a feel good sports story (well, by and large). As a kid who had a steady diet of Disney sports movies (Mighty Ducks, etc.), how could I say no?

That’s it from our end. Anything else you want to add? FNL love also welcome in the comments. Discussion time!

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4 responses to “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”

  1. kate says :

    A CONJUGAL BLOG I LOVE ET

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