This week, the second-to-last Friday Night Lights episode of the fourth season gave us a birth (Uncle Tim Riggins has a nephew), a death (mourning for Calvin, and the “payback” revenge-killing decision forced upon Vince), and a number of plot developments that signal significant changes for some of the series’ best characters.
This week, Michael B. Jordan really took command of the hour, playing out Vince’s agony over his friend’s death and his divided loyalties to the code of the streets where he lives (pressure to help kill Calvin’s murderer), his team, and his rehabbing mother. Jordan is very subtle. Vince usually maintains a blank mask, as is frequently the case for a young person subjected to the kind of emotional abuse Vince has endured on any number of levels. Yet Jordan allows us to see behind the mask at crucial moments, conveying all the pain, anger, and intelligence that’s knocking around inside Vince. I like the way the writers continue to bring Jess back into Vince’s life during his moments of greatest need without feeling that their shared past has to be spelled out to us. (The only false note I heard this week was when Landry was told about Calvin’s murder and it came as a shock to him: Wouldn’t a killing in Dillon have been major news, news that a smart kid like Landry would at least have read about or seen on TV by then?)
If I continue to dread the mud through which Tami is being dragged in the abortion-protest subplot — really, this woman has gone through enough this season — I suppose that the season-ender next week will provide us with some answer to the question of whether she’ll keep her job as principal or resign before she’s fired. And I have to say, as initially bracing as it was to see Tami in the role of school leader, this character got a lot more interesting story lines when she was a guidance counselor. But can she even return to that position? Whatever happens, Connie Britton remains high on any sane person’s list for an Emmy.
And what of her husband? Eric is looking even more hangdog than usual, what with worry over his wife’s future and this (literal) big mess over the climactic Lions-Panther game. The repair and destruction of the rutted Lions field, as well as the clever prank instigated by Landry to place toothpicks in the Panthers field, made for good, roller-coaster drama. But the best aspects of the football scenes were those shots of Eric as the still, small center of the uproar all around him. You get the feeling that Eric is reaching his breaking point, the way Kyle Chandler is so masterfully playing him. (And kudos to D.W. Moffett for also playing it smirkily cool on the opposite side of the table.)
As for Tim Riggins — hoo boy, what an unlucky lovable lug, eh? Thoroughly enjoyed him murmuring, “Stay angry,” to his adorable newborn nephew (and admired the way the childbirth scenes with Billy were played for laughs without any directorial apology — FNL does comedy when it suits itself). The final scenes, with Tim taking the fall for the Riggins brothers car-stripping crime, looks to me like a way to ease Taylor Kitsch out of the series. It seems almost poetically right: Just when Tim buys a big piece of land where he can roam free, he gets locked away in jail.
What did you think of this week’s episode? And what do you think will happen in next week’s season finale?