Will the Dillon Panthers ever get to go to State under happy circumstances? The team heads off to the biggest football game of this year on this week's Friday Night Lights, but much like last time, there are dark clouds hanging over the whole experience. Last time it was Coach's decision to leave for TMU; this time it's JD's anger in the aftermath of his father's outburst. Ready to chat about it? Just
So close — and yet, so far from being state champs. The Panthers' arc in "Underdogs" is pretty similar to what happened in the first season's "State," but with a couple of big changes — most notably, of course, that they lose. Riggins doesn't leave with a win. JD doesn't get his first ring. Like in the FNL movie (and the real-life story it's based on), the team falls just short. And while I certainly would have cried had the Panthers won State, it couldn't compare to the way I reacted to the loss — to the red eyes and sad smiles of the team's friends and family in the locker room, to Tami and Coach's wearied reunion. To Tim walking into the stadium in dead silence, looking up again at the scoreboard that shows the loss, and leaving his cleats on the field.
Unlike in State, there's a very clear reason for the team's turnaround, and that's the quarterback switch. JD gets benched and Matt put back in. Experience matters here — but so, of course, does not being so angry at your coach that you can't see straight. Coach and Tami have to call the cops on Joe McCoy; they obviously don't want to, especially so long after the incident, but they're both getting pressure to follow protocol. And while it's a big shift to have JD go from saying he never wants to see his father again to being furious with Coach for calling the cops, something he says makes it make sense: "Are you going to take him away from me or something?" JD may worry he's not loved unless he's great, but he's still a freshman, and he still needs his dad. Coach's relationship with JD is wrecked; so, presumably, is his relationship with Joe. And Katie and Tami's friendship is over, too; no matter how much Tami tries to explain, Katie wants nothing to do with her.
With the football season ending, the college search is a big part of this episode: Matt wants to apply to art school in Chicago; Grandma can't imagine Matt would go so far away for a pursuit so silly (though asking Julie if Matt ever talked about being an artist makes it seem like she might be coming around). Lyla defiantly tells Buddy that she's now going to move in with Tim and go to San Antonio State. And Tyra! Landry pushes Tyra to write a college essay that's more raw than whatever she was saying about Applebee's, and instead of writing a sob story — no dad, lost virginity at 13, etc. — she's inspired by the one event that made her realize life can suck for everyone: Jason Street getting paralyzed. The scene where Tyra reads her essay over the shots of everyone else getting ready for the game — there are no words, only tears.
Some other thoughts:
- Another moment that made me cry: Tim and Matt playing Frisbee in front of the statehouse. "Last game, Seven."
- Coach still doesn't know Landry's name, but he gives that Lance kid a job on special teams anyway.
- And what a good episode for Landry, overall: He gets the spot on the team, the big tackle in the big game, and the girl!
- Love Lyla's morning in the Riggins house, papering the toilet seat with coffee filters.
- Also love the callback to season one, when Landry, the whole Collette family, and Grandma Saracen end up carpooling to the big game.
- I wish I could have seen the DirecTV cut of "Underdogs" — it was a lot to pack into 43 minutes!
So: No state championship, no happy ending. What will be set up for seasons four and five?
Photos courtesy of NBC