I think I can finally feel the beginning of the end in this episode and I think that is because it is all about home. What does it mean? Where is it? Can you leave? Can you come back? Really, this entire series is about these questions but seeing them take such a central place in the episode felt like the herald to whatever conclusion is coming in the next three weeks.
The episode centered around two major plots: Tim Riggins comes home and Eric Taylor thinks about leaving. There is something so dark in Tim’s return. He is clearly disgusted by Billy and openly spiteful toward him it stings even though we all know Billy has some more growing to do. Is this just the natural sourness that is bound to come when one brother does time for another? Does Tim’s moment of brotherly love and nobility seem ridiculous to him now? Billy no longer the object worthy of such self-sacrifice? We’ve talked a lot about Billy’s growth as a character, a husband, a father. I think, in Billy Riggin’s fashion, he’s lived up to his promise to Tim. But as I was watching Tim look shamefacedly at Coach, I couldn’t help but think that Billy doesn’t stand a chance in his brother’s affections. Billy and Mindy are a new kind of replacement for Eric and Tammy, but they are no Eric and Tammy.
They may have to step into those shoes even more if Eric is tempted by those Florida oranges. I did believe the sincerity of his speech, but I am not at all sure that plot is over. Dillon is home. But will Eric realize you can leave home and still belong to it too? I do wonder about Eric as the head coach of a new football program in Florida. If he had stayed at West Dillon I would have said he wouldn’t be able to make the change. But I think part of their last few years is learning to make more changes, even within the sweet confines of home, than they thought possible – and now Tami and Eric are ready for something new. Something more adult. Like a nicer house. A pool. Respect and funding. Didn’t you think Tami’s encounter with the understanding college counselor at the panel also indicate a change in her career prospects?
Tim and Eric aren’t the only ones with home on their minds. Luke is trying to come to peace with a future life in Dillon. Is it crazy that I could actually imagine Becky and Luke married right out of high school trying their hands on the farm? Of course, Tim complicates more than just the Riggins brother’s balance. Becky is a saver. How is she supposed to save both those sweet Dillon boys? Does Luke’s easy manner and tender confidence really stand a chance to Tim’s broody heart-breaking anger?
And thank goodness Vince found a bit more of his anger. I know it doesn’t quite work this way in real life, but I just couldn’t bear to see Vince on the dark side again. It felt like true redemption – he got his soul back – when he promised to hear his QB jersey back. That is the kind of king Eric Taylor makes. Though I still think the next, hardest, lesson Eric may be teaching Vince and others is that he doesn’t have to be physically present for them to succeed. The last lesson Vince has to learn is how to be the wise, noble, honest, fair adult even without a surrogate father figure in the picture.
What about you? Do you think the Taylors are bound for the sunshine state?
I’m feeling homesick already.
I couldn’t resist it this week – I had to watch the previews for next week. So I, like you, am pondering sadly where the Taylors will end up. I’d be devastated for them to leave Dillon. I’d hate to see Vince lose the father figure he so desperately needs. But on the other hand, there’s always going to be another Vince, another kid who needs Coach’s help…and so I also find myself hoping that the Taylors will move on. Perhaps it’s about time they got their own win. Watching Tammy moon over the pool (and then simply, happily follow Eric’s lead on his decision-making process) reminded me how much a wife and mother she is first. Remember in the first season where all she wanted was a fancy house? It feels like there might be fulfillment on an old promise here. So that’s one way I see a potential moment of satisfaction, even as I think Tammy’s vocation extends beyond the domestic sphere. But then there’s the other potential satisfaction on the storyline: yeah, I do think that woman who saw Tammy on the panel is going to make some kind of an offer. I would *love* it if the Taylors were finally making a move for Tammy’s career! I noted that they didn’t tell us where that woman was from…Florida, perhaps? I don’t know, but I’d like to see Tammy recognized for the gifts she brings to her career too. My final prediction: if the Taylors do make a move, perhaps wherever Eric goes, he’ll take Vince with him. The storyline supports it – with all of this year’s recruiting, we’ve got the sense that Vince could stay or move on and that there is potential good resolution in either narrative.
Speaking of Vince, it was fantastic to see him mum stand up to his dad – It’s never crystal clear to me whether his dad is getting so worked up out of a desire to care for his boy, or for his own selfish gain. In fact, I love that ambiguity in the story. Still, either way, Ornette is definitely acting more manager than father – and he doesn’t really know how to do either. So much violence lurks in that storyline – I find myself consistently terrified for the Taylors’ safety. But even more so, I’m struck by how stereotypically an angry, black, male character from the inner-city can come across in a tv show…and I’m struck by how much FNL has earned the right to portray Ornette in this way. There’s a depth of character and a richness to the texture of the story that holds it all together so that it doesn’t feel like an ugly, racist stereotype – perhaps in a way that Glee’s Mercedes character, for example, has never quite managed to pull off. I’m surprised each week by how carefully they hold this balance.
I don’t even know what to do with Tim’s return – I’ve been longing for it, but I found it awkward and painful (in good ways)…in other words, it evoked in me perfectly the emotions of the moment (as FNL tends to do). For all the ways we’ve noted how Billy has grown, it became clear last night how far he has to go – and that was sad to see. But Tim also showed us that even when Coach pours his heart into a kid, there’s no promise of salvation (a warning for Vince). Mindy is the one who shone in this story for me last night – I’ve never seen her so sweet. And did you notice that until you saw the crazy bottom of her dress, she had made herself up to look a whole lot like Tammy?
The Tammy/Coach, Mindy/Billy comparison got me thinking into the Becky/Luke storyline – yes, I could see them happily married, farming away in Dillon…and I wondered if Luke would end up like Coach – not good enough to make it as a player, but perhaps a great eye for training young players. And if Becky longs to save, perhaps she’ll take Tammy’s role in the community. Billy and Mindy tried, but they don’t quite cut it – Luke and Becky might just end up being the less strippery version of Dillon’s new parental figures, given a few years.
With only a few episodes to go, I’m finding myself sad for the ending, but also somehow ready for it. The show has had an amazing run, but this might be the perfect moment to say good-bye.