Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday Night Lights: The Reason I Have Stock in Kleenex

You know what I find befuddling, and also totally wrong? The way we cover Friday Night Lights here at CiG. Caroline and I, in particular, love this show so much that we can rarely find coherent phrases to describe how amazing it is - and it affects us more emotionally than practically any other show that we watch - yet we consistently neglect to sing its praises here on the blog.

The third season recently ended (for those of us not lucky enough to have DirecTV), and I've been thinking about it a lot. The remaining Panthers left over from Season One have now graduated and are off to college. The same goes for Lyla and Tyra, the last of the original Panther girls, and Julie is being left behind. To top it all off, as you can see in the photo, Coach and Mrs. Coach are faced with the ultimate shift in their livelihood: coaching the championship Dillon Panthers is out; figuring out how to make winners of the rag-tag East Dillon Giraffes (okay, fine, Lions) is our newest hurdle to overcome. But, seriously? Coach without the Panthers? FNL without the Panthers? What is happening, here?

As my mind ruminates on how it's all going to work, I find myself more and more in love with the wonder that is this show. I always seem to say that I can't imagine loving it more than I already do, but then an episode like "Tomorrow Blues" comes along and I'm knocked on my ass yet again. I cried practically the entire episode, you guys. No, really, I did. Lyla struggling with her inability to fulfill her Vanderbilt dream, all because her father is a selfish ass, made me ache for her - and I don't even particularly like Lyla all that much, but I really felt empathy for her there. And when Coach and Mrs. Coach took Julie and Gracie Belle (Gracie Belle!) out into the driveway to surprise Jules with her new car?

Y'all, there is perhaps nothing I love more on this show than heart-to-heart moments between Tami and Julie Taylor, and when Julie broke down in the car admitting to her mom how alone she felt... I cried right along with her. Aimee Teegarden is becoming a lovely young actress, and her chemistry with Connie Britton is more than believable as mother/daughter. Julie is rightfully terrified of what her life will mean next year: all of her friends are older than her, and they all just graduated. Her boyfriend is older than her, and he's going to art school in Chicago. She has nothing left, and I remember feeling the same ache when my older friends graduated and left to fulfill their college dreams, leaving me alone and uncertain back in high school. I love the idea of exploring Jules as she finally comes into her own next year, with or without Matt by her side.

I loved Tim and Billy dreaming big about Riggins' Rigs and all that goes with it. I loved Billy confiding in Tim about Mindy being pregnant and all that it means for their future. I love the honest ways in which men express their emotions and fears on this show - there's a baby on the way now, and that changes everything for Billy. Life holds more weight and purpose now, and he can't afford to make the wrong choices. Really, I love watching the Riggins brothers transform into mature men. So awesome.

I loved Landry convincing Tyra to fight for what she wants from UT, and driving her all the way to Austin just to personally ask for a better shot at getting in. Honestly, I think I love Tyra Collette most of all. There is not a single character on this show that I hate (Okay, JD McCoy's dad, but that goes without saying.) and I really want the best for all of them, but I feel a strange connection to Tyra and it causes me to really root for her. I wanted so badly for Tyra to get into UT after how much she's grown, changed and worked her ass off since early Season One. Watching her go through this internal battle over whether or not she's even good enough... it killed me, and it made the follow-through even better.

Speaking of the follow-through, do you know what I loved most of all about "Tomorrow Blues?" It shouldn't come as a shock, really.

The 'shipping. The relationships on this show are just outstanding, and they had me bawling my eyes out more than anything else in the entire episode.

It all started with Tyra/Landry. These two are my OTP, you guys. I mean, yes, Coach/Mrs. Coach are the ultimate OTP but really they're more like the guarantee couple. Tyra/Landry have been pulling at my heart strings for a long time now, and I am desperately smitten. When he dropped her off after returning from Austin (and after giving her an awesome pep-talk on the side of the road), Tyra entered her house to find that a letter from UT had arrived in the mail. She immediately ran back outside to flag down Landry in his car before he drove away, and they met at the fence in the yard so that they could open it together. But do you know what the best part was? Tyra stared into Landry's eyes, mixed so crazily with both hope and fear, and asked: "You'll love me no matter what happens?" To which Landry instantly replied that, yes, he most definitely would. As far as I can recall, that was the first time the "L" word was used in canon by those two, and it got my eyes all teary with glee.

But then... Oh, but then she opened the letter. And the smile on her face was enough to start my waterworks. I was so, so happy for her, and I couldn't even contain myself as I squealed with delight. TYRA IS GOING TO UT, EVERYONE! TYRA COLLETTE IS GOING TO BE A LONGHORN! CAN YOU BELIEVE? Ack, I'm still just overwhelmed with happy feelings for the girl.

Beyond Tyra/Landry, what's surprised me about this past season of FNL was how I kind of fell in love with Tim/Lyla. I never expected it. I never had anything against the pairing, really, but it had never done anything for me in the past. This season, however, I really started to love the way Tim became a more respectable and honest man because of Lyla being in his life. He's still a screwball, but you can tell that he really cares about her and wants what's best for her. That's why it both broke my heart and made me cry (again) tears of joy when Lyla admitted to him that she almost went to Vanderbilt, and Tim selflessly told her she should do it. San Antonio State is not the place for Lyla Garrity, and Tim Riggins knows just how top-of-the-pedestal Lyla Garrity really is -- he knows its a miracle she's even with a guy like him, and he would never allow her to pass up an opportunity like Vanderbilt just to stay close to him, no matter how hard it may be to say goodbye. I really gained a lot of respect and love for Tim Riggins in that moment, but then he had to ruin it a little by running outside to tell Billy he was giving up on his own college career because he didn't have Lyla to go with him anymore.

Enter the awesomesauce of Big Brother Riggins. Seriously, there were just so many moments in this finale that changed the way I felt about a lot of the characters. I never cared too much about Billy before, but when he pulled Tim aside and gave him that little lecture about opportunity, the future, and the children that will someday depend on them all? Yeah, that was for the win, Billy Riggins. And now Timmy is going to go to college after all! Can I get an amen? Woot!

But I would be misguided and a total failure at discussing the wonder that is 'shipping on FNL if I didn't talk about the constant favorite: Matt/Julie. Who didn't simply fall over and die when Julie tried to break up with him just to protect herself from getting hurt, only to have Matt refuse to let it happen? Too unbelievably precious. Those two young ones are so in love, and it's beyond adorable. She's terrified of losing him to the big Chicago city and all the culture (and women) that it has to offer him, but Matt doesn't care about any of that - he only has eyes for little Julie Taylor.

So Matt sits there at the wedding reception, adorable girlfriend on his lap, watching families dance together. And he thinks about Grandma Saracen, all alone in the old folks' home. And, much to my dismay, he runs off to rescue her, telling her that he's not going to go to Chicago - he's going to stay in Dillon and continue taking care of her, because she's the only person in his life that's never given up on him. Which is really sweet, yes, but Matt seriously needs to get on with his life.

The only thing I sort of like about this turn of events is that it means Matt and Julie will have one more year together in Dillon until Julie graduates, too, and then they can both go off to college together. Honestly, hopefully (and I swear I don't mean this as cruelly as it probably sounds), Grandma Saracen will probably end up dying before the end of next season. This is really the only way I can see any new forward motion happening, because if she's gone then Matt will finally be able to let go of his precious obligation to her - he can finally chase his own dreams without feeling guilty about how it inconveniences poor little old Grandma.

I'm sorry, you guys, but Grandma Saracen has quickly gone from awesome to annoying in my eyes this year. I still can't believe she was so awful to Matt about wanting to go to Chicago in the first place. Way to be supportive, Grams.

So anyway, yes. I'm not entirely sure what next season holds for us. Matt and Julie will stay together, but Tyra/Landry/Tim/Lyla are all off to college. We didn't follow Smash to college, so do you really think we're going to keep up with what the Fab 4 are doing in their differing college towns? I honestly don't know, but it kind of makes me sad to think we may not get to follow their character/relationship development anymore.

Oh well. I'll probably be too preoccupied with the plight of the Giraffes and how it's affecting Coach & Mrs. Coach back at home. I really think this could be an awesome twist in the story for our show, and I can't wait to see how it all plays out. Sadly for me, I don't have DirecTV and therefore get to wait until January to find out. Again.

If this DirecTV contract wasn't solely responsible for FNL's constant renewal, I would have to be bitter and hateful toward it. Instead, it's like the saving grace that just tries to teach me the value of patience and "all good things come to those who wait."

Except, you know... I don't want to wait.

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