'Friday Night Lights': Season 4, Episode 4: 'I need you to not be weird about it'
The line was delivered by Aimee Teegarden’s Julie Taylor, pictured, recoiling from being rejected by her lesbian pal Devin. It came seconds after she recoiled at the thought that Devin may be hitting on her. Emotions swing quickly in a small town.
Four episodes into its fourth season, "Friday Night Lights" continues to barrel helmet-first into big-picture issues, covering topics of gender, race and death Wednesday night. This season is unfolding as a sort of resetting of the series. A town divided after a redistricting, technicalities such as where an entire side of the city suddenly materialized from, or when Stephanie Hunt's Devin and Julie became close, are glossed over.
And for the better. "Friday Night Lights" is at its best when it remembers its mission is to convey the drama of a small town and not fret over meticulous plot details. Most of those reading daily recaps on blogs such as this likely fell in love with "Friday Night Lights" for its ability to tackle matters rarely seen on television -- say the second season's focus on college recruitment -- and such difficult storylines are where "Friday Night Lights" is excelling in its fourth season.
After arriving for a bit part last season, it’s great to see Hunt’s Devin return. She's still equal parts cool, confident and shy, and any episode that offers a further exploration of her character is a worthy one (look for a profile of Hunt to launch later this morning on Show Tracker).
Hunt stood out with only a few lines last season, nailing a teenage awkwardness, and she's clearly a rarity in Dillon. Devin recognizes her outsider, loner status (music-obsessed lesbian), but doesn’t retreat into it, either. It's just a fact she's learned to live with. When asking Julie if she would come along with her to a gay bar, she specifies, "I need you to not be weird about it."
When the pair actually arrive, Devin has the sudden fear that she may not fit in at the one haven for the gay and lesbian community near the fictional town of Dillon, Texas. "I just don't know how anybody meets anybody," she says with a matter-of-fact desperation. Ultimately, Devin finds her type -- perhaps a bit too soon, however, as her desire to find some sort of accepting hamlet could have continued to make for compelling drama.
Yet in Julie, Devin has still found a kindred spirit of sorts. While straight, Julie isn't built for small-town Texas life, either. Such points were illustrated as viewers continued to see her relationship with Zach Gilford's Matt Saracen drift apart. It should be noted how artfully writers and actors are conveying the end of that relationship. There are no grand fights -- although Julie's slamming of Matt's desire to "go shoot some poor defenseless animals" was choice -- just the gradual realization that the two won't be forever.
Julie was expressing as much to Devin moments before she spotted new assistant coach Stan (Russell DeGrazier) playing pool at the gay bar. He bolts, and later at a rally for the East Dillon Lions, he pretends to not know what Julie's talking about when she wants to discuss it. It was heartbreaking to see him walk away from Julie. She may be decades younger, but she's already disheartened with the inability of many in Dillon to just not be weird about these things.
Little help: Did anyone catch exactly what Stan says to Julie before scurrying out of the gay bar? I’ve watched the scene a few times, and for some reason I’m just not entirely making out his words.
Nevertheless, Teegarden’s reaction deserves props, in which she’s just kind of staring at him all quizzical and processing everything that’s happening. Her role instantly shifted from that of moral support for a friend to one of invading someone else’s world. Ultimately, when "Friday Night Lights" is at it's best, that's similar to how the viewer feels.
Tyra who? Jesse Plemons' Landy apparently isn't too broken up about Tyra having escaped from Dillon. His budding relationship with Jurnee Smollett's Jess is a surprise development, and one that may lead to some uncomfortable drama ahead. Jess and Michael B. Jordan's Vince have a past, and Landry may soon replace Matt Lauria's Luke as Vince's No. 1 Enemy. Jess' father also doesn't seem to be one who will be pleased by the pair getting close. For now, though, Landy's fear of the "f word" (friend) made for the night's best line (at least I'm assuming that was the word). When Jess asks Landry to drive him to a party, he responds, "I've kinda been down that road before where a girl asks me to do something. I just kinda say yes and then all of a sudden everyone is calling me a word I don't like to use."
Now that that's behind us: The drama between Luke and Vince was good for an episode and a half before it started to wear a little thin. Thankfully, it seems to have come to an end at just the right time. The two stars of the East Dillon Lions have finally listened to the words of Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler). Taylor's life lesson: "You either take advantage of it or you piss it away." Not all effective sports sayings are fit for locker room walls.
East/West Brad: Leland's Buddy Garrity came to the rescue of a Taylor family dinner, in which the coach/principal couple were hoping to win the hearts -- and wallets -- of the East Dillon residents. Buddy's good ol' boy charm runs deep, sure, but it's hard to imagine such a symbol of West Dillon would instantly erase years of frustration at all the town's resources being fed into the west side of town. Nevertheless, few shows are willing to deal with class politics, and I'd be happy if it continued to be a focal point. What's been, perhaps, just as interesting as the introduction of new characters and, in many ways, a new world, is the way it's forcing older characters to open their eyes to another side of life. Before Buddy arrived, one got the sense that Coach Taylor was feeling guilty for asking his new East Dillon neighbors over for dinner. "You can't fake boosterism," Buddy told him earlier, and it was transparent when he tried.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Top left: Aimee Teegarden. Credit: Justin Stephens. Middle photo; Michael B. Jordan's Vince and Matt Lauria's Luke. Credit: Bill Records. Bottom photo: Kyle Chandler's Eric Taylor. Credit: NBC/DirecTV
"Friday Night Lights" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on DirecTV's The 101 Network.