Friday Night Lights, “Laboring”

I’ve always thought if the end of a season sneaks up you, chances are that the series has been doing something right all year. Such is the case for the fourth season of Friday Night Lights.

There were some early issues with balancing all the characters and really a whole new world while still servicing the FNL veterans, but ever since Matt’s departure, the series has transitioned nicely into the new characters’ lives and the stories that will surely drive the fifth and final season.

At one point earlier in the season, I noted that Vince was being put in position to take over Matt’s role as the beaten down, never can catch a break kid with a good heart. I’d say that role has been officially grasped and I’ve been enjoying watching Vince’s life slowly crumble to the ground just as he actually tries to do something with it. Vince’s life is certainly more difficult than Matt’s, and despite my initial hesitance on the series pursuing more criminal stories — literally — the story of East Dillon’s QB1 has progressed nicely with the right combination of grace and drama. There’s a tendency to paint in broad strokes — season two certainly did that in relation to Landry’s crime — but that hasn’t really been the case here.

Vince’s struggles have brought him closer to Jess, filling out the love triangle with Landry that the season tried to shove down our throats early on with little success. I think there was just too much going on earlier in the season to completely sell the triangle and even the meet cute with Jess and Landry seemed partially forced at that point (though, perhaps my love for Tyra and Landry together skewed my opinion of that moment). Anyway, as all three characters have been given more to do, their relationships have felt more organic and although we still don’t quite know the history between Jess and Vince, the last string of episodes (and the great chemistry between the actors) has sold me on their inevitable hook-up once Landry goes off to college next season.

And with this being the penultimate episode, it’s no surprise that Coach, Tami and Tim all face major stress and obstacles. For the Taylors, it’s all about the professional struggle that’s ultimately become driven by personal attacks. Coach finds himself and his field under attack when the mostly absent Joe McCoy returns to complain about the field conditions for the upcoming East-West game while the radio is all a-buzz about the makeshift (and kind of legitimate) civil war in Dillon. Friendly pranks between the teams quickly turns nasty and eventually Coach is screwed — just like always. Meanwhile, the media dives into Tami’s advice to Becky and the town’s conservative folk are out for blood. As their house is hammered with spiteful, nasty phone calls, the Taylors have to decide if they’re going to swallow their pride or fight back. Not surprisingly, one of them holds back a bit while the other looks ready to fight.

And finally, Tim Riggins. Oh, Tim Riggins. Thirty-three newfound uncle-dom gives him a life high, until it all comes crashing down once the police finds out about the Riggin’s bros. illegal activity. As suspected, Tim’s hauled off to jail and I believe I predicted that he’d bite the bullet for his brother a few weeks ago. That looks to be the case, unfortunately. If that does happen, what was truly the arc for Tim this year? I guess one could say that with dropping out of college, having a job, taking care of Becky and buying some land, Tim finally learned how to be responsible. But his illegal actions nullify that. I can’t really buy that it was all so he could have that moment where Becky tells him he’s a great guy, because we already knew that despite his float-through-life attitude, Tim is there for the people he cares about. Maybe I’m thinking too hard and should realize Riggins came back because Katims and company want T. Kitsch back. And I can’t blame them.

So who is pumped for the finale?

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