'Friday Night Lights': State of the Unions


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This week, we check in on the relationships of the characters in Friday Night Lights:

Vince and Luke:
Last week, we got a sense that much of Vince's past troubles (getting arrested for petty theft) may have occurred because he had to take care of his mother, who can barely take care of herself, let alone Vince. For Vince, football is his way out of trouble and possibly his ticket to a better life.

This week, we get a deeper look into Luke Cafferty's life. Cafferty came from West Dillon to East Dillon when it was discovered that his real address actually fell within the bounds of East Dillon. When Coach Taylor visits Cafferty at his ranch, we learn that Cafferty doesn't come from wealth either. He isn't privileged. He is playing football not only because he loves the game but because he needs a football scholarship to attend college. Football is Cafferty's salvation as well. It's also his ticket out of his circumstances.

There's definite tension on and off the field between Vince, who is black, and Luke, who is white. But this episode, more than anything, subtly hammered home the point that poor blacks and poor whites often have a lot more common than they may initially think they do—if they would just look past race and preconceived stereotypes. I'm interested to see how Vince and Luke's relationship develops in subsequent episodes.

Coach Taylor and Tami:
We also discover the school board gave Coach Taylor the East Dillon job as basically a joke. They wanted him to fail. Except that Coach Taylor still hasn't gotten the joke. But that's the quality that has made Coach Taylor such an endearing character. He's resilient, and he won't let his kids fail. In this episode, Coach Taylor must get the squad new uniforms. When he can't raise the funds through fundraisers, he writes a personal check to make up the difference and lies about it to Tami. Tami and Coach Taylor eventually resolve the issue (with Tami sternly telling Coach to "never do it again").

Matt and Julie:
When Julie runs into Matt's eccentric art teacher—whose biggest influence on Matt may ultimately be in allowing him to see that he may be better off as an artist if he leaves Julie and pursues his trade outside of Dillon—he tells bluntly tells Julie, "you're the ball and chain that keeps dragging [Matt] down; I think I married you about 20 years ago, babe." This is the first time Julie realizes she may be a drag on Matt's potential.

Jess and Landry:
Landry and Jess, a newcomer this season, inauspiciously met when Landry ran over Jess's bicycle with his car. In this episode, Jess helps Landry practice his punting. She seems like a compelling character. We get the impression she loves and takes care of her three siblings. We can deduce her dad used to be a football star but doesn't want anything to do with the game anymore (I want to find out why this is so). This episode left me wanting to find out more about Jess.

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Tony Lee contributes to The Atlantic Online. Follow him on Twitter: @TheTonyLee.

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