Despite being a major fan of the original 1990 book and the 2004 movie, I was stubborn to give the only fictional form of Friday Night Lights, the 2006-2011 TV series, an actual shot. When I came to my senses and informed all of my friends who had suggested it to me for so long that I was about to dive into the world Dillon, TX and “Clear eyes…” head first, they applauded me for my decision, gladly sharing how much I was going to enjoy the five-season run. Despite the unanimous praise, every single piece of feedback was paired with one strange warning:
“Season Two totally sucks, though. Just get through it.”
Just get through it? That’s 20% of the damn series?!
Indeed, the entire second season of this wonderful show surrounded by four other excellent seasons is one collective shit-show of garbage television. It’s like My So Called Life meets Any Given Sunday. Season One? Best thing I’ve ever watched; never have I had more fun nerding out on a new thing to follow. Season Three? Aside from the fact that Riggins, Lyla, and Tyra are inexplicably in their sixth years of high school after clearly being seniors when the show premiered, it’s high-quality television. Seasons four and five? Beautiful work by the producers creating a fittingly unnoticed part of town and realistic plot twist, making a superstar out of stud Michael B. Jordan while still enjoying the various post-high school lives of Saracen, Riggins, and the whole gang.
But the fact that Season Two was such epic garbage is still hard for me to digest. Some might call it a phenomenon — I’m convinced that one of these days, creator Peter Berg will call himself out for the pain he inflicted on so many avid Netflix watchers.
The Murder Mystery
After Landry pulls a Landry and shows up late to a tudor session with Tyra because of car troubles, Tyra gets sexually assaulted in a dark, empty parking lot. When Tyra points the criminal out later on, Landry takes it upon himself to obliterate his brains with a metal pole; unintentionally killing him, they have no choice but to rid the evidence of their accidental murder by dumping the body off a nearby bridge.
The mysterious storyline drags out essentially through this entire season. Even worse, it forces a bizarre romantic relationship between the nerdy Landry and the bombshell Tyra. For several episodes, the fact that they murdered a rapist but simultaneously keep it hush-hush is addressed consistently — but nothing is done about it. Just awkward silence, snooping from Landry’s police officer father (how convenient?), and an unpleasant watching experience.
The Mexico Trip
A year since his heartbreaking paralysis, Jason Street is enduring a major quarter-life crisis, struggling to find any legitimate reason to keep going. He’s so blue about his permanent condition that he decides to flee to Mexico to have shark blood injected in his back to enable him to walk again — even though the procedure does run the risk of killing him.
Two people who have recently betrayed him, Lyla and Tim, inexplicably skip school (and football practice) to drive him several hundred miles to simply ask a relocated American doctor if it’s a good idea. They end up deciding not to do it, Street flirts with suicide by jumping out of a boat, and nothing comes out of any of it.
Well that got weird fast.
Fans of the show don’t dislike Lyla because she’s a skank; they dislike her because she’s a skank and can never embrace this fact of life whatsoever. After dating former prodigy quarterback Jason Street and thriving as Dillon High’s it-couple for multiple years, she cheated on him with Street’s best friend, noted playboy Tim Riggins. She then tries to resume things with her now-paralyzed ex-boyfriend, only to end up hooking up Riggins some more.
In Season Two, these questionable life choices get the best of her, so she decides to solve her self-inflicted troubles by passionately occupying her free time and social life with the church. While this is actually an edgily accurate storytelling of many such teens’ paths to relgious involvement, watching Lyla get away with it and pull it off isn’t intriguing — it just makes me want to pull my hair out.
Matt and Julie’s Sexual Escapades
The adorable Season One romantic connection between the shy underdog quarterback and the anti-popularity hottie coach’s daughter falls flat on its face towards the end of the following summer where Season Two begins, when Julie is courted by The Swede, who ends up being a deadbeat. She calls it off with her dad’s quarterback, which is followed by literally an entire season full of each character feeling sorry for themselves and using various other opposite-sex bodies as physical place-holders. Matt stoops low enough to hook up with his grandma’s nurse, despite the fact they can’t even speak the same language.
Too Much Herc
When Street got paralyzed, he clearly needed a boost of energy and promise in his life, and his friend Herc provided it an ways former QB One had never thought he’d encounter at any point. While not the most conventional character, the ball of fire instills some life in him, constantly providing hope while being intensely honest with his situation.
In Season Two, though, the realness gets uncomfortable, and Herc’s passion makes everyone want to change the channel becuase of his bad taste with every damn word that comes out of his mouth.
The Displaced (and Dysfunctional) Taylor Family
Despite raising a highly unlikable older daughter, Eric and Tami Taylor are west Texas’ alpha couple in every way. In ultimate Small Town America where the standard for parenting isn’t particularly high, the Taylor couples are admired by everyone for their maturity and ability to put their foot down before things get out of hand.
Except in this season, when Eric takes an overvalued small-time college job as a quarterbacks coach at
Texas State TMU. Oh, and he left his family behind several hundred miles away. Oh, and his wife is due to give birth to a second daughter in the middle of the football season. Oh, and your insecure hot daughter likes to mess around now.
All the drama that ensues this unwise career change leads to nothing good. Most notably, Dillon is forced to higher a new no-nonsense head coach from Tennessee, and then fire him because he’s a total jackass.
Friday Night Lights will always hold a special place in my heart. Now living in its primary filming location of Austin, I geek out hard any time I get the chance to check out one of its shooting spots, and have almost made it a hobby to tell my friends looking for a new series to get into FNL. It’s amazingly applicable to people of all ages and backgrounds. However, instead of warning them that Season Two isn’t so great, I’m gonna get super real with them and advise them to skip it altogether..