“We didn’t do any of this crap when we were kids” - Coach
“Tonight for the first time in my life I knew what pride felt like. I’m proud of you Vincent” - Ornette Howard
“Parents just don’t understand.” - DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
I get the sense that the disturbing, but universal, truth in being a parent is the innate sense you aren’t the only person raising your kid. And as much as any parent would like to think they’re the sole driving force and rational compass in their child’s life, well, it clearly is not the case. “Right Hand of the Father” exemplified much of what it means to not fully understand the scope of parenting, especially concerning teenagers. Because these little s#$%s do whatever they want.
Vince’s story, at least in the Friday Night Lights universe is convoluted. First we have to accept that he somehow washed himself clean of his gang/organized crime affiliations (or the bad guys just forgot about him). Because since the season began, he’s been pretty much the All-American kid. But the outer casing on his briefly perfect world (he’s a football star now and his mom is off drugs) cracked a bit when his father reentered the picture. Was his dad trying to do right by the kid? Maybe. But in true television fashion, Vince really only found his bearing with Coach’s advice and mantra about character.
Which begs the question: who is Vince’s real father? I obviously don’t mean this in the literal sense, but this is the question tonight’s Friday Night Lights raised. Who raises kids? The easy answer for Vince is Coach. The more salient answer is “Nobody.” At the heart of tonight’s episode was the idea that these kids are basically on their own. And while some adults are out there to steer them towards a good path, for the most part kids will do what kids will do.
Consider Tami’s one woman quest to empower the entire female population of East Dillon (or at least the red-haired rally girl). Her motives were sound even if the tact wasn’t there. But the true irony in Tami’s mission wasn’t that it was lost in the noise of high school, but rather that the one person Tami should have been trying to get through to was her own daughter (but would it have mattered anyway?). And though Julie’s story is “less than intriguing” at best and “pointless” at worst, it did at least give a true sense of the futility of constant parenting. Kids will go off and learn the lessons on their own.
And though this episode was less than intriguing and even a bit heavy-handed, the show at least nailed the teenage disposition. From the rally girl scoffing at Tami’s words, to Vince raging against his father, to Julie making a bad decision she knows is bad in every way, the kids on the show act very much like angst-filled teenagers. And the best parenting won’t ever make that go away.
I didn’t love “Right Hand of the Father,” because there really wasn’t much to hold on to. The Lions got another win, Luke and Becky were largely absent, still no Tim Riggins, too much Julie, Vince’s story, while interesting, was fairly predictable, and the Taylors just continued doing what they always do. But maybe that’s the point. Parenting isn’t flashy, and it doesn’t always make the best story. But it doesn’t mean the parents shouldn’t keep trying. The message will get through someday (they hope).
In the end, the kids in the Friday Night Lights universe are just like those out in the world right now. They don’t want parents to give them all the answers, they just want to be heard. They just want to matter. They just want to be noticed. They’ll figure everything else out on their own.
A couple more thoughts on a slow episode
It’s good to have Buddy back in the mix. I missed him. Wondering how Buddy Jr. coming back to town works in the scheme of the show. Would be nice to see the kid on the football team for no other reason than it will give us a chance for more of the Buddy-Coach dynamic that works so well.
Man, what the hell are the writers doing with Jess? Talk about an arc that makes absolutely no sense. First, we conveniently forget that she was a cheerleader last year and is, for some reason, not doing that anymore. Then we need to dismiss that she is basically raising her brothers while her father is away. And finally we need to believe she is so dense as to think her becoming equipment manager would be good for her’s and Vince’s relationship. It is just too much to swallow. I hated it.
The the players on the team wouldn’t respect Billy Riggins is totally believable.