NBC’s Friday Night Lights continues its final season this week with “Fracture.” This is an important episode, because a number of arcs that have been brewing threaten to fracture the delicate balance of relationships between characters. Vince (Michael B. Jordan) begins to get too big an ego, after doing an arrogant interview, and visiting a college that courts him for a verbal commitment. Luke (Matt Lauria) and Becky’s (Madison Burge) budding romance faces hardship as Becky dwells on what she goes through the last time they have sexual relations. Julie (Aimee Teegarden) decides whether or not to go back to school after a visit from former TA and love Derek (Gil McKinney, ER).
Julie’s plot is a bit dumb, because sleeping with someone with authority over her does not fit her character. However, this can be forgiven, as she is just beginning college, and taking some chances, feeling her way outside of high school. She is going through a lot, and Derek is a good outlet for her to let off some steam. Or so she thinks at first. Derek showing up out of the blue, and facing off with her very hostile parents to get Julie back into his bed may seem romantic to two people in a committed relationship, but is creepy for a guy Julie only spends a bit of time with. She makes the right decision in not going back to that situation.
What does it mean, now that she goes to visit ex-boyfriend Matt (Zach Gilford) instead? Does this mean she is considering transferring schools, or dropping out all together? Fans of the show are likely more interested in a reconnection between the long time pair, but that seems obvious and certain. More up in the air are Julie’s life plans from here. She can’t pin everything on a guy, no matter how great that guy is. It’s fine that she goes to him, as long as she also does something with her life, too.
Mindy (Stacey Oristano) is getting some of her best work in Friday Night Lights in being a mentor to Becky. Becky needs a positive female role model in her life, and while Mindy is hesitant at first to be that woman, becoming a mother changes her in ways both small and large. She is more big sister than mom to Becky, especially as Mindy and her friends take Becky to a beauty pageant, and celebrate with alcohol. But as long as Mindy is there for Becky, it doesn’t matter in what capacity.
Becky’s abortion plot seems all but forgotten until this week, though bringing it back up certainly informs as to why Becky is resisting sleeping with Luke again. Those are traumatic memories for her, and if it happens once, it can happen again. Will Becky be able to get past those bad feelings? She sort of leans that way when leaving Luke a note at the end, and hopefully, things will only get better for her from here.
It’s hard to know what to make of Epyck (Emily Rios, Men of a Certain Age), the girl with the ridiculous name, and even worse spelling of it. Tami (Connie Britton) always needs a project student to work on, and Epyck is the latest. But she lies to Tami about her home life, while also seeming very appreciative of just being in Tami’s company. Is she such an easy nut to crack? She just needs attention? If so, it seems like a wasted subplot, one that could have been much better. Though perhaps, since this is the final season, there is no time for more.
Also uncertain is Buddy Jr.’s place in the larger stories. The character returns this season, recast to Jeff Rosick, a fairly inexperienced actor, who is doing well enough. It’s hard to know if the former boy was available, or if he would be up to the task, given his previous small scenes and long absence. But other than to give Buddy (Brad Leland) one last challenge, is there some big lesson Buddy Jr. has come to teach anyone? While some characters flow in and out of shows without much purpose, it is not a common tactic used on Friday Night Lights.
Vince’s arc following his ever ballooning ego feels like a repeat. It’s been done before. Vince’s circumstances are slightly different than others because his motives are tied to those of his father, Ornette (Cress Williams, Grey’s Anatomy), who he has just gotten back to bonding with after a long stint in prison. As such, Vince is more likely to fall into old patterns while listening to the man who raised him, and who he so desperately wants back in his life. While Vince acts tough, every boy wants their father’s pride and respect. Vince has his once more, and now he’s allowing it to push him off course.
Something has got to give. Vince has come too far to just be kicked off the team and have his life ruined. Yet, should he continue valuing Ornette’s advice over Coach Eric Taylor’s (Kyle Chandler), he will fail. Eric believes in Vince when no one else does, and makes him who he is today. If Ornette didn’t return, Vince would still be following Eric towards a bright future. The question is, what will it take for Vince to realize that? And how might that hurt his relationship with his father, who does just want what is best for his son, but is unwilling to allow another man to dictate the terms, even if the other man knows best?
Eric has a big decision to make himself, and it’s hard to predict which way he will go. Being offered a head coaching job at a college is a big deal, and surely it is tempting him. He has done wonders in Dillon, and while his assistant coaching gig at the university level doesn’t work out the way he hopes, being the leader of a team of coaches is a whole other opportunity, and one that he deserves. Is he content to stay at the high school level all his life? He has about achieved all he can there, so his career would now consist of doing the same thing over and over again with different kids after Friday Night Lights goes off the air.
At first, it seems Billy Riggins (Derek Phillips) is really establishing himself as a decent football coach, perhaps even a successor for Eric, should he choose to leave. But now, Billy seems to be going too far into the “showy” side of things, causing conflict with another assistant coach. Billy has always been a wild child, and he is trying to be responsible and mold himself into a great man. Sadly, it appears he is not doing as well as he hopes to. Does Eric have time to try to turn things around for Billy, too, and will there be a place for him on the team once Eric reigns in the ridiculous behavior he has been too lenient about?
The fifth and final season of Friday Night Lights begins very strong, but is in its middle, meandering section. At the halfway point, things should start to pick up as the action moves towards its conclusion.
Watch Friday Night Lights Friday nights at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.