Last night’s episode of Friday Night Lights, rebroadcast on NBC falling season four’s original run on DirecTV, was noteworthy for a whole host of reasons. “Stay” followed “The Son,” an episode that broke my heart with its focus on Matt Saracen, the character who has consistently broken my heart throughout the series’ run. While in some ways less heavy than the previous episode, “Stay” drew attention toward two young Dillon couples whose relationships are in jeopardy. One couple –frustrated Dillon townie Saracen and senior Julie Taylor — left town for Austin and came back uncertain if they could remain a couple. Refreshingly, this dischord came not out of a lack of love but from a mature realization that one of them will be starting college next fall and the other really needs to get off a sinking ship.
I had a few quibbles with the episode, of course. One involves Saracen and Taylor’s destination. The couple go to the generically named Austin Indie Music Festival, which seems like an awkward collusion of Fun Fun Fun Fest and South By Southwest. While I believe the show does an acceptional job utilizing the capital (including my neighborhood) as a stand-in for fictional West Texas rural suburb Dillon, it has a habit of clumsily shoehorning in references to the city, its music scene, and the University of Texas. The festival is an example, as is the location for one of the shows Saracen and Taylor attend. To an outsider, seeing a band play the courtyard at Emo’s may not warrant objection. But most regulars will tell you that the atrium is usually a communal space between the venue’s indoor and outdoor stage areas. In the nine years I’ve lived here and the numerous concerts I’ve attended at Emo’s, I’ve never seen a musical act perform in that particular area. I’m sure the spot was chosen because it was easier to light, stage, and film. But the location does kick some folks out of the text, perhaps suggesting the limitations of trying to doggedly capture and recreate actual spaces for television.
That said, I enjoyed that The Heartless Bastards were featured so prominently in the episode. For one, they can wail — especially guitarist and lead singer Erika Wennerstrom, who took up residency in Austin a few years back. For another, their gritty sound has a crossover appeal that evokes fellow Ohioans The Black Keys as well as Friday Night Lights‘ handle on candid performances and Dogmaesque cinematography.
Also, the inclusion of a band like The Heartless Bastards lines up with the series’ interest in aligning with indie and indie-friendly musical acts through their characters and as a marketing strategy. And regardless of what happens to this young couple, I take comfort in knowing that Wennerstrom’s band might help them get through it.
So, I’ve been devouring Friday Night Lights recently. I’ve got four episodes left of season three, so don’t tell me what awaits the Dillon Panthers and their surrounding small-town Texas community.
I was pleasantly surprised this weekend while watching season three. I didn’t realize that Crucifictorious, a Christian death metal band formed by Dillon High’s Landry Clarke, was getting a new female bass player named Devin Corrigan. A good female bassist who proved a needed asset to the band, no less.
As an aside, I have now rewatched the season two episodes where my friend Brea played brainy, metal-fan music geek Jean Binnel. Now that I’ve watched almost the entire series thus far and know its larger context, I can say 1) I really like Jean and think I’d be her friend, 2) I want her to make me a power pop metal mix CD, 3) I think her small part might have been one of the best things about a sporadically brilliant but uneven season plagued by network tampering and the writer’s strike, and 4) Landry did her wrong, even if I like the girl with whom he briefly reunited.
I was also stoked that Devin was played by Stephanie Hunt, a back-up singer in T-Bird and the Breaks.
And I thought it was rad that the girl who seemed to be a too-perfect rebound girl for the recently spurned lead singer was actually a newly out lesbian teenager, as she reveals in “Keeping Up Appearances.” While she does kiss Landry before coming out to him, she does so to make sure of her orientation, perhaps suggesting that Landry is the first person to whom she has come out. I was impressed by a) her confidence in identifying herself as a lesbian, as I don’t imagine too many girls I grew up with felt comfortable owning their identity like that at that age in our small Texas town and b) Landry’s maturity about the situation. The episode ended with the band jamming to The Flaming Lips’ “She Don’t Use Jelly,” which Devin sang to Landry earlier to help him with a broken heart.
The next episode for me is “The Giving Tree,” which seems to focus on Crucifictorious’s first gig with Devin. I’m hoping for a good turn-out. I’d be there. My only hope is that we see more of her, hopefully with a girlfriend to boot. I don’t know if she will be appearing in season four, which premieres on DirecTV this Wednesday, much less the rest of season three, but I like her.