The Washington Post

‘Friday Night Lights’ the final farewell: In ‘Expectations,’ hello to Hastings Ruckle, goodbye to Landry Clarke

“Friday Night Lights” already came to a close on DirecTV and on DVD. But the final episodes of the Dillon, Tex., drama are now airing on NBC. And that means it’s time to bid the final-for-real farewells by assessing each installment shortly after it airs on the Peacock network every Friday at 8 p.m. EST. Why? Because “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Must blog.” Or, um, something like that.

“Expectations,” the first episode of the final season of “Friday Night Lights,” does exactly what its title promises: it gives us a sense of what we can expect (maybe) for each of our characters as the last season unfolds. We can expect that Julie Taylor will go off to college and probably make some stupid decisions. We can expect that Tami Taylor is going to do her darndest to inspire the dysfunctional students at East Dillon High now that she’s back in guidance counselor mode. And, according to Landry Clarke, the drummer in Crucifictorius can totally expect to get laid after the band’s epic final performance before our dear, football-punting Landry departs for Rice University.

As that last remark implies, however, everyone’s lives on “Friday Night Lights” are not quite meeting expectations. And frankly, this episode didn’t totatlly either. It was more of a settle-back-inner than a git-er-doner. But that’s okay. We’ve got to start the end somewhere.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key things learned during this week’s episode, its ratings on the Final Season Cry-o-meter, Tim Riggins Hotness Scale and Julie Taylor Irritation Spectrum (all important metrics, by the way) and a poll that asks you to vote for the best quote of the night.

What we learned during “Expectations”

Tim Riggins is turning bitter in prison. Clearly he needs a friend in the joint, some sort of Morgan Freeman-esque figure to make him realize that in only three months, when he will presumably be released on good behavior, he can get busy livin’ again. Alas, all he has is brother Billy, rambling during visiting hours like the desperately guilty older brother he is.

.Speaking of Billy Riggins, he has managed to convince Coach Eric Taylor that he is worthy of a volunteer assistant coaching job for the East Dillon Lions. (Must have been that “molder of men” line, which he totally ripped straight out of Tami Taylor’s mouth — see FNL seasons one and three.) Unfortunately, so far Billy’s leadership methods primarly involve reading inspirational quotes from the crumpled up pieces of paper in his pocket. “If your mind can believe it, you can achieve it.” Remember that, everyone.

At first, Tami Taylor thinks the most helpful thing she can tell her new East Dillon colleagues is to handwrite their college recommendation letters. A stack of troubled-student files and a non-working office telephone later, Tami realizes that no one at this school is going to be writing letters to Yale in cursive.

Jess Merriweather’s dad is on the road, taking his barbecue business nationwide. But that leaves her stuck watching her bratty little brothers. Also parentless: Becky Sproles, whose mother and father have both taken off and left her with stepmother Doreen, a woman who chain smokes and apparently thinks Lunchables and Red Bull qualify as a nutritious meal. How desperate is Becky? Billy and Mindy Riggins are starting to look like model parental substitutes.

Coach Eric Taylor is now resorting to stealing a basketball player to bolster his Lions line-up, at the suggestion of Buddy Garrity (ah, how times don’t change). Boy’s name? Hastings Ruckle. “What the hell kind of name is Ruckle?” Eric wants to know. Apparently it’s a name that means, “Handsome, hipster-looking kid who looks like he tripped during an episode of ‘Skins’ and fell into ‘Friday Night Lights’ by accident.”

Julie Taylor hasn’t changed much. She’s still rude enough to blow off her parents during a family dinner (I’ll eat your cobbler, Tami Taylor!), but cool enough to send off Landry with an epic visit to The Landing Strip. It’s almost as though she’s a surrogate Matt Saracen.

Landry Clarke, soon to be Rice U. under-grad, believes that Crucifictorious’s final gig — dubbed, with apologies to Martin Scorsese, as “The Last Waltz” — will have people talking “for years to come.” One person who might actually continue to talk about Crucifictorious? Unexpected super-fan Lorraine Saracen, who tells Landry that she has the band’s music on her “mp player.” (Tell me that when Grandma Saracen said goodbye to Landry — “I’m gonna hug your neck, boy” — you didn’t get teary-eyed. Come on. Don’t lie.)

Which brings me to...

The Final Season Cry-o-meter Rating for “Expectations,” on a scale of 1 to 10: 7.5. The Grandma/Landry scene got me, and the sight of Eric and Tami Taylor tearing up as they sent Julie off to school in her Chevy Aveo made matters mushier.

The Tim Riggins Hotness Scale Rating for “Expectations,” on a scale of 1 to 10: 6. The sight of Tim looking melancholy in that white prison jumpsuiit was too distressing. Still, his hair looked pretty.

Julie Taylor Irritation Spectrum Rating for “Expectations,” on a scale of 1 to 10: Another 6. Yes, her anti-cobbler stance was uncalled for. But she redeemed herself with her Matt Saracen reminiscences and by sending off Landry with that Landing Strip visit. (Although she didn’t stick around to make sure he got a ride home...)

Now time to vote in the favorite quote poll, then share your feelings about this episode by posting a comment.

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.


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