I usually try to keep my facts and fiction fairly separate on this blog. But watching this season’s final episode of “Friday Night Lights,” I was struck by how well the show captured the character of so many who end up serving time: good people who’ve just made very bad decisions.
With Tim Riggins, the troubled, but talented football heartbreaker from Dillon, Texas, you always got the sense that here was a guy who could go either way. Abandoned by his parents, he was essentially raised by his nere-do-well brother Billy, who’s forever coming up with get-rich-quick schemes that skirt the edge of legality. In the first couple of seasons, Riggins weaknesses for alcohol and women, as well as his tendency to take the path of least resistance were a great source of drama, but more often than not his downfall.
This year, he’s graduated from football stardom and headed off to college to finally make something of himself. Only college isn’t for him and soon he’s back in Dillon, living in a trailer owned by a cocktail waitress he hooked up with and working in a repair shop with his brother. When he finds out Billy is trafficking in stolen cars on the side, he knows it’s illegal, but can’t resist one last chance to make a quick buck.
Same old Tim, right? Were any of us surprised when the police showed up?
But here’s where the writers did something interesting. Yes, Tim is caught, but he’s also already changed more than even he has realized. For one, he’s spent the year resisting the high schooler who’s been throwing herself at him. He also refused to take advantage of her mother. And in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, he takes the fall for both himself and his brother, so Billy can stay with his wife and his newborn. In other words, as he throws off his old “football star” persona to begin serving his time in jail, he’s already on the path to redemption.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. What will Riggins do after he gets out? Will he be able to find a job? I know that actor Taylor Kitsch, who plays Riggins, has gone on to feature films might not be back next year, which is too bad. It would be interesting to see the writers explore his reentry. Perhaps they could shed a similarly realistic light on the challenge of starting over.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen the episode, you can catch it here for a few more weeks.
As an additional note: this will probably be my last posting for the summer. It’s time to take some time off for fun and family. In the interim, I hope you all enjoy the rest of the summer. See you back here in September.