Apologies for not giving my thoughts on last week’s episode — short form answer: I liked it — but I had other things to handle. And I knew that this week’s episode would deserve more discussion. You know, because “The Son” is one of the best hours of dramatic television produced in the last year.
We all knew that there would have to be something that compelled Matt to leave Dillon and go on his way to the real world, but I’m not sure anyone saw death coming — at least to his father, maybe Grandma? — and I’m fairly certain that no one expected the execution to be this damn good. I love Zach Gilford and have always thought he’s been a fairly talented young performer. Most of you surely feel the same. But despite my high expectations of him, I would not have guessed he was capable of the performance he gave in “The Son,” which is by far my favorite performance in Friday Night Lights history — and that’s saying something.
Gilford was truly fantastic as he slowly went through the stages of grieving in the episode. He played the anger and confusion of hearing that his father was a funny guy perfectly and as he incrementally became more upset, we could see that in his eyes and you know, that was enough. This series has always let the performances breathe and hang on looks, glances and silence and “The Son” had its fare share of that from Gilford and Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton and Aimee Teegarden as well. Just stellar; they all deserve Emmys and I think Gilford might have a slight chance at being nominated in the guest actor category. Fingers crossed.
Matt Saracen is a guy who’s always been slapped down by the world. He wasn’t ever that good at football and then was thrust into a situation that he should not have been able to handle. Replacing Street did end up okay thanks to that state title win, but nobody ever thought the victories were because of Matt. Off the field, he’s been charged to take care of his grandmother with little to no help from anyone else and when his mom or dad do come around, it usually just leads to drama. But all along the way, he’s always done the right thing, been the nice, gracious guy. He took the beating from the media. He helps his grandmother. He chose not to go to Chicago to a prestigious art school because he couldn’t be away from the two people he loves.
And as we found out in “The Son,” Matt has been able to do all those things because he placed all his hate and all his rage on his father. This is a man who ignored his mother’s problems, didn’t really want a child and made his wife hate his guts, so the only thing he knew how to do was avoid all those issues and go off and get the respect of being a hero. Only problem is that left Matt at home to be the man, be the real hero. But despite all that hate that Matt has, he eventually decides to do the right thing — because that’s what he always does. After raging against the proverbial machine, he gets up in front of everyone at the funeral and gives a heartfelt speech about his dad’s funny side, just for his grandmother. Because that’s what kind of guy Matt Saracen is.
Friday Night Lights is a story about community and family and although “The Son” is certainly Saracen’s and Gilford’s show, the events here hammered home the family created around Matt, even if he feels alone with a traditional nuclear family. Tami Taylor serves as his mother and protects him from a scamming funeral home director. The Riggins brothers and Landry serve as his brothers and help him first get his mind of things and then support his drunken decision to see the body. Eric Taylor serves as his father and walks him home after the biggest breakdown without really saying anything. Of course, we can’t forget Julie, who’s there all along, as Matt burns through numbness, confusion, anger, regret, sadness and a whole lot more.
Now that Matt’s dad is buried and gone, he can move on. Where will that lead?