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August 28, 2015

The Inevitable Fate of Tim Riggins

by Stephanie Earp, posted Aug 7th 2010 9:46AM


Tim Riggins is in jail right now. That's how the season 4 finale of 'Friday Night Lights' left him, and according to various reports, if we see him again in season 5, it won't be until the end of the series.

I'm sure if you asked any of Tim's fictional neighbors, they would say they aren't the least bit surprised. Those Riggins boys were always trouble. But I was surprised when Tim turned himself in to the police to take the heat off his brother, not because it's out of character, but because it's a brave move from the writers.

I've always admired the way the writers of 'FNL' have handled the darker side of life in Dillon, but I was still amazed that they didn't give Tim the happy ending fans would have liked -- Tim on his ill-gotten ranch, raising a can a beer to 'Texas, forever'.
I like Tim in jail -- it's an end that rings true for me, and fits Tim's character. But more than that, I feel like his story arc has taught me to look at the world a little differently, to see how a kid becomes a man, and how small decisions can lead inexorably towards a big conclusion. Over and over again, we've seen Tim give away opportunities to have a different life than the one seemingly set out for him by his parents and the town he lives in. From blowing off Tami and Landry's attempts to help him in school, merely dabbling in coaching, dropping out of university and even letting Lyla drift out of his life, he repeatedly turned his back on the openings presented to him -- education, a job he might be able to love, a woman who would drag him (kicking and screaming, likely) into another class.

And each time he made those decisions, I believed in him and even rooted for him. I said to myself, something else will come along -- that wasn't the right thing for Tim. I was even a bit mad when he was enrolled in university; a guy like Tim doesn't belong there! But Tim's storyline adheres to something I think we all suspect, especially as we get older: Every time you don't choose, you are choosing.

That someone like Tim Riggins -- someone who has only a high school education, was raised in a home without parents, has no real ambition, uses alcohol and is involved in crime -- should end up in jail a few years after graduating high school is not surprising. It is so common as to be a cliche. What 'Friday Night Lights' offered us was the chance to understand why someone like that would also have a loving -- if dysfunctional -- family that was devoted to him. Why a beautiful, bright girl might be waiting for a guy like that to get out so they could get married. Why no matter what kind of trouble a guy like that gets up to, there is someone who will defend him, bail him out, offer him a place to sleep, a job, a second chance.

After watching 'The Wire,' I started reading newspaper stories about crime more critically. When the police crow about lower crime rates, I wonder if they're juking the stats. When a big drug bust results in a photo op of piles of drugs and guns on the table, I wonder how many of the big players got away, and how many people got promoted. Five seasons of that TV show did more for my understanding of drug crime and the collapse of American cities than any of my politics courses in university. Now I can say that 'Friday Night Lights' has made me think more critically about crime stories as well.

I think I would be less likely to judge -- or at least judge so harshly -- the family and friends of repeat criminals who stand by them. I live in a city with nine prisons in the area, so it's not exactly rare to hear or read about the families of those incarcerated. Becky says to Tim, "Aren't you the guy who used to be Tim Riggins?" and we all cringe, because it's a mean thing to say.

Obviously, if all nine jails in my city were filled to the rafters with Tim Riggins' we'd have something akin to Beatlemania going on here, but thanks to 'FNL,' I've considered that many of the guys locked up nearby used to be Tim Riggins, before they failed to choose to be something else.

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Wow, I don't know what to say to that. So you're saying that season 2 is better than 3 and 4? Insane. I can think of many shows that maintained their quality past their second seasons, FNL included.

August 08 2010 at 7:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brett's comment

Season 3 made some logical leaps that were unforgivable.

Making Tyra, Lyla and Riggins seniors in Season 3 reeked of "keep some of the original cast together longer."

So by that logic, in Season 1, Tyra, Lyla and Riggins were sophomores? But in Season 1 they established Streets and Riggins were best friends and had made a pact to be together forever. They also established Tyra and Riggins had a several year long relationship and that Lyla and Streets had been together for many years. There's no way Lyla was dating Streets when she was in Jr. High while he was a stud QB. And no super-stud QB is going to be best friends with a kid two years younger as the relationship intimated that Rigs and Streets had done it all together. Heck in Season 1, Riggins takes Matt to a strip club - are we to believe Riggins became a star FB in his Freshman year? And Became such a super stud he got his license and knew all the strippers by the end of his FRESHMAN year? Come on.

Making Tami principal is still ludicrous. She went from guidance counselor to principal from the end of Season 2 to the start of Season 3. Not likely even in a podunk town.

August 08 2010 at 8:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Seeming totally in keeping with the character. Season 4 wasn't as awful as Season 3 but it keeps reminding me that it's pretty much impossible for a good show to remain good much beyond season 2. Dexter's Season 3 was unwatchably awful (smits - you suck!) but luckily it pulled it out . Only other show I can think of that's still good Season 3 and on... The Wire.

August 08 2010 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to YouFaceTheTick's comment

the shield, BSG, angel, all had awesome third seasons.
so i dont know where u get your crap from.

August 09 2010 at 12:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


You've named exceptions. Great shows with awful third seasons (and BSG turned out to be such a massive turd it'll never be called great, ditto Angel):

Veronica Mars
Arrested Development
Dexter (season 4 was shockingly good)
Friday Night Lights (season 4 was pretty damn tv-movie-of-the-week with its little abortion and crackhead mom plots and all that other yawn-inducing stuff)

About the only still good shows I can point to in Season 3:

30 Rock stayed funny through Season 3 (then bombed in Season 4).
The Wire - which was great until Season 5's "serial killer" arc.

That's kinda it for me. Most shows by season 3, even if they were once good, are over . For the most part, I'm in favor of just stopping after Season 2. Tough to find a really good show, tougher still for the momentum to continue beyond 2 seasons. You may disagree, fine. I've listed the shows that lasted more than 2 seasons and I felt were still good. It's a pretty small list.

August 09 2010 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Very good writing. It made me profoundly sad to see Tim Riggins walk into that police station - even a tear or two. Thanks for pointing out all the missed opportunities or blown chances Tim had. I guess all the "you're never going to be anything" and "you know those Riggins boys are nothing but trouble" outweigh the belief that he can have and deserves to have a better life.

Surely Landry is going back to graduate?? I think Tami and Coach Taylor have the best relationship on TV.

I love this show. When it was over last night, I realized it was the season finale. The season passed very quickly.

August 07 2010 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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