The Inevitable Fate of Tim Riggins
by Stephanie Earp, posted Aug 7th 2010 9:46AM
SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE SEASON 4 FINALE YET! STOP READING IMMEDIATELY!
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.