Thursday, February 22, 2007

"I was gonna keep my socks on": Friday Night Lights

It was inevitable, I guess, that Friday Night Lights would have to do an episode where losing your virginity was the subject of the episode. True to form, though, the show didn't shy away from the emotional issues of the subject, and neither did it use the opportunity to lecture or deliver something straightforward. It was obvious from the first that Julie and Matt wouldn't actually go through with having sex (it was true to both of their characters, but I'm always a little sad when this show goes the wholly typical route -- even if it did result in a scene as sweet as Matt telling Julie he loved her), and it was nice to know that a series that has been so frank about the amount of sex its older teenage characters have is willing to let its two younger teenage characters stay chaste for a little while longer.

What's more, the storyline gave us that heartbreaking scene where Tami, perhaps remembering who she was in high school, told Julie she was too young to have sex but didn't categorically deny it to her (remembering her strict religious upbringing and how it messed her up). On most shows, the parents would have wisely told their child why they were too young to have sex and that would have been it. Here, Tami told Julie not to have sex, and her reasons were mostly wise, but it was all bound up in who she had been and who she had become and just how disappointed she would be in her daughter if she just went ahead with sex to "collect data" (as Julie memorably said to Tyra). Even Coach Taylor (who can be a bit too much the stereotypical boogeyman when it comes to his daughter) got in on the story, holding a grudge against his wife for not telling their daughter she couldn't have sex, but eventually coming around to her way of thinking. Friday Night Lights is unique among teen shows in that everyone's regards of each other are all bound up in their desire to see those people do well, and I think that's what makes it such a warm show, even when the situations it presents are so grim.

There was actually quite a bit of sex in the episode, what with Buddy firing Tyra's mom after they had a dalliance (his attempt to confess this to Coach Taylor was hilarious and apropos) and Jason flirting with a tattoo parlor girl (between this and Lost, what was WITH the tattoos tonight?). Could it be that Lyla is being set up to see both her father cheat on her mother and her fiance cheat on her? The writers have already heaped a lot of trouble on her shoulders, but Minka Kelly looks good crying, so I'm not sure I care.

And then there was what looked like the resolution to the story of Riggins and his father, culminating in a messy fight outside of a bar, broken up by Tyra (for a character that looked to be made superfluous in the first few weeks of the season, I've been impressed by how she's been integrated back into the ensemble) and Riggins' brother. Riggins has always been the character that seems the most like he was ripped out of a John Mellencamp song or something, and his story arc with his father is classic 70s rock.

All in all, though, the episode kept coming back to that alternately funny, sweet and heartbreaking scene where Matt and Julie decided not to have sex, taxidermied animal heads keeping an eye on them. Lights never goes for the easy answers, but here it was nice to imagine two kids with a blanket warm enough to lull them to sleep.

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