Sunday, November 04, 2007

"Look at my scooter!": Friday Night Lights

Hey, show I loved! It was good to see you again. I realize that you were only there sporadically tonight, and usually peeking out from behind the stranger, more mediocre show you've been hiding behind all season, but I could see you there, and that gave me hope that all of this will pull itself together at some point.

This was an episode that had more good than bad, so I think I'll start with the bad, most of which had to do with Landry. The murder subplot isn't the most awful thing on earth anymore -- indeed, the actors are doing so well with it that I can kind of tune it out (I'm particularly happy to see Glenn Morshower, a fine, fine character actor, get so much to do). I wish the show had never gone here, but I don't think that it was a shark-jumping move at all. The fact that the move hasn't substantially boosted the ratings means, I think, that the show won't go in for cheap melodrama in the future, so I'm hoping this is the only time it does something like this.

That said, the story of Landry becoming a football hero (even accidentally -- by making a big tackle and taking a pass interference call) was pretty stupid. Last season, Landry was a compelling character simply because he wanted nothing to do with the team, but his name was Landry. You knew that everything his parents had wanted for him was nothing that he was interested in, but you also knew that with his intelligence and his sense of loyalty, he would be just fine.

Now, you have to buy that Landry wants to join the team (which sort of makes sense, what with his father issues and his desire to impress Tyra) AND that the team would want him. Even if he's just a tackling dummy, this is straining credulity. But to have him get put in the game and make big plays (even by accident) is almost unbelievable, especially as we haven't been shown Landry being some sort of football savant or something. What's more, he managed to give a halftime speech that hit on nearly every sports movie cliche but somehow propelled the team to victory. The story of Landry Clarke becoming a football hero just made little to no sense in any way.

Thankfully, the rest of the episode was really quite good, particularly in the Coach/Mrs. Coach storyline. Having Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton back together again is like breathing a little sigh of relief every week, as the two just ground the show so well. Even with a plotline as obviously meant to be comic relief as this week's "Coach tries to score with his still sore from pregnancy wife" plotline, their behavior is believable enough to make the whole show seem realistic. Somehow, Landry dealing with his murder of a man becomes more believable when viewed through the prism of the domestic minutiae of the Taylor household, and having the two together even seems to ground Aimee Teegarden as Julie.

Saracen also stepped up in this episode, managing to turn his fumbling young man of few words into someone who's able to voice the frustrations of both himself and the audience. Everyone's abandoned him early in the season, so his frustration with Smash becomes more believable. But when he tackled Smash a few weeks ago, it seemed ridiculous. Saracen straining to find the right words to tell Coach and Smash how he felt though? That was note-perfect. And I liked that he was tempted by Julie (and the idea of just falling back into that pattern) but ultimately rejected her and allowed himself time to heal that pain.

I was a bit more ambivalent on the story of Street, Riggins and Lyla all going down to Mexico. I liked that the storyline ended on that moment of both guys almost giving in to their passion for Lyla in some weird Y Tu Mama Tambien moment. I had heard about this moment from before the season, and I thought it would be a lot stupider than it ended up being. What actually happened was a little more like something dumb kids would do. I didn't mind Street flipping over the side of the boat, but I didn't buy for a second that it was a suicide attempt, as I think the show was trying to make me think.

Still, why was Riggins just allowed to completely walk away from the team? I know that he and Street weren't in good with the old coach, but surely Lyla would have told them Taylor was back? I know that we've gotten away from football in a big way, but you can't just ignore it. In some ways, this trip felt like those old episodes of ER where Anthony Edwards would drag along some other cast member to go see his dad or somesuch (and I hope David appreciates my working in of an ER reference here).

This was a big step up for Friday Night Lights, though. Here's hoping it can keep upping the realism in weeks to come.

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