Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Friday Night Lights" gets closer to right

The bloom, as you may have heard, is off the USC rose, or maybe "Rose" (as in "Bowl," rather than should-be-a-Hall-of-Famer "Pete"). That's how I come to be sitting on my own couch on this Saturday afternoon watching the USC football game with my laptop on the part of my anatomy for which it's allegedly designed, rather than with amigos (my peeps, my crew, my homies, my posse) watching the game with an alcoholic beverage.

On the bright side, it cuts down on the amount of interruption caused by the game, interruption to a thrilling afternoon of DVR emptying. I've made it through the past three weeks of -- heaven help me -- "Moonlight," leaving me with time to catch up on "Cane" and "Life" a bit later. That, though, is for another blog post.

This blog post? About last night's episode of "Friday Night Lights," which I only got around to watching this afternoon thanks to collapsing into an exhausted heap fairly early last night.

The nutshell review: Parts of last night's episode came as close to feeling like the "Friday Night Lights" of old since the season premiere. Or maybe "since Landry became an unrepentant killing machine."

I'll go into more detail after the bump.

For a generally rapturous take on the episode check out murderous Landry apologist (but otherwise smart guy) Scott Tobias over at The Onion.

For a take that's an awful lot like mine (as per our contractual agreement), you can always check out Sepinwall's take.

For mine? Click through...

Does anybody remember Bobby Reyes? I didn't think so. I like referencing Bobby Reyes, because he was the only defensive player ever to suit up and get dialogue for the Dillon Panthers. Bobby was a great player, but he was kicked off the football team because he beat up a student, a student who mouthed off with great hostility about the football team and the team's privilege within the Dillon community.

Now I ask you: When Bobby Reyes went down, who could possibly have guessed that despite not having a defense, the Panthers could still win the state championship that same season? And, even more improbably, who'd have guessed that the nerdy student Bobby beat up would, just one year later, be the star of the Dillon team?

The evolution of Landry Clark, from anti-football nerd and outcast to local legend happened so fast that even the announcers of for the Dillon football team didn't have time to learn his last name. Did everybody notice that during Friday's episode, the Dillon play callers knew Matt as "Saracen," Smash as "Smash" and Landry Clark? He was just Landry, both when the announcers said his name and when the Dillon crowd started chanting his name after their victory. After all, what high school football crowd wouldn't start chanting the name of a player whose contribution to the climactic game winning drive was... picking up a dubious pass interference call on the game's penultimate play. "Landy! Landry! Landry!" Way to be interfered with!

Realistically, that made every bit as much sense as Coach Taylor deciding to call a passing play to a tight end without a single game-time catch ever on the biggest play of the season (unless that was a call Saracen made himself, which makes still less sense that after having been benched for the entire game he'd go off the reservation on his first play). But since when was Landry a tight end anyway? We saw him make a catch during a reverse squad (defense playing offense and visa versa), which suggests he had previously been practicing on defense. But suddenly he's a tight end, getting into the game, getting the final play called for him? It's amazing what you get for standing up at half-time and making a speech that perfectly explains the important lesson coach was trying to teach all week.

Let's just say that all season long, I've had a much easier time believing Landry as a Tyra-banging killer than accepting him as a productive member of the Dillon Panthers.

[Side note: Bobby Reyes wasn't just the last speaking character to play defense for the Dillon Panthers. He was also the last Latino. A quick glance at the website for the Permian Panthers lets me know that roughly a third of the players on the team that inspired Dillon have Hispanic sur-names, which makes sense, given the geography. We made a big deal last season about Assistant Coach Mac's problems with black players, but is anybody planning on protesting against Coach Taylor's failings when it comes to fielding a team that represents the ethnic make-up of the Dillon community?]

Honestly, though, that's all I have to say about Landry. Sepinwall goes into some depth on his frustrations involving that subplot. So I'll leave it to him. Except for to ask why nobody's thinking of poor Crucifictorious in the midst of this whole thing. Poor not-quite-Stigmatilingus.

I'm just going to talk about what worked and what didn't work in this week's episode:

The Good

  • Oh Coach and Mrs. Coach. How nice it is to have y'all all reunited and whatnot. I loved that Coach, always a paragon of positive marital behavior had to accept relationship advice from Mac, but also that he followed it to the letter (tulips+book club=nookie), but that it still didn't work. I'm also relieved that Mrs. Coach's postpartum unsteadiness hasn't been pushed completely under the rug (though it does seem to have been soft-pedaled since Coach got back). Really, though, any time spent between Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler is fantastic.

  • Way to go Matt! Saracen stood up to Smash, he stood up to Coach Taylor and finally, in his best move of the night, he stood up to Julie. Perhaps my favorite scene in the episode was the conversation between Matt and Mrs. Coach, where she stopped just short of calling him a chump for letting Julie get cozy again. I liked the return to cute, stuttering conversations between Julie and Matt, but once she mentioned The Decemberists, I tuned out. There's a limit to how much punishment I think Julie deserves for the Swede indiscretion, but I agree with my dad, who notes that until she holds bug-eyed baby Grace, Julie's in trouble.

  • We've always liked Glenn Morshower, because he's versatile enough to play any sort of government official or law enforcement officer you need to cast. But did we really know he could ACT? When this "FNL" run is over, I think Morshower could advance from his current status to being the go-to guy for parts turned down by David Morse. I assume there's good money in that niche.

  • Adrianne Palicki is so very good, because she's being asked to sell an unsellable plotline. She had one great scene with Morshower and her final conversation with Landry would have been devastating except that everything she was saying MADE SENSE.

    What wasn't so good:

  • I'm iffy on Mexico because everything that has happened there has been out of a different series, from last week's karaoke confessional to this week's teasing near-threesome, which looked less like "Friday Night Lights" and more like the set-up for a Zalman King movie.

  • I understand that the producers have been swearing for a year that "FNL" isn't about football, but you see how true that is with Riggins off in Mexico. It's game night and the only players we know on the sidelines are Smash and Saracen (I refuse to acknowledge Landry). I can't figure out how they've been unable to expand the show's universe. I'd gladly sacrifice the killer Landry subplot if we could get to meet one of Saracen's Samoan offensive tackles or a Latino quarterback. I think Coach nodded to how thin his roster is when he said, "Saracen and Smash don't play defense. They don't play special teams. And last I checked, Saracen and Smash were supposed to be, supposed to be two members of an 11-man offense." Next week will we get more of Brett Weston and Calvin Brooks [that would be the second string QB and RB]? I doubt it...

  • Carlotta's still around. She keeps coming to the games. But we aren't seeing anything between her and Matt. That means that when the writers go back to the budding relationship in an episode or two, it'll seem even more random than it did in the beginning.

    That's all for now. Back to my 3-3 football game.

    1. In an earlier episode, Landry was playing defense and repeatedly getting his bell rung by Riggins, so MacGregor moved him to offense. During the role-reversal scrimmage, his catch was actually an interception, so him being a tight end fits with what little we've seen of him on the team.

      Also, the "Land-ry!" chant probably had as much to do with Landry forcing a fumble after the backup QB threw what should have been a game-losing interception as it did with the pass interference call.

      But beyond that, Landry the football god? Bleah.

    2. Anonymous7:33 AM

      What Landry accomplished on the field wasn't terribly outlandish; he made a nice hit to get a fumble and was involved in a pass interference call. Those plays just happened to be-- in "Friday Night Lights" form-- the two key plays of the game. Whether we can expect any more on-the-field heroics from him is questionable, but I think his triumph makes the subsequent celebration/comedown all the more bittersweet and heartbreaking.

      The more distance we're getting from Episode One, the less I find objectionable about the Landry/Tyra subplot. A good drama puts its characters in situations that reveal who they are, and I think we have a much richer sense of who Landry is than we might have had otherwise. We also get these great scenes with Glenn Morshower, who despite naming his son after the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach isn't like those other fathers in town who want to relive their own championship seasons through their boys.

      This was a near-perfect episode for me; even the more dubious subplots, like the magical Latina nurse and the Lyla's juvy project, were pushed aside for a night.

    3. Anonymous2:31 PM

      Posse! Crew! Homies! And Boston Terriers!

    4. Ack! A MacroGal sighting!!!!

    5. A Pete Rose reference . . . I knew I liked you!