Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" just as soon as I run a few suicide sprints...
I never got around to writing up last week's episode, but as I was contemplating it, I had a conversation with Fienberg about the obviously NBC-mandated changes the series had undergone lately. I pointed to the speechifying, the way characters who were originally presented as mysteries for us to unravel were giving regular monologues about their feelings and aspirations. Dan pointed to the more traditional cinematography, the loss of the jittery documentary look of the pilot and first few episodes. It wasn't that the show had become bad, just that it had lost many of its most distinctive elements -- had started to feel like just another TV show, albeit a very well-made one -- in a futile attempt to bring in more viewers.
I don't know if Kevin Reilly just had his back turned the week tonight's episode was produced, or if this was the point in the production cycle where Peter Berg and Jason Katims said, "Screw it; we're going back to making our show," or if it was just a fluke, but tonight's episode felt the most "Friday Night Light"-ish since very early in the season.
The shaky-cam made its triumphant return, along with a cameo appearance by the car window cam. While Taylor did a bit of monologuing with Smash, most of the interesting interactions featured things unsaid (Riggins father and son bonding by falling off the wagon at the same time) or said casually (Taylor having a laugh with Street). And I got chills when Smash gave his pre-game prayer all the way through the arrival of Mr. Riggins (even though I could see it coming), the first time the show's affected me deeply in a while. I know it would get old if they showed Smash's prayer every single week, but the use of prayer and religion has always been one of this show's goldmines, and it was good to see that back, too.
Not everything was perfect. Tyra and Julie are apparently best friends now -- even though Tyra looks like she's 10 years older than Julie -- as part of the ongoing Operation: Give Adrianne Palicki Something to Do. And Grandma Saracen, senile or no, seemed out of character both in the scene where Tyra gave Julie advice on how to manipulate Matt and the one where the rally girls kidnapped Matt in his boxers.
But I'm excited to see the next episode, just to see if this one was a fluke or a return to the original form. (Plus, I never object to seeing Hey It's That Guy Brett Cullen, here suitably seedy as Pa Riggins.)
What did everybody else think?