Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Friday Night Lights: We must protect this cow pasture!

Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" just as soon as I put an incredible piece of art on the wall of my house...

Okay, so when I wrote my In Praise of "Friday Night Lights" column last week, it was with a little bit of reluctance, because while I liked much of last week's episode (particularly the Coach/Julie stuff), it didn't represent to me the series at its absolute best, and I usually like to write those kind of flattery-filled reviews to run on a night where newcomers can really see what I'm talking about. But I had an empty space in my schedule last week and knew I would be swamped in "Sopranos"-dom this week, so last week it ran.

This episode, though -- this was the one I was really writing about at the time, because this one was overflowing with so much of what makes "Friday Night Lights" great. I don't know that I'd go so far as is as Dan Fienberg in calling it the best episode since the pilot, if only because of a little thing I like to call The Talk from "I Think We Should Have Sex," but on the sports side of the ledger, this was as good as this show gets.

What did I love about it? I loved Coach's growing contempt for the commercialization of the playoff game, and for the Brant coach ("Does your brother run the clock up there? Is that part of the deal?"), and I loved how he took advantage of the chemical spill to take the team, the town and the game back to their roots. (I also love the irony, intentional or not, of him telling Buddy that this would be "football without all the crap" as he was in the process of moving things to a cow pasture that would no doubt be full of crap.)

I loved the use of "Read My Mind" (by far the best track from The Killers' sometimes overwrought "Sam's Town" album) on the soundtrack, and I loved the Woodstock-meets-state-fair-meets-Thunderdome atmosphere the show created around the Mud Bowl. I loved that Landry didn't get to run through the rain to declare his love for Tyra, RomCom-style, and I love that she had to save herself from the rapist. (Given last week's "Back to the Future" viewing by Riggins and company, I was half-expecting some kind of George McFly/Biff scene where Landry focused his chi into his fist until it become unto a thing of iron, or something like that.)

Mostly, though, I loved the football game. The producers can't do this sort of thing every week, both from a logistics point of view and because it would eventually be a turn-off to the fans who had to be talked into watching "that football show," but when they set their mind to it, boy howdy they give good Underdog Sports Movie. All the Mud Bowl was lacking was a scene where Riggins' father randomly showed up to lead the crowd in a chant of "LET THEM PLAY! LET THEM PLAY!" Just as Dan did when he saw it, I literally pointed my hands straight at the ceiling and called out "TOUCHDOWN!" when Saracen scored on that roll out play.

Before I open it up to comments, I leave you with this quote: "Blood, sweat and tears, it all stays right here on this field right now! This is our dirt, this is our mud, this is ours, baby!"

What did everybody else think?

26 comments:

velvetcannibal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
velvetcannibal said...

I LOVED that Tyra fought her attacker off herself. I hate the way women are so often rescued by a love interest in those scenes. IF you're going to go there, and show that, and let her get away; it has to be realistic. Most women who get away save themselves. It was horrifying to watch, and my adrenaline was already nuts from the beginning of the mudbowl.

MUDBOWL!!! I can't explain how much I loved those scenes. The game, the crowd, the cheerleaders freaking and jumping up and down. AWESOME. Nothing else like this on TV.

Andrew said...

That was quite a ballsy move to do what they did with the Tyra/Landry thing, which has been a rather comedic subplot for the last few episodes.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Few more things:

-Loved Street's Oprah rant to Saracen in the opening scene. When they put those shades on him and he acts just a little cocky, I totally believe he was an all-world athlete before the accident.

-Voodoo is on the verge of returning, eh? Interesting...

Zodin2008 said...

Totally agree with the sentiment that this was the best episode in the pilot. It had my wife in tears and the intercuts between MudBowl and the rape attempt were emotionally draining. Wow.

Daniel Chase said...

Don't forget about the Califone song that played.

Anonymous said...

A few things:

Landry holding a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" when he approaches Tyra in the library is one of my favorite throwaway gag on this show, ever. And this show is consistently great with those little touches.

Coach's reaction when Street finally speaks up at the settlement hearing was perfectly played by Kyle Chandler.

The helpless look on Landry's face when he hugged Tyra is the rain was heart-breaking.

I thought the Oprah rant was made even better by Sarecen's insistence that he too, likes Oprah.

The logistics of shooting those football scenes, with so many precisely timed stumbles, must be a nightmare.

If I had one criticism, it would be that the ending ("have you ever thought about coaching?") was a bit too on the nose. But otherwise, wow. I was intrigued by Alan's brief metion earlier about this episode, and it did not disappoint.

anon said...

I thought everything was sharp -- it's always fun when so many friends and lovers yell at each other so much -- except the Tyra/Landry storyline, which bugged me a bit. I agree with velvetcannibal, above, that it was good that Tyra didn't have to be rescued, and I don't deny the tension of the whole sequence, and the release after Landry shows up, but...the setup seemed contrived. They had to isolate her in an apparently unmanned fast food joint with exactly one brazen patient rapist during a pouring, scream muffling rainstorm. And why couldn't Landry or Tyra have called the other? (Although this may be consistent with a dearth of cellphones on the show, now that I think about it.) I already believe Tyra's a strong character -- putting her in severe jeopardy to prove it was almost as awkward (in my opinion) as putting her in jeopardy just to have Landry save rescue her. Neither storyline would be out of place in a Lifetime woman-in-jeopardy flick.

It seemed like a very TV-ish (to use someone else's phrase) amping up of tensions in an episode that had some explicit commentary about TV conventions: "I don't have a Ph.D. in stupid, but...[your affair is] going to blow up right around State" (Riggin's brother, and a line I intend to incorporate into my own conversation) and "[We're going to meet Tatum in the finals? Who'd have guessed!]" (paraphrase of Coach Taylor's line), and of course, Coach's "have you ever thought about coaching?" to Street. Landry and Tyra's "date" could have gone badly without going this badly.

I don't mean this as a major complaint. Like I said above, it just bugged me a little. And even that may go away depending on how the writers follow through on the incident...Man, are there really only two episodes left?

And I agree with the commenter above. This must have been an incredibly messy shoot.

Anon

anon said...

I forgot the best TV-convention-commentary line of the night: Landry's "Did your tutor teach Tim Riggins to read in a day and a half?"

Anon

Roper said...

I think my favorite line of the night had to be Kyle Chandler's "The cows are being more supportive than you are honey!" line when he was practically giddy about building his own field.

I was impressed with the Tyra rape scene and how they didn't have Landry come save her. As I watched I just assumed Landry would come rescue her because that's what every other show on television would have done. But true to form, FNL rose above the rest on TV and went a different direction.

It could be interesting to see Landry serious for once. I love his goofiness (like the line "I don't want to look all frayed when I go visit my lady") but I want to see him stretch his acting chops and do something a bit different.

Right on target Alan, one of the best episodes of the year. When it was over, I actually did get goosebumps.

Vanessa said...

As a non-football loving devotee, I thought the juxtaposition of the football game and Tyra's attack was genius. The abandoned town (everyone being at the game) and the truly bad things that happen in real life illustrating just maybe why towns are so obsessed with something like high school football.

Not to mention that cutting back and forth between the two tense situations made each more tense. I thought at the time that the show keeps finding new ways to to keep the suspense going while depicting another football game won in the last minutes. Which you know Dillon is going to win because it is just a few episodes from the end of the season and the state championship.

Tom G said...

Alan - My hands shot up in the air for Saracen's touchdown too. I find myself rooting for these fictionalized games as much as I do for an Eagles game.

I'd like to toot my horn about how I predicted the Street Will Become a Coach story line. For my next prediction, I'm thinking Taylor's Lets Get the Game Back to It's Roots mindset is what will cause him to get turned off by the college gig.

Anonymous said...

Since everyone has already commented about some of my favorite moments (including Landry's holding Our Bodies, Ourselves) I thought the Lyla/Street confrontation was along time coming. Sometimes I forget that they're both still in highschool. When Waverly asks Lyla what's wrong with the statement Lyla just said about calling Jason four times and she just gives her a confused, "He didn't call me back?" I had to laugh. Then when she quietly asks her if yelling at him was too mean, the sixteen year old in me came rushing back.

Old Man Snap said...

I, too, jumped off the chair and maybe hooted when Matt scored that touchdown.

I was also completely floored by Tyra's scene. I didn't see it coming at all. And that clothesline? Oh. My. Her fighting back? Wow.

I can't say enough good things about this show. I can't wait to own it on DVD and I can't wait until next season.

If, well, you know.

Abbie said...

I too was glad that Tyra fought off her attacker, but I am not pleased with that subplot. I love Tyra as well as the other strong female characters on this show, and I felt that this is the kind of subplot that knocks back the self-confidence of a strong female character. Just like I love that Coach & Mrs. Coach have a happy relationship without the usual TV conflict, I wish that I could have strong female characters without the usual TV sexual-assault-will-put-a-woman-in-her-place type crap. I don't know where they're going with it, but I don't like it.

Anonymous said...

Loved last night's show - love Tyra , love Landry ....

One question about the game though ... in the closing moments of the game the announcer kept saying that Dillon's season is coming to a close if they don't score ....

.... but the score was tied 8-8.

Wouldn't they have gone into OT or is there some rule to Texas High School playoff football that I am unaware of??

I don't mean to knit-pick a wonderful episode - it's just that it left me a little confused.

Anyone else?

Elwood said...

I jumped up out of my chair and scared the hell out my wife in the next room when Saracen scored that touchdown. This show, I tell ya.

While I sat there, slack-jawed and tense during Tyra's attack scene, I don't see this ending with her feeling like the shoe leather she thinks the town thinks she ought to be. I see this as one more push towards getting out.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, it's not like Tyra was wearing her hoochie-wear from the early part of the season, and she wasn't even flirty with the guy. Outside of her being an obviously gorgeous, tall blonde, there was nothing about her at the restaurant that screamed, "I want guys to have violent sex with me," so I can't imagine the show going down the road of Tyra blaming herself. It's just another reason for her to hate Dillon; if the town wasn't so empty because of the stupid football game, the chances of her getting attacked like that wouldn't have been nearly as high.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the STATUTORY rape going on next door to the Riggin's household.... ;)

Boy - Dillon might end up being known more for "something else" than HS football , if they keep this up... :P

Hmmm....

I don't mean to make light of such a terrible subject matter. Please forgive - I only refer to this "make believe" tv sequence.

I don't think Tyra will feel sorry for herself ... It'll just make her stronger ... not so sure it'll make her "hate" Dillon any more than before ... I mean that stuff happens everywhere.

Definately will make her stronger ... if that's possible.

SK said...

The attempted rape may motivate Tyra to get her academic act together to get the heck out of Dillon/Dodge.

No comment on Saracen's teasing of Landry about their date? "you going to square some numbers?"

Mel said...

Alan, your commentary on this episode (and the aside about the previous one) was right on. I loved so much of this episode, but one of my favorite scenes that I don't believe has been mentioned yet is the one with Coach and Mrs. Coach with the cows as supporting players. It was at once funny, sweet, and dramatic and it set up all of the themes of the episode--it was about returning to football in its purest form without all the artificial crap (or artificial turf for that matter); it was about the love of the game and the love of one's partners in the game (and by that I also mean the game in a larger sense); it was about dreaming of what could be; and it was quintessentially Texan.

Kristin said...

I was thinking the attempted rape will set Tyra back, as she will return to thinking she only a pretty face that every man wants to sleep with...whether she wants it or not. Her self-esteem was already in the tank, and now it will be even lower.

I am hoping this is a chance for Landry to shine and stop just being the Saracen side-kick who can do math. He's an interesting character, and I liked to see him try to actually help Tyra and make her realize that she is no dummy.

GREAT episode! I'm only sad I had to catch it online rather than watch it on Wednesday...

Scooter McGavin said...

Not only would I go as far as to say this was the best episode since the Pilot, I would go further and say it was the best episode of the season. Yeah the speech in I Think We Should Have Sex was great, possibly the best of the season, but the episode as a whole doesn't stack up with the best of them.

Anonymous said...

I loved Connie laughing at the cow coming toward her. Thank you, show, for leaving that in.

There are some behind-the-scenes photos from Mud Bowl here.

Jim said...

OK, 6 1/2 years late to this show but better late than never.

Lived in Texas for 28 years now. The semi-final game would have been played on a neutral site field agreed to by both coaches just as that one scene was playing out. The 20 mile difference in this state would have been like a mile else where. Not an issue. The cow pasture made for a better story though.

Someone asked about the 8-8 score in an earlier comment and what would have happened in a tie. They did have the ill-named "penetrations" that decided ties. Most times inside the opponents 20 yard line decided the game. I think they use the college method now.

G Rubi said...

@Jim

Look someone else that is incredibly late to this show! But anyway, I'm not expert, but I'm not sure you're right about it being played on a neutral field. Just because if that were the case, then the Panthers would have lost their home field advantage, which I'm assuming they had either earned in some way (points scored, points scored on, etc.) or won (through the use of a coin toss or something).