Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Night Lights: Very bad things (and some good ones, too)

Very long thoughts on the "Friday Night Lights" season two premiere coming up just as soon as I swim a few laps...

I almost feel like I should be writing two different blog posts here: one about The Bad Thing (Landry killing the rapist and then, with Tyra, dumping the body in the river), which I hated, and another about the rest of the episode, which I loved.

But "Friday Night Lights" has always been about the whole, not just the parts, and one subplot affects all the others, in spirit of not always in action. The problems in the Taylor marriage, or between Julie and Saracen, or the friction generated by the new coach may not be directly touched by this idiotic, "I Know What You Did Last Summer" by way of "One Tree Hill" plot with Landry and Tyra, but there's a butterfly effect at work. Once you know that the show is willing to go to this place, it changes how you look at the entire series. As I wrote in the column, the key to the show is how Katims, Berg and company have created this grand illusion that Dillon is a real place, that Coach, Mrs. Coach, Smash and the rest are real people, and that gives the storylines emotional weight that goes beyond any one individual script or performance. The murder/corpse-disposal plot, above and beyond what it does to Tyra and Landry -- and believe me, we'll get back to that -- loudly shouts that, this season, "Friday Night Lights" is more than capable of being Just Another TV Show, and if it doesn't ruin my enjoyment of Connie Britton or Kyle Chandler or Brad Leland yet, it makes me less eager to see where everything's going.

Before I go into more detail about the murder storyline and then move on to the many good parts of the episode, I want to present a longer version of my interview with Jason Katims, which I had to dance around in the column for spoiler protection reasons. It's long, so feel free to scroll past it if you just want my take on the show.
ALAN SEPINWALL: While I loved a lot of the episode, especially scenes like Eric and Tami arguing on the couch about when he had to go back to TMU, I was really concerned about the developments in the Tyra and Landry storyline. Can you talk about how that story developed, and what you're trying to do with it?

JASON KATIMS: First of all, I've heard some people say it's Ben Silverman trying to change the show or something. The first thing is it's a storyline that we were talking about doing last year in the first season. It's not something that we're doing because the network asked us to change the show. This is a storyline that the writers and producers of the show came up with separate and apart from any network dictate

Now, have you seen the second episode?

AS: NBC only sent out the premiere.

JK: We should get you that episode, because honestly, a lot of questions you might have about why we're doing this... Here's our idea behind this storyline. What we want to do is not turning into a murder mystery or CSI, but it's basically these two teenagers in a position where it leads to this incredibly intimate storyline between these two characters that would never -- their relationship would never become as intimate as it does if not for this event. It really becomes this story, like all "Friday Night Lights" stories, about character, about two people trying to deal with it, what they've done, all the guilt and everything would happen to them, and that the two of them get more connected than they ever would have.

The other thing that it does is it allows us, through this storyline, we meet Landry's family and in particular his father who's a local cop. As the story develops, his father becomes very connected to the storyline as well. The story gives us an opportunity to get into Landry's house and see who he is and who his family is. it's something that's served the show so well in the first season, when we would develop our characters, to start to really get to know the families, where they come from. I feel we did that successfully with Tyra's character where you meet her mother and her sister, Smash with his mother. By meeting the characters' families, you really get to know who they are. We never saw Landry's life outside of being Matt's buddy, so now we're going to get the opportunity to do that.

And the actor, Jesse Plemons, has so much to offer, that while we love his comic relief sidekick stuff and don't want to lose that, we know he's capable of giving us so much more. What inspired us to do this story, when we did the attempted rape storyline last year and we saw what Jesse did with those scenes after he finds Tyra in that vulnerable state, we though, 'My god, we're sitting on a goldmine with this actor.' That, more than anything was the impetus to do this storyline.

The only other thing I'll say about this is that, although this is something very different from what we've done on the show before, that it is in the tradition of storytelling we've pursued on the show. When you look at the pilot episode, you have a situation where the guy set up to the be the star of the show gets paralyzed at the end of the episode. That has served us well where you have this very big, shocking moments in the show and surround that with the smaller character moments and the more intimate storytelling that we also do on the show. To me, this feels very much in concert with the kind of stories we do.

AS: Okay, but for argument's sake, when you talk about wanting to introduce Landry's father, you're already doing this story where Landry tries out for the football team, and you could introduce his father there, and this (the murder) kind of overwhelms that. Couldn't you have just done the football tryout story?

JK: We could have, but we are doing that and we're not stopping that

AS: I just worry that I'm not going to be able to look at Landry the same way again. Regardless of what they did with the body, I don't know that a Landry who killed somebody can still be Landry.

JK: You need to see the next episode and the one after that and the one after that. All I can tell you is it's (bleeping) great. I don't know what to say other than the story, the way the story is woven into the fabric of the show is something the show really does not break tone with the show, but adds a grandness to it. And as I said, we've already mixed these kinds of storylines, whether it's Jason getting paralyzed, or Lyla and Riggins having this affair, the big racism story that happened with Smash, or the steroid story. This is really what we do on the show. While it's different from what we've done before, if it wasn't different from what we've done before, we'd have another problem. This is a show that is going to continue to evolve and surprise. That's in the spirit of everything that's kind of gone into going down this road.

AS: Obviously, some fans have already seen the episode on Yahoo!, and a lot of them seem unhappy with this direction. Is there anything you would say to them right now to reassure them?

JK: I would tell them what I just told you. Just get them the second episode, because it's so great. You immediately see the scenes between Landry and Tyra in the next episode, you see where this story is going. I feel like it will really, for fans of the show who might be concerned about this, it'll really be a relief. I think people will be on board with it going forward.

I think that once they see the next episode and the episode after that, they'll see that it's a really compelling storyline that is about character, it's not changing the show or trying to take the show into a murder mystery. The show very much stays tonally in keeping with everything the show has been before.
A few days later, NBC sent out episodes two and three, and, as I said in the column, they didn't provide the reassurance that Katims had promised. I'm not going to spoil them, either, except to borrow a phrase from the comic books of my youth, and say that the later episodes show that the murder and cover-up is not a dream and not an imaginary story. The second episode doesn't open with a flashback to Tyra and Landry driving the body up to the nearby emergency room and discovering that rumors of the rapist's demise were greatly exaggerated by Landry's pulse-taking abilities. Nor is it the rapist emerging from a shower, Landry telling Matt about this wacky dream he had about killing a guy, Tyra handing in a creative writing assignment about it, or anything else that, while completely lame, would get the show out of this corner it's painted these two characters into.

The version I initially saw was staged a bit differently than what aired, in that Landry brained the rapist with a beer bottle while the fight was still going on, where in the final version, he beats the guy with a lead pipe after the rapist is already walking away. Either version has problems: the original because there's absolutely no reason for Landry to not call the cops (especially with his dad on the force), the final because it takes away the "defense of others" justification for Landry's actions and makes the killing far, far worse.

Either way, I'm not happy. Hell, take away the cover-up altogether, and I'm still not happy. I'm simply not interested in a Landry Clarke who has a death, justified or not, on his conscience. That takes away so much of what made Landry one of the richest characters on the show: the everyman quality; the sense of humor (though episode two clumsily tries to have it both ways with a few scenes where Landry cracks wise like always); the notion that, while he may have a brighter future than some other characters, for the moment his life lacks the glamour of a Smash or Riggins or even his buddy Matt. Katims talks about this storyline adding a grandness to the show, but that seems to be missing the point of Landry, who used to be defined by his complete lack of grandness.

Worse, though, is the sense (which becomes clearer in the later episodes) that this ridiculous, over-the-top subplot is really there just as an excuse to do other things like bring Landry and Tyra closer together or to introduce Landry's dad -- things that could have been accomplished without making Landry a killer and Tyra his accessory in covering it up.

Maybe by episode five, six, seven, whatever, something will happen to prove me wrong. Maybe there will be some kind of extraordinary scene between Landry and his old man that would be impossible without this set-up, I don't know. But it would have to absolutely eclipse all of the previous best moments in the history of the series -- Tami and Julie have The Talk, Tami's speech at the pre-championship dinner, Saracen singing "Mr. Sandman" to his grandma, the Panthers getting pelted with garbage, etc. -- to remotely justify the damage I think it's already doing.

I understand that the ads the last few days have been mentioning a murder. Maybe that brings enough eyeballs to the set this evening to keep the show on the air a while. But, as with all the serial killers and hottie detectives who drifted through latter-era "Homicide," I'm not sure that extending the show's lifespan is necessarily worth the cost of tarnishing the perfection we got last year.

Whew. And that's about 2000 words about one scene (1,000 if you take out the interview portion). Can you tell this has been consuming my thoughts for a while? Let's move on, so I can end this post on a more positive note.

What more can I say about the brilliance of Connie Britton? You want to talk about a dedication to realism, they don't get realer than Mrs. Coach. Plenty of brilliant moments from her, but I want to focus on two: the delivery room scene and the silent fight in the Taylor living room after Eric finds out he has to go back to Austin, immediately. Both of them are of a type that's an awards show cliche -- woman gives birth, woman breaks down crying -- but Britton immerses herself so deeply into the part that it never seems like Emmy-bait (not that the lame Emmy voters would notice), just how Tami would behave in that situation. I'm not sure I can remember another actor conveying exhaustion as well as she did when she greeted Eric in the delivery room, and the woman kills me very time she cries, dominating a scene where she barely opens her mouth. (She can cry funny, too, which you'll see next week.)

Kyle Chandler, meanwhile, has his own "a good expression's worth a few pages of dialogue" moment in the scene where Coach runs into Saracen at the supermarket and has to listen in silence as Matt runs down the ways McGregor is changing (ruining?) the team that Eric built. You know that Eric wants to say something, even as you know that he can't. It's not his place anymore -- he gave up that place to go be at TMU. Plus, he had another one of his hysterical deliveries of a line that's not very funny on the page, with the way he sneered "You've gotta be kidding me" when he had to pick up Julie at the club after curfew.

Speaking of which, I know some of the people who watched the episode on Yahoo! have complained about Julie flirting with The Swede and distancing herself from Matt, but I liked it. Not only do I recognize her fear of turning into her mom -- especially at a time when her mom's in a bad way, seemingly abandoned by her dad -- but, as she points out, she's 16. You do stupid stuff at 16, try on different identities, different relationships, whatever. It feels realistic that Julie would drift away from Matt through no fault of Matt's, and also that she'd be drawn to some slightly older guy who's the lead singer in a band. It happens, and, like Coach, it doesn't make me like her any less -- even though it makes me feel sorry for her that she doesn't realize how good she has it with Matt.

Outside the Taylor family and Bonnie and Clyde, our other regulars are in the process of either adopting new identities or falling back into old ones.

On the backsliding tip: Smash (not that he has much to do in this episode -- or the next two) is back to being the cocky guy he was back in the pilot, if not moreso, since he doesn't have a mobile Jason Street to overshadow him like he did a year ago; and Riggins is back to drunken bimbohood. (In terms of the women they were attached to at the end of last season, Waverly's gone -- Katims decided they broke up sometime between "State" and this episode -- while Jackie the MILF will be back in some capacity soon.)

Trying to be different: Street's still struggling to fit in as a coach, and while MacGregor for the most part seems like a tool, his advice about being a coach or a friend/mascot, but not both, felt just about right. Lyla's trying to deal with the crumbling of every relationship around her (including her own lifelong romance with Street) by giving herself to Christ, while her mom's new boyfriend is driving Buddy to make an even bigger ass of himself than usual. (Mo Ryan made a great comparison in an e-mail to me the other day, when she said that Brad Leland/Buddy is to "FNL" as Michael Hogan/Col. Tigh is to "Battlestar Galactica," the older, unglamorous guy who seems like a sleazy afterthought and then becomes an essential part of the fabric of the show.)

In looking at some of the last few paragraphs, reliving Tami and Eric's fight, Eric picking up Julie at the club, Buddy picking a fight in the dealership lot, even Riggins and Lyla's snotty conversation about how they spent their summers, I really want to put aside my misgivings about the murder subplot. I want to be able to divorce that storyline from the rest of the show. But all I know is that, when that DVD screener arrived a few weeks ago, I could not have been more excited to watch it, and I literally felt nauseous when it was over. Episodes two and three are going to have some equally brilliant stuff (as well as, unfortunately, some non-Tyra/Landry plots that feature varying levels of cheese), but when I got to the end of each one, all I could think about was how mad I am about the latest Tyra/Landry scene.

I've seen reviews by other critics who either seemed unconcerned by that storyline or not willing to let it affect their enjoyment of the rest of this great, great show. I wish I could be like that, but I keep thinking back to that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as the final minutes of this episode unfolded, and it makes me sad.

Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse. Who knew we'd be dealing with a genuine corpse right at the start of season two?

What did everybody else think?

66 comments:

T.E. Greaves, MLS said...

Loved the episode aside from the obvious, is there a continuity issue as well? I thought Street and Riggins (and I guess Lyla too) were seniors last year? Or did Riggins get held back sometime in the past and he and Street remained friends?

Kathryn said...

I'm not ready to be disgusted by the murder yet. I felt it coming, in some way, last season when it happened, because they've showed Dillon to be such a small town that it would be impossible for Tyra to assaulted and not have the guy turn up somewhere. FNL has always been a show that follows through where other shows can't--they kept Street in a wheelchair and in rehab where other shows wouldn't, they followed through on some difficult stuff with Riggins' dad, etc. I think the knee-jerk reaction to such an unbelievable plotline is based on so much that we've seen on television where things are made unrealistic by their lack of consequences. What happened between Landry and Tyra and the rapist was unlikely, but not completely out of this world, and their reaction to it was not unlike something a teenager might do. I just desperately hope that they'll treat the aftermath of such an unlikely situation with the realism that we've come to expect.

The thing that makes me the most nervous about is kind of the "O.C. season one syndrome": using up so many plotlines in one short burst where you could have just explored the characters as they were. Next thing we know Tyra will be pregnant, Julie will be a lesbian and baby Grace will die in a horrible surfing accident.

I'm not going to lose faith yet, although I am a little more skeptical since you've seen the second and third episodes.

Andrew said...

While your good-looking corpse idea has some merit, I have to disagree. I'll use your own example of "Homicide" as a counterargument. NBC certainly forced the serial killers and attractive detectives on them, they were able to make the most of them and remain a great show until probably the end of their fifth season. They only started the derail the show in the final two seasons when the new attractive detectives started lacking in the talent department. All things considered, I preferred having those extra "almost great" seasons even if they were slightly compromised.

Now the show you're actually talking about, I agree completely that the murder subplot is boneheaded. Reading Katims explanations reminds me of how Peter Tolan tried to rationalize killing the chief on Rescue Me. All he's talking about is how it'll benefit other storylines. Essentially, he's saying that whether or not it's in character didn't factor into the decision. He just needed this to happen from a storytelling perspective. I said the same regarding Tolan; allowing plot to dictate character is what hacks do.

Chris Littmann said...

I've decided that getting this angry with FNL over the murder plot is a little like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Just not ready to do it when the rest of the show is so damn good.

I watched all of Season 1 again in a run up to the season, finishing with State this afternoon, and I just remembered how much I loved it!

My only question about the murder is will there be ANY consequence down the line? We shall wait and see.

I also wondered about Riggins' return. I was under the impression he was a senior. I don't think we've been given any indication Lyla actually is back in school though.

Anonymous said...

Uuuugggggggh. There's a reason I've never seen an episode of One Tree Hill, and tonight's Tyra-Landry story is it.

Wonder why they went with Landry hitting the guy as he was leaving, instead of the take where Landry hits him during the attack. Seems like Katims and co. could accomplish all of the things he described with a version that is at least redeemable for Landry. Not that I agree they need a murder storyline to get us into Landry's house or to bring Landry and Tyra together.

Anonymous said...

i'll post this here too.

there is that whole other issue of coach and mrs. coach being apart and sacrificing their family for what? careers? is being a football coach that much more important than your family? is being a high school councilor that much more important than your family? with a new baby? my favorite couple on television can't compromise on the most important aspect of life?

coach is being a coach. i know mrs. coach thinks she helps these kids. and julie finally feels she belongs. so now julie can be a groupie to some dude that will shit all over her? and i don't even know what coach or mrs. coach's motivations are anymore.

murder, coverup, degradation, separation of family... way to go fnl season two. you can, in 60 minutes kill all of my love...

Chris Littmann said...

Anonymous said...

there is that whole other issue of coach and mrs. coach being apart and sacrificing their family for what? careers?... so now julie can be a groupie to some dude that will shit all over her? and i don't even know what coach or mrs. coach's motivations are anymore.

murder, coverup, degradation, separation of family... way to go fnl season two. you can, in 60 minutes kill all of my love...


Yikes, and I thought the murder story was a bit over the top. Your grasp on what coaches do and how often they move obviously is way out of touch with reality. I've known coaches that have had families stay in one place while they go on somewhere else. It's not as insane or uncommon as you make it sound. And as far as Julie...next week's preview certainly didn't make it look like unrequited love.

KC said...

Beyond the actual cover up debacle which I agree doesn't gel with either the circumstance nor characters we've come to know.

But look, the whole show is predicated on the fact that these characters react as 'normal' people, not like 'I'm-a-TV-character'. So false notes are glaring.

And doesn't the whole Tyra being stalked by a rapist seem no less contrived?

The original attack at least seemed like a random, crime of opportunity assault. The reality was broken when they turned him into a menacing stalker. Silly stuff.

Sounds like they are too ashamed to admit they went down the wrong road with this plot line.

At least 'Lost' gives you the opportunity to bury your characters alive for possible resucitation.

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

alan, what do you have to say about katims' comment that the show's done the super-racy plotline before, with the milf story and the riggins-lyla-street love triangle and smash doing steroids, but still managed to keep the characters' reactions to these situations based in realistic emotions? i think i agree with his point that dillon is realistic less in terms of the events that happen within it and more in terms of its characters' reactions to these events. do the second and third episodes hold up to this standard of realism? i don't mind seeing landry in some sort of crazy, melodramatic situation, as long as he deals with it as landry would. i mean yeah, it's a big shocker to see that landry has this darker side to him and maybe i never will look at him the same way again. but rather than thinking, "landry would NEVER have done something like this!" i'm just hoping the next couple of episodes show us WHY he would have done what he did.

Anonymous said...

"Your grasp on what coaches do and how often they move obviously is way out of touch with reality."

ok chris, maybe so.

but season one of fnl was, to me, all about the love. coach and mrs. coach were the perfect television couple. i got their love. i needed to know that that kind of love still existed in the world. one of the reasons i watched week after week.

season two? (after one ep, i'm not saying it won't change) fuck love.

maybe i'm a sap, but the way coach was holding their baby, cradling her head, kissing her belly... wild horses could not pull me off of that couch, away from my baby, away from my wife, away from his other julie, who needs him.

yeah that's it. i'm a sap...

Andrew said...

Well, the milf storyline was probably the lamest thing the show did last season. As for the other two, they're not unrealistic. Teenagers are involved in love triangle all the time and the show handled it in a very unsoapy way. And high school football players taking steroids is a very real thing, and a lot more players than you'd guess are involved in that sort of thing, so that storyline wasn't unrealistic at all.

One more thing, while Buddy Garrity is for the most part a total jerk, I fully support him in any future endeavours of beating up hippie vegans. Yeah Buddy, fight the power!

Alap said...

yeah but along those same lines, a teenager killing someone and throwing the body in a river isn't something that's never ever happened in real life before either. my point wasn't so much about whether or not the situations the characters get into are true to real life or not, but that no matter what situation's thrown at them, the way the characters deal with them feels true. and that's how i hope this whole murder deal turns out--that from way he deals with it we learn something about landry that may be super-shocking and change the way we view him forever, but still feels like a natural progression for his character.

notjon said...

I've been trying to get my housemates to watch the show ever since I got hooked a month or so ago. Hell, I even bought the season 1 DVD as much as for a persuasion tool as for my own enjoyment.
However, most of them still can't get over what they see as "a camera shaking all over some stupid hicks playing football".
But tonight, while they were all relaxing after a concert, I slipped on the DVR even though I watched the show on yahoo weeks ago. At first they made fun of the accents and the camera, but as soon as the scene with Landry trying to make his move on the couch, everyone got quiet. In a couple of minutes everyone was asking me questions about plot and characters.
Then the scene happened. In an instant they were all out of it again laughing about how stupid the characters were.

However, I'm not going to give up yet. These writers proved themselves countless times last year and I owe them some trust.
And even if it stays as lame as it seems, I've ignored lamer plot lines before (I'm looking at you, MILF and annoying Spawn of MILF).

Anonymous said...

^^^ oops.

that should have been other "daughter" julie above.

not other julie.

what do you call that, alan... a retraction? a correction...

heh.

Chris Littmann said...

You might not like the MILF story, but I was a big fan of the neighbor kid. He cracked me up to no end, constantly calling Riggins by his full name.

Bobman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I completely agree that the Tyra/Landry development in the plotline is uneven to the show's overall arc... but I will say that I read about the plot development before I saw it. I was very concerned, but when I saw the episode I was pleasantly surprised how well it was handled. It felt true to the characters in the moment, even if the whole storyline was unecessary.

I still love this show and regard this series as the best drama on broadcast TV... I am not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater - yet.

Anonymous said...

Bobman, thanks for ruining next week's episode for those of us who didn't see the preview.

That being said, where's Beckyloo? The woman who told me that Julie's affection for a pedophile wasn't requited?

One of the disappointing things about FNL is that like "The O.C.," it often betrays its own intelligence by doing stock storylines. The justification of course is that they do these storylines well but that doesn't mean I didn't groan when they began and knew where they were headed a mile away.

I haven't seen the second and third episodes, but ya, it's obvious Landry and Tyra are finally going to get intimate, Julie is going to cheat on Matt with a pedophile, and eventually, people will find out that Riggins was sleeping with an older woman (who I wasn't even aware was supposed to be older because she looks the same age as him) because that's what happens when shows start this storyline (see "Dawson's Creek," "Life As We Know It").

All that being said... I am the proud owner of the first season of Friday Night Lights, and anyone else here, if you're genuinely a fan of the show as well, you should own it. The deleted scenes are amazing and there's no better way to show your support than to buy this to show NBC that people do care about quality television.

Michael said...

Alan, you wrote:
it takes away the "defense of others" justification for Landry's actions and makes the killing far, far worse.

The bad guy grabs Tyra and throws her against a pole. Landry comes out of the store and sees/hears what's going on, and rushes to her defense. He gets a hit in and is then punched to the ground. The bad guy menacingly tells Tyra that "I'm gonna be back for you". Landry picks up a nearby pipe and hits him once in the back. He falls and tries to get up, so Landry hits him again. He falls and stays down, one of the hits apparently cracking his skull.

How is that not the "defense of others" self-defense argument? Tyra had been stalked by this guy, he assaulted her, and threatened to come back to finish the job. His death was an accident resulting from self-defense, which I'm sure a Dillon jury would agree.

Of course, doing something stupid like dumping the body is a whole 'nother story.

BigTed said...

The Julie/Swede storyline really bothered me. Not because of what it says about Julie -- we can get that she's acting out with her father gone, and, as she said, she doesn't want to turn into her mother. But I have a problem with what it says about Matt. He's always been too passive a character to be believable as a winning quarterback. And now he's letting Julie walk all over him, despite the fact that he is the winning quarterback -- which means he could date any girl in school, or all of them, and some of their mothers as well. I know we're supposed to see him as this sweet, shy kid who happens to be good at football, but he really doesn't seem tough enough to be believable. And now, whatever you think of that "bad" plot line, even his dorky friend seems like more of a man than he is.

Beckylooo said...

Hey, I'm right here and was just stopping by to post a retraction of my former statement. Obviously, I didn't have the benefit of the "Next Ons" after the yahoo viewing and feel I came to a pretty fair conclusion based on what was in the premiere. But I'm always down to admit I'm wrong. That being said, I stand by everything else I wrote. Distilling the story down to "underage girl cheats on boyfriend with pedophile" is to miss what's really going on with the characters.

Anonymous said...

Beckylooo, blind faith is what's led to our president and his actions.

I love Friday Night Lights, but it's not unconditional love, because I know that this show is fallible.

It's good to question what you believe in every now and again to let the world know you actually do have your own opinion and aren't just a blind follower.

Anonymous said...

My problem with the Julie storyline is that it makes her character wholly unlikable, and this is the umpteenth time a character on this show has been a cheater.

To recap, the following members of the cast are cheaters:

Jason Street. Lyla Garrity. Buddy Garrity. Tyra Collette. Tim Riggins. And now Julie Taylor.

Lyla was a cheater and though her father lent her an ear in her time of need, she slammed the door in his face in his. Jason Street forgave the girl who cheated on him, only to cheat on her and get caught at it.

We have gone to this well half a dozen times in one season and one episode and I'm just saying, even more so than the Landry plot going on now, this disappoints me.

The show betrays its intelligence with soapy storylines like this.

And finally, someone answer for me why Mac McGill, who we know was gunning for Eric Taylor's job last season before the racial incident, wasn't the immediate replacement for him and why he hasn't said a word about this new guy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

First, I deleted Bobman's comment. Discussing stuff that's shown in the previews is a grey area, I realize, but if some people are going out of their way to avoid watching them, I think the rest of us can try to use some discretion about it.

How is that not the "defense of others" self-defense argument?

Because the guy's walking away. The immediate threat is over. By law, what Tyra and Landry are supposed to do there is call the cops on the guy.

And even if it stays as lame as it seems, I've ignored lamer plot lines before (I'm looking at you, MILF and annoying Spawn of MILF).

The MILF story was lame, but at least it came from some kernels of truth -- that in a town like this, a slightly older woman might be attracted to a football star, and that Riggins might be drawn to a woman with a maternal presence -- and it didn't fundamentally alter Riggins in a way that making Landry a mad-dog killer changes Landry.

Alan Sepinwall said...

While your good-looking corpse idea has some merit, I have to disagree. I'll use your own example of "Homicide" as a counterargument. NBC certainly forced the serial killers and attractive detectives on them, they were able to make the most of them and remain a great show until probably the end of their fifth season. They only started the derail the show in the final two seasons when the new attractive detectives started lacking in the talent department. All things considered, I preferred having those extra "almost great" seasons even if they were slightly compromised.

First of all, season five (and the later parts of season four) were contaminated by Luther Mahoney, a character who did far more damage to the series than Callie Thorne, Jon Seda or Michael Michele ever did. Season three is really the only one of the "improved" seasons where I ever want to go back and rewatch the bulk of the episodes.

Later seasons had great episodes here and there, and while I'm glad I got to see "A Doll's Eyes" and "Requiem for Adena," I would still rather remember the series in its pure original form than to be watching a scene in the squadroom and suddenly flashing on Junior Bunk opening fire in there.

As evidenced by the Coach/Mrs. Coach scenes, there's still plenty of material to make "FNL" worth watching, but if the show had ended last year, I wouldn't now see Landry as a killer. when I go back and watch the older episodes.

Bobman said...

Sorry for the spoiler, I figured since it aired it was fair game.

Ironic since my complaint was that the previews for next week contain awful spoilers.

Alan Sepinwall said...

No worries, Bobman. Like I said, it's a gray area, and probably futile, given how NBC is going out of its way to spoil stuff.

Kristin said...

I have no problems with where the Landry/Tyra story is going. He is in love with this girl. He doesn't want to hurt her anymore than she has been hurt already. If the girl of his dreams is begging him not to call the cops, I could see him doing it. Even if it doesn't make a lot of sense. Kids do stupid things. Kids in very bad situations do even stupider things. And seeing the scenes for next week make me very glad they went this direction. It will push Tyra and Landry into confessing things and sharing things they otherwise might not have.

The stuff with Julie was so absolutely real. That is exactly how teenage girls think. And the conversation in the car with her dad...so perfect. I worry for Matt because Julie's about to make a big mistake, and he is too kind and too quiet to say anything.

Connie Britton was brillliant. Her post-partum self was so true-to-life. Last season she was sure of herself, confident in her marriage, strong. This season she is starting to slip. The new baby and a distant husband have put a strain on her, and she might not be as independent and strong as she believes herself to be.

So glad to have this show back on the air!

stevie said...

As someone who grew up in a tiny, football-obsessed town (in Wisconsin, but still) I find a crime of passion by two terrified kids far more believable than a teen football player finding a place to sell him steroids.

I'm not nearly as worried as you and Mo Ryan made me think I should be. This is no "the detectives worry about who to take to the department dance", you know?

There's been plenty of melodrama on this show already -- if any show can handle it, it's this one.

Linda said...

You know, in addition to the things I've already told you about how much I hate the Landry/Tyra storyline, I have to say it's incredibly depressing to see this subtle, intelligent show fall into the trap of setting up a woman with strength and backbone (remember Tyra taking up the fire poker to defend her mother) and winds up giving her a stalker or an attacker or a rapist, and she gets to be bruised and vulnerable and weepy, and this is how a romance is introduced between her and whatever guy steps in to protect her.

It's this gross need to take strong female characters and suggest in some subtle way that what allows them to fall in love is admitting that they're powerless and needy. I realize that's not the intent, but it's really, really icky, and I've railed against it before, as with CJ on The West Wing (with Mark Harmon) and many others.

jeanne said...

I agree with Stevie. I also grew up in a small football obsessed town (in upstate NY) and people would do just about anything for the team. They were treated much like the players on the Dillon team (like gods). Having said that, I don't think Landry has anything to worry about as far as being convicted of murder--now that he is on the team. But I wonder what would happen if he was NOT on the team considering that he was protecting the girl who is pretty much known as the "town slut"...

I think the storyline with Landry killing the rapist is not that unrealistic. He had to make a split-second decision and wanted to protect Tyra. The part I don't care for is throwing the body over the bridge. That just doesn't seem like something Landry would do, but then he is in love with Tyra and will do anything to protect her so I guess he just went along with it against his better judgement.

Because the guy's walking away. The immediate threat is over. By law, what Tyra and Landry are supposed to do there is call the cops on the guy.

I have to disagree with this. I'll have to go back and watch it again, but I could swear the rapist said he was going to "be back for her" or something along those lines, which sounds like a threat to me and probably to Landry as well, which is why he did what he did. Seems like self-defense to me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I have to disagree with this. I'll have to go back and watch it again, but I could swear the rapist said he was going to "be back for her" or something along those lines, which sounds like a threat to me and probably to Landry as well, which is why he did what he did. Seems like self-defense to me.

Again, the immediate threat is over, and that's the only way self-defense laws apply. Doesn't matter if the guy was going to come back later; the point is, he wasn't endangering them in the present. You're supposed to call the cops. (Never mind that the cops wouldn't be much help in this situation; it's what the law says.)

Jon Delfin said...

Kudos to Glenn Morshower's agent for getting him guest-star billing on an episode in which his character was merely mentioned. Or did I blink and miss Landry's dad somewhere?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I believe you can see Morshower in the background of the ring ceremony scene at the end. And based on some episode stills from the NBC media site, there was at least one scene with Landry and his dad that got cut for time.

jeanne said...

Again, the immediate threat is over, and that's the only way self-defense laws apply. Doesn't matter if the guy was going to come back later; the point is, he wasn't endangering them in the present. You're supposed to call the cops. (Never mind that the cops wouldn't be much help in this situation; it's what the law says.)

I see what you're saying, but it doesn't matter that I understand it, it only matters how Landry saw it. I think he became afraid the guy would come back and hurt Tyra (either immediately or at some time in the future), so he did what he did to prevent that. I don't think he meant to kill him based on his reaction afterwards. It'll be interesting to see how the writers handle this.

I wish they hadn't introduced this storyline though. It's just way too complicated on a show where there are so many other complicated storylines to follow.

Dark Tyler said...

Oh, crap.

You know, the worst thing here is that Katims seems to genuinely believe he's doing something really interesting with this thing. I love the guy, he's the mastermind behind one of the best seasons in the history of TV, but this is just wrong. And sadly, no executive to blame for it.

Crap.

Kristin said...

If Landry went to trial and had a jury, they would not convict him. Who would send a kid to jail (and, remember, he's only 16 or 17) for accidentally killing a guy who was assaulting someone? Plus, the only witnesses to the fact the guy was 'walking away' were Tyra and Landry. Unless there was some other unseen person who saw the whole thing.

The only problem I can see lies in explaining why they would toss the body in the river...if it was self-defense.

Anonymous said...

It makes me so sad that we are arguing about Landry's legal defenses and what would happen if this goes to trial. That is exactly what is wrong with this situation.

Other than that, it still seems like a darn good show. I am going to try to have faith in this terrific creative team that brought us season 1.

anon said...

Alan,

No one else has asked this, though linda above comes close, and I just wanted to know if I'm the only one that feels this way:

Am I the only one who feels that this attempted murder storyline for character development purposes is no further beyond the pale than the attempted rape storyline for character development purposes in season one?
(Yes, I know it seems like the guy is dead, making the "attempted" moot, but the premiere I saw left that issue ambiguous; I'm not sure what aired last night.)

Recall that the rape storyline required Tyra, on a game day, to be stuck, in a massive rainstorm (enough to drown out screams), without a cellphone, in a fast food joint with no employees (not one was shown in the episode, if I recall), with a rapist in the parking lot brazen enough to attack her within sight of the restaurant interior (I'm fuzzy on this last point, but I think it is the case). I recognize that all these facts could be rationalized away (e.g. the town would of course be dead on a big game day), but I still thought the rape storyline was a gratuitous way to give Adrianne Palicki a storyline, and all the comments from Katims about the Bad Thing seems to jibe with this opinion. Katims suggests that the murder is being used to bring Landry and Tyra together, as if that couldn't be done in a less incendiary way. In a similar way, I thought the rape was used to demonstrate Tyra was a strong woman, a "firebrand" -- something I as a watcher of the show already knew -- while also allowing the writers an opening to make her "vulernable" -- as if that couldn't be done in a less incendiary way.

Just to be clear, it's not that I disagree about the murder storyline being bothersome -- I just want to know if I was the only one who found the rape storyline bothersome in exactly the same way. Namely, a horrific, scarring event is visited upon some characters for plot purposes even though a less horrific and scarring event would have sufficed. In this way I consider both the rape and murder storyline much more troubling as plot devices that the other, cheesier character development plotlines the show has pursued (I live next to a MILF; My girlfriend is bipolar; I am on but now immediately off steroids; etc.). I'm just curious if those who find the murder storyline "too One Tree Hill" feel the same about the rape storyline, or if it is just me.

Anon

TuckPendleton said...

Well, I'm glad to see more people here writing in defense or at least semi-defense of FNL and the new storyline.

But for those of you that seem in such a hurry to bury the show, there are two things that have been bugging me:

1. There seems to be this perverse glee with which a lot of fans are viewing this perceived misstep in plot -- it's almost as if they -- and sometimes this is how you come across, Alan -- WANT the show to fail miserably this year, so that they can still warm themselves by the glow of that perfect first season. They can keep that perfect first season all to themselves, and not to have to share it with anyone who's coming to the party late. Ever since last season ended, there's been such a fear of this season going off the tracks, it's become almost an obsessive need to have the show do just that -- if only to prove that you were right all along about how great that first season was.

2. Again, this plot turn may be "unrealistic" but how is it any less realistic than the Notre Dame bound star QB being paralyzed on one play in a football game, and then a woefully undersized, unprepared, must-be-mentally-devastated wisp of a backup quarterback comes into the game, throws a series of seeing-eye passes, and leads his team to victory in the last second, and then continues to repeat that throughout the season?

If you are going to tag this Landry plot twist as unrealistic, then you might as well label the whole show as such, and focus your energies elsewhere.

Why we forgive such exaggerated, over the top developments is because they give us a chance to see the characters reactions to such events -- if there is no Street paralysis, there is no Matt Saracen, no Landry, no Grandmom, no Matt/Julie storyline, Coach and Mrs. Coach, and on and on and on and on.

No one forces us to view the show. I know I am in the minority, but the show does not belong to the viewers. David Chase didn't owe the viewers an explanation on the ending of the Sopranos. If David Chase "owed" us anything at all, it's to do the show to the best of his ability, and if the blackout is how he saw fit to end the show, so be it.

And if Katims et al think that this plot twist, as a path to illuminate character and make a better show is the way to go, then I say we go with them. At the very least, they've earned the benefit of the doubt. But given how their "unrealistic" plot twists in the first season led to greatness, why don't we give it a couple of months to see if it does the same, instead of making an early reservation for the show at the TV mausoleum?

Anonymous said...

I agree that the rape storyline and the MILF storyline towards the end of Season 1 were the two that hit some false notes. They were fairly clearly created to give Tyra and Tim some storylines. However, they both seemed within the bounds of plausibility and were handled fairly well.

In this years premiere, even before the murder scene, the whole Tyra storyline seemed ridiculous to me and really interfered with the tone of the show. As a horrible as a rapist is, why in the world did he somehow convert into some obsessed stalker of Tyra?? I guess it could theoretically happen, but it seems SO unrealistic. It's not like this guy was someone she had known prior. I don't know, it just rang all sorts of fake cheesy drama storyline bells for me.

In addition the actual attack see was not believable at all. The guy, who apparently has been stalking Tyra and snooping on her watching movies with Landry therefore knows she's not alone, attacks her again in the parking lot? After Landry beats his off, he actually says, "I'll be back to get you later?" He might as well have twirled a mustache and cackled. It's so sad to see something like this happen to a show that was wonderful. Oh well, I'll always have season one.

Andrew said...

tuckpendleton, I don't think the murder and Jason's paralysis make a valid comparison. Football is a very dangerous sport and suffering a life-threatening injuries are not all that rare. I seem to recall a player on the Buffalo Bills suffering a serious spinal cord injury during a game just a few weeks ago. So it's not at all unrealistic to have a player get paralyzed during football game; it happens. However, it is very unrealistic to have two teens murder someone after a struggle, put the body in the trunk of a car, and dump it in the river. That is to say it's unrealistic unless the two teens in question are complete idiots, and this show has done a very good job the past season of establishing that both of them clearly are not idiots. While both events were shocking, only one of them was unrealistic.

AndyW said...

I watched it first on the Web (bottle to the face) and then again in HD (pipe to the back of the head), and I gotta say, the pipe instead of the bottle makes a lot of difference. It makes the attack more morally ambiguous and makes Landry's reaction more understandable (not to mention I had a really hard time buying that Landry hit somebody hard enough with a bottle to kill him).
I still gotta think that NOT dumping the body in the river would have been a much more promsing plot choice, but I'm somewhat gratified/mollified that they papered over the problem a little.

Todd said...

tuck, a miraculous comeback from a neophyte quarterback isn't exactly realistic, but it stems directly from the show's genre and milieu. The soap opera-esque murder does not.

Julie said...

I choose to believe that Landry took his "WWRD" advice to Saracen too seriously during those final scenes. This seems exactly what that big dumb idiot Riggins would do. I am going to try blindly overlook those indiscretions and hope that we pull out of this mire just as soon as possible.

And Mrs. Coach rocks.

Alap said...

but hey the scene was kinda made way cooler with that sweet-ass brian jonestown massacree song playing in the background.

Simon Crowe said...

Alan, you've written a very nice review of the show you wanted to see as opposed to what was on. You've had the advantage of seeing more episodes, but I'd merely point out that the murder is a logical (though extreme) extension of a Season 1 plotline. Having Taylor take the job in Austin is a much worse choice; it's a dramatically unsustainable waste of time. Your description of Landry as a "mad-dog killer" (earlier in the comments thread) is flatly inaccurate, gratuitous, and beneath you.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Simon, thanks for the psychoanalysis, but if you had been at my office when the premiere arrived, or at my home when my wife and I sat down to watch it, you would know that this was the most excited I've been to watch a DVD screener in a long time. Whatever fears I expressed last spring had gone out the window, and I wanted and expected the show to be brilliant.

Then that happened, and I felt sick.

And "mad-dog killer" is hyperbole. I consider myself to be beneath the concept of hyperbole.

paul c. said...

I watched the episode yesterday, and by that time, I knew what was coming. It still sucked. It was the sort of gratuitous nonsense that has become the norm on ER.

My wife was so upset that she had decided she has no further interest in the show. Her almost exact words were "if the writers would do that to a character like Landry, they can go screw themselves."

I'll see what happens over the next few weeks, but I'm dubious. I'll be interested to see what happens to the ratings. Despite what Katim, et al might think, this sort of plot line is not going to bring fresh eyes to the show. It might drive old ones away.

Anonymous said...

I don't find the Landry murder (manslaughter?) plotline any more unrealistic/unlikely than any of a dozen unbelievable plotlines that the writers have been able to weave into this series. In my watching (and I don't know what the law is), I saw it as an act of passion and self-defense. I do note that it's grander than almost any of the other unrealistic/unlikely events that have happened. The obvious exception is the Street injury plotline. Will the follow up on this plotline be on the same level as that? Will I be interested in watching if it is? I'm hanging in there for now.

Anonymous said...

I won't add any more about Landry/Tyra because I am on the same page as just about everyone on that one.

As for Julie/Swede.....I agree it's realistic. It makes sense, and Aimee Teegarden is doing a very good job with the work. But I don't like how it sets Julie up as the villain and Matt as the sweet, innocent victim. It should be more subtle than that. He was acting so passive and meek in this episode I wanted to slap him almost as much as I wanted to slap her. Every kid on this show has made some huge stupid mistake except Matt. I just hope it's his turn this season to do something glaringly wrong. Otherwise his character, one of my favorites, will become a total bore.

And I can't wait to hear what else you think is "cheesy" about the next few episodes. I have read some spoilers, and I wonder if you are thinking about the same developments I am.

Anonymous said...

Horrible episode. I have a hard time believing it was not studio notes.

This I know for sure: Many of the characters were missing their humanity in last nights episode. Every seen was oozing with conflict, in a very needless way. Much of last year's conflict was internal. That seems out the window. Beside the new coach working the kids too hard, there was not one plotline that I found believable. Not one. It was very depressing to watch.

I am a writer, TV, film. My wife is not. She turned to me after the show was over and said, "I don't know if I'll be watching this show anymore."

It was her favorite show. This was a massive blunder by the producers.

Jake said...

I am alarmed. Less by the murder than by the decision to try to cover it up--um, what about the guy's car? What about the other loose ends? And of course, what about doing the right thing?

But even aside from that, based on the promos for next week (without any spoilage): I'm REALLY alarmed about dealing with nothing but relationship problems (Matt/Julie, Coach/Mrs. Coach, Lyla/Riggins/Street/MILF, Buddy/Mrs. Buddy) for the rest of the season. Well, relationship problems and murder.

I know the show's not solely about football, but last season most of the action stemmed from the team--the dynamic between the players and each other, the players and the coaches, and the team and the town. Now it seems like a background setting for the same old soap opera nonsense that everyone's noting we get enough of on other shows.

Charles said...

I can see Landry hitting the rapist with the pipe, and I can see that being lethal. That doesn't bother me. A 16/17 year old in such a situation, even if, Alan, it's not an *immediate* threat, could very well be expected to act in the same way (Landry's fallen *hard* for Tyra, was there for her through all the recuperation after the initial attack, needed to deal with her being a bitch to him after he got her to admit what happened to authorities, etc; killing the guy who *is* a very real threat [even if not an *immediate* one] is something I can see him doing).

What bothers me is the sheer idiocy of what happens afterwards. Landry has been established as a smart character who doesn't let himself be pushed around or pushed into doing stupid things (tutoring Riggins, telling about the attack on Tyra, picking up Lyla when her car was broken down even though Tyra & company told him not to). Not calling the cops right after the incident, and then being so incredibly stupid as to *dump the body into the river* was ENTIRELY out of character. Sure, Landry would protect Tyra, even if it meant killing a guy (though I'm not convinced he meant to kill him per se). But then half-assing a cover up by dumping the body into a river? That's not realistic at all. Ugh. Makes me really much, much less enthusiastic about this show, especially compared to the brilliant first season, when most everything was pretty much spot-on.

Very disappointing. The reference to the death of the Chief in Rescue Me by one of the commentors (making characters serve the plot, rather than the plot serve the characters) is right on. Last season, FNL was an entirely character-driven show. Looks like this year is swinging to the other end of the pendulum, and that's a real, real shame.

Tom said...

I hated, hated, hated the murder scene. FNL has always struck me as a production that shows the drama in a real town, just dealing with real subjects, like teens and alcohol, the sex culture in American schools, and the pressures of high school football in Texas. The murder scene felt, well, desperate. It was like Peter Berg said "I want to get people really hooked, so let's do a justifiable homicide bit, like every other show."

I loved watching Landry try to get Tyra to love him, being the steadying influence in her life. It was sweet and nice and showed him dealing with her demons. Bringing this relationship to fruition in a normal, believable way would have been tough, but we deserved it for watching the show. Having them break up would have been more believable, but easier. This murder subplot is stupid and apparently is meant to make them closer and yet more strained, and it lost me.

Gish said...

The ratings are in and it is all generally positive news. It did a 2.2/7, good enough to tie it for first place with Moonlight. It held on to 96% of lead in Deal or No Deal's audience and even won the night in a couple of key demos. Maybe those murder promos were a good thing, even if the storyline isn't.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I am so sorry you can't do as other critics and other viewers have done, like you pointed out, and just not let this subplot ruin the entire show. While I don't like the subplot at all, it did not damage or detract from my love of the show like it has done to you.

I come from the land of denial I guess, and am somehow able to easily divorce that subplot from the rest of the show. Partially because I love when Landry gets screen time and gets the chance to show his dramatic chops, but also, I dunno, as I said, I live in denial I guess.

This is still my favorite show on TV.

Rahul said...

I really loved the way the episode used "Muzzle of Bees" by Wilco - I didn't think I could love that song even more than I already do.

Anonymous said...

dear reviewer you are absolutely right about them destroying landry's character. you hit the nail on the had. fnl is made up of the glory of life's small moments. this new development is sad.

Anonymous said...

dear reviewer you are absolutely right about them destroying landry's character. you hit the nail on the had. fnl is made up of the glory of life's small moments. this new development is sad.

Kelvin said...

SEASON 1 was incredible because the motivations and actions of every character had a truthful ring to it.

SEASON 2 introduces MURDER into its subplot, unfortunately it involves Landry and THAT rings false because of everything we know about his character in SEASON 1.

This is why those who enjoyed the show's realism sense the dissonance that this subplot has introduced.

This show would have been better if it was on HBO without having the usual ratings concerns that Network television has. I suppose that is why "The Wire" has managed to maintain its integrity for so many seasons.

It's a damn shame considering that SEASON 1 defied the odds in maintaining its realistic tone for its entire 22 episodes, only to have it shift several degrees off from their identity at the start of SEASON 2.

Damn shame.

Trish said...

I am alarmed. Less by the murder than by the decision to try to cover it up--um, what about the guy's car?

Yes, what ABOUT the guy's car? When he first approaches Tyra in front of the store, he says something about the movie she had been watching with Landry, so we know he was spying on her there. Since Tyra and Landry drove to the store, we know there's some distance between the Colette house and the store. And yet Contrived Rapist Turned Stalker Character (hereafter known as CRTSC) strolls up to Tyra in front of the store without a sound. Where was his car? He obviously followed them, so we should have heard him drive up behind them. They were in the middle of nowhere, so we at least should have heard the guy walking up to her. But where is his car? Combined with the the laughable plot device of Tyra waiting outside the store because the Colette account is overdue (first -- what stores actually do that anymore...or since the 1950s? and second -- the girl was terrorized enough to call Landry to her house, but she'll stand outisde the store, alone, when she knows CRTSC has not only followed her but tried to chase her off the road? Really?), it's the most contrived thing the show has ever concocted. And while it makes me mad, more than that, it makes me sad. I want our show back.

Also? I want to see that scene you reference from the first episode, Alan -- the conversation in the grocery store between Matt and Coach about the new coach and all the changes. The grocery store scene that aired was all manner of awesome, but I love me some Matt/Coach quality time, and losing a powerful scene between the two of them is a huge disappointment I wonder...did they cut that to include more time between Tyra and Landry on the bridge of doom? Way to go, Editors.

Alan Sepinwall said...

did they cut that to include more time between Tyra and Landry on the bridge of doom?

Wait, did they trim down the grocery store scene? The version I saw wasn't very long, but Saracen definitely complains to Coach about what McLaren's doing to the offense, and Coach struggles to not say anything, since it's not his team anymore.

Trish said...

Yes, they trimmed that scene. Mo Ryan referenced Coach's expression during that scene, too -- how he clenched his jaw and how much was conveyed in that one simple gesture. But the version that aired -- both on Yahoo (early) and TV -- had the Coach greeting Matt and Grandma, hugging grandma, then giving Matt a hard time about not coming by to see the baby and asking him how things are going with Julie. Right before he left, he shook Matt's hand, didn't let go, gave him a meaningful look and said that he shouldn't just stand by and watch it happen.

So, with the edits, Coach appears to be referencing only Matt's situation with Julie. But with your description of the extended scene, it's clear he could be talking about the team/new coach, too.

Either way, to be fair, that scene (even as edited) was sublime. FNL at its best. Coach's grin as he goes in to hug a clearly tickled-pink Grandma Saracen just slays me.

Anonymous said...

I may be too late to this thread, but I finally caught the ep, and thought it clearly the weakest FNL yet, even BEFORE the lousy Tyra-Laundry twist.

Coach off at college is a loser of a plotline, as it removes him too much from the rest of the town/show, and you just keep wondering how/when they'll contrive to bring him back to Dillon.

I can buy Julie straying, but Matt needed to have developed some cockiness or football star sense of entitlement so you'd better buy J's fear of winding up with her mom's life. As is, she came off as a colossal jerk here, while Matt moved closer to martyrdom.

Lyla self-righteously embracing Jesus would be more interesting if it were treated more seriously and with more respect. But she's so obviously insincere and catty. No way is her mom that much of a doormat to let her pretend to say grace and instead hurl such blatant insults.

And way too much of the dialogue was on-the-nose; everyone spells out exactly what they're thinking and feeling. Even the great couch scene between Coach and Tami was marred for me when she later bursts out crying-- that last moment was the beat-you-over-the-head equivalent of all the other blunt exposition scenes.

Still some great FNL moments in here, but fewer and further between. I loved Season 1, but thought it far from perfect, so I'm hopeful they can overcome this shaky start.