Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon as I feed the ferrets...
I've made my feelings on the Unfortunate Incident pretty damn clear by now. I'm glad it's over -- even if they had to completely skip over any ramifications for Chad over the stupid car fire -- and yet I wonder how well the characters of Tyra and Landry will survive it. Plemons and Palicki totally justified the writing staff's faith in them, even though they couldn't keep this albatross of a story airborne, but when the show comes back in January (I think there are five or six episodes left, more than most shows since they started production early), is Landry just back on the team, goofing around with Saracen like nothing happened? Or does the look in his eyes in the final shot imply that, even though the legal part of this story is behind us, the season will continue to be haunted by the rapist's death? Ordinarily, I hate when shows don't deal with the emotional ramifications of a life-altering event, but I'd almost prefer that they treat this like the people of Springfield treated Armin Tamzarian, you know?
I might have been more engaged by the later stages of the storyline if it hadn't taken place in complete isolation from the rest of the show. After his big moment on the field, Landry's barely shared the frame, let alone dialogue, with Coach or his teammates, not least of which one-time best friend Saracen. Not that I necessarily wanted even more time given over to this story, but wouldn't word of this get out, cop's son or no cop's son? Wouldn't Buddy, even with Santiago on his plate, be aiming to put the fix in for the team's new star tight end? Wouldn't Matt be able to tear himself away from his live-in love buddy long enough to reach out to Landry? Wouldn't Riggins be pointing out to Coach that that Lance kid has brought far more shame to the Panthers than he ever did?
When "Friday Night Lights" is at its best, it's about a community, and about how one part of it (the football team) reaches out and touches everyone in it. The Landry story, and the Carlotta story, and most of the plots this season have been so compartmentalized from each other that it feels like each one has its own separate writer, and their scenes get jammed together to fit a script that covers a given week of the football season.
That said, some of the stories are working even though they're disconnected from everything else. Take Santiago, who's on his own little island with Buddy and, from time to time, Coach. I really liked what the show did with him this week, and not least because they finally put the kid at linebacker, where the team and the show had a far greater need. They're doing a nice job of showing how damaged this kid's psyche is, and of how Buddy's fumbling along, partly out of self-interest, partly out of a growing recognition that Santiago needs help. As predictable as Santiago's sack and forced fumble were, that sequence did something that Landry's big game didn't: it put us inside the head of a neophyte tossed into the pressure cooker of big-time Texas football. It's obvious how that would intimidate Santiago, just as it's obvious how he might start to feed off it, especially after the O-lineman started talking to Santiago like someone from his juvie days.
Street's story was amusing enough -- Herc is always funny, and Scott Porter's reaction to the girl's golden shower fetish was priceless -- but I'm wondering what the guy is still doing on the show. When he quit the team, he seemed to realize that he needed to get the hell out of Dillon and start his life anew, and yet here he still is, first in his folks' place, then in Herc's nearby apartment. I realize that making a big change is hard for someone in Street's physical and financial condition, but his behavior here didn't really seem to follow the decisions he made a few weeks ago.
Riggins getting out of his own rut with Ferret Guy was more interesting, if only because it's pushing Coach back into the surrogate father role that's as much a part of his job as the X's and O's. Eric's not a perfect man, and he doesn't always relate to these kids and their problems as sensitively as he could (he was oblivious to the way his yelling made Santiago shut down in practice, for instance), and the town as a whole has turned a blind eye to Tim Riggins so long as he does a good job blocking for Smash, but when the kid turns up asleep in his truck in front of your house, it's hard not to notice the problem. I liked the wordless sequence of Coach inviting him to crash in the garage (Kyle Chandler's best moments tend to be ones where he's allowed to let his expression do all the talking), and look forward to the Taylors turning Tim into their new project to replace Tyra. (Anyone want to place odds on a Julie/Tim romance arc?)
Finally, the christening story featured the usual acting goodness from Connie Britton, but Tami and Julie's argument where they kept saying the same things at each other seemed too on the nose, and none of it really tracked with where their relationship was last week after the Noah thing. If this means Julie's going to be less of a brat going forward, then I'm okay with it. But as with the Landry story, it felt like the writers just decided they wanted to be done with this arc with as few consequences as possible.
What did everybody else think?