Friday, December 07, 2007

FNL: End of an error

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?


Dave Sandell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I quite liked this episode, actually. With regards to the Santiago storyline, I loved how it brought football back as the great Dillon dream - or however you want to phrase that, in a less cheesy way.

I'm glad the murder stuff seems to be over, but holy cow, was the look in Jesse Plemons' eyes at the end chilling or what? I would almost say this arc has been worth it just to see him act it so well, but... no. ;)

I think they're setting up Matt and Carlotta for a fall, probably sometime soon.

Loved the Jason stuff, and Tim finally getting out of Ferret Guy's weird, unwashed clutches.

And finally... Tami and Julie. I love how this show handles their relationship. It is so complicated and both actors play it perfectly. Neither one is ever completely right or completely wrong. I also think it's an ongoing thing - the family moment at the christening was very sweet, but Tami needs to realize that she won't get her family "back" in the same way. Grace has been born, changes have happened - Julie is being a bit bratty still but she's right about needing to grow up. She could start with her attitude.

This is becoming an epic, but there's something else I wanted to point out. I think the one major problem with this show is that they have too many characters. Relationships - say, Matt and Landry's, or Tim and Jason's - get dropped from one episode to the next because theree's so much to focus on. I love all the characters, especially Jason, but I do think some could be phased out. Jason most easily, followed (probably) by Smash after they tie up the recruitment storyline, and perhaps even Lyla. I admire their ambition, but I think the writers have almost too much to work with.


Anonymous said...

I didn't hate the murder plotline this week, so while I don't think they're going to be able to redeem Landry and Tyra 100%, I think I can like Landry again, maybe even laugh at him. I was sad that Smash was the one giving Saracen bad relationship advice this week since that just reminded me how awesome Landry was in season one.

I do find it hard to swallow that the entire town / football team isn't aware of what's going on with Landry, especially after he was the town hero just a few weeks ago. Dillon hasn't been a character this season like it was in season one, and I think that was something unique the show brought to the sports genre. I'd like that weight to come back.

One more mini-rant: Every football game seems to conveniently arrange itself so that they can showcase their underdog of the week. First Landry, now Santiago. They just happened to be playing one of the toughest QBs with a tough offensive line in Santiago's first game. At least they didn't dwell on the implied come-from-behind win. It would be nice to see Saracen & Smash playing well just once this season.

Anyway, frustrations aside, I feel like the show is finally back on track, and I do hope they can pull off a third season somehow.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought this was one of the best episodes of the season. However, I still want to know why the town people aren't trying to fire Coach Taylor. There is no way this kind of season would be acceptable after winning state last year. (Especially with the same roster.)

Perhaps I just stumbled on an apt parallel: Last year's Dillon football season and last year's FNL season were both near perfect. Yet, despite the return of the entire roster (or entire cast) this year's football season and this year's FNL season are okay.

I know that most fans of FNL are dissapointed about the mediocrity on the screen. Therefore, why are the Dillon fans/citizens not dissapointed with the mediocrity on the field?

Also, I seem to remember that Herc lives in another town that borders Dillon. As a result, I read that scene as Street's possible departure from the show.

jenmoon said...

I'm glad That Plot is over,, they really ruined this show. It's like they took nearly every element of it that worked so well and (hah) pissed all over it. *sigh* It's just not really improving. Julie turns into a brat who chases after older men, Matt's skeevy and chases after an older woman, Tim runs around with a meth addict, and somehow the entire town isn't calling for Coach's head on a platter right now? Since WHEN?

The only storylines that seem realistic to me are Jason's (he and Lyla tonight were cute) and Smash's (well, you knew he'd do that)., I miss my first season show.

Anonymous said...

They won tonight, right? That's what I understood when they were smiling and Buddy was talking about the change of momentum. And he said 'you won the game tonight' to Santiago I thought.

I agree that after last week the town should've been in an uproar, but this week it seemed like they won.

Beckylooo said...

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.

Man do I violently disagree with that right there. Growing up, I had that fight with my mother, almost word for word, more than once. The moment felt so real, so familiar, I reacted physically. And as far as tracking with last week, Tami never apologized to Julie, there was never a resolution to the mounting tension. They were both still pissed at each other. That scene, for me, offered one of the most intense doses of verisimilitude in the shows brief history.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree that so many of the plot lines feel like they are in another universe of their own.

Also, something is bugging me that I hope is not a trend: the scene when Landry and Agent Pierce were talking to the defense lawyer I thought I was watching Law & Order... not just because of the strong difference in content, but the way it was filmed -- it looked very conventional TV and not the documentary fly-on-the-wall feel to it anymore.

Off-topic: Hey Alan, caught up with Reaper yet? I'm starting to really dig the new twist and is hoping you're still covering it, a post with thoughts? /threadjack

Anonymous said...

I was just so relieved that we weren't going to lose Landry (and Tyra) that I was going to like it anyway (though I think that look in Landry's eyes means they're not just going to sweep this totally under tha rug).

Overall, though, a pretty good episode, full of those moments I love about FNL. And while I get it that people might find it disjointed, I'm thinking it's far more realistic for them to all have their own secret lives than for the whole town to know everything that's going on. Because small towns really are that way -- everyone thinks they know everything about everyone else, but generally it's not true. Doesn't mean one or more of these plotlines won't end up public at some time in the future.


Ransom said...

As you note, the storyline glossed over two fairly significant components of Landry's crime: the disposal of the body and the destruction of the vehicle. Essentially, the police investigation of Landry occurred as it would have had he confessed immediately after the crime without attempting to hide evidence after the fact. (Indeed, this particular plot resolution would have been far more credible had Landry or Tyra simply called the police in the immediate aftermath of the killing). Although we would expect the Dillion Police Department to bestow upon Landry an immense amount of benefit of the doubt due to his father's position, I would think that department would at the very least document its file to such an extent to account for how the body ended up where it did and attempt to match up the fibers found on the body to Landry's now missing vehicle. (Did Landry and his father report the vehicle stolen? What is the police understanding of what happened to that vehicle?). Add to that the fact that we have a bereaved relative of the dead rapist who might want more answers and you have a storyline that was too tidily concluded. Whether there are ramifications to Landry or his father we do not yet know but it seems clear that the police department accepted his explanation at face value without any additional investigation, which I doubt they would do so many weeks after the body was mysteriously found. Only the guilty fleeth, after all.

Anonymous said...

I'll preface with I forgot the show was even on, mainly because I was immersed in the last four episodes of Six Feet, and episode 1, Season 3 of The Wire -- both On Demand.

So when I turned it on at 9:37, the first scene I saw was the internet girl saying she liked pee.

Then Santiago.

Then Saracen with the maid.

Then Landry.

I really don't think it's the same show as last year anymore, at all. It seems to cater too much to a high school ADD audience: all sensational scenes (and not sensational as in Connie Britton).

And once more, weekly, I ask: why is this show not centered on Dillon's hopeless love of all things football? Where are all the ring-wearing alums who live and die, eat and breath, Panther football?

Anonymous said...

As for why the town is not clamoring for Taylor to be fired-- they are two big reasons. One- when you win a state championship even at a football tradition school time is bought. I get the impression Dillon has a long history but doesnt win every year- guys like Buddy are still living on a title they won decades later- last year buys some forgiveness.

Second- while some bitterness should surface about Coach leaving he came back so all losses this season can be blamed on the carpet bagger who came in and messed everything up. Maybe not true but a convenient excuse.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why we are worrying about Jason having a girlfriend or whether he lives with his parents. The real question is shouldn't Jason Street be in college? He graduated or got a GED or something and he seems motivated to make something new of himself. Jason seems pretty clever and when he was a football player he intended to go to school. If they want to keep him on the show, they need a nearby local university. I think a kid like Street would want to go to UT or something but then he would probably be off the show.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the negative sentiments here, finding the good stuff tarnished by what a mess they've made of the show this season. But I strongly disagree with those suggesting Street should be phased out.

That's exactly what does happen to a former star once his football days in a town like this are over. What's interesting here is seeing how he struggles with life after football. To me, he's one of the most essential characters. So much so that I felt a huge gaping hole in the previous two episodes, when he'd mysteriously vanished.

Disappointing that he popped back up here with nothing changed, and all the more odd that Riggins never sought Street out once Tim stormed out on his brother. I guess they're hoping we don't notice two different sets of best friends have completely abandoned each other.

Adele said...


I would love a Tim/Julie hook up. Just thinking about how infuriated Tami and Coach would be, Matt's reaction and perhaps even a great pairing. They could be the making of each other. They are polar opposites in terms of personality and family and this could be great. I also remember that great line in season one when Coach tells Tami that it could be worse (than dating Matt) it could be a serial killer or one of the Riggins boys. Classic.

Tim doesn't bs, he could call Julie on the mistreatment of family. Something he would see from being somewhat adopted into the fold. I love the idea. Tyra would be pissed also.

Bobman said...

Not much to add, but with regards to the destroying of the car - since Landry confessed, I assume they immediately quit looking for evidence like that, so we can just assume no one noticed or cared that the car was destroyed.

The rest of the ep was decent. I like how the Santiago storyline is shaping up, even if it's a bit cliche. I like Street more or less moving on with his life - it's not surprising to me that he isn't in college, just because of all the turmoil last year he'd at least take a year off. I actually think the Julie and Tami relationship is VERY realistic - teenage relationships with parents is always changing and in turmoil, and Aimee Teegarden and Connie Britton play it so brilliantly.

Anonymous said...

Why would they quit looking for evidence just because someone literally walked in off the street and confessed? Considering the unreliability of some confessions, the police probably want to do some level of confirmation.

K J Gillenwater said...

If they are not pressing charges, what would be the point in pursuing the dad burning up the car? But I do wonder if the state of Texas can just decide not to press any kind of charges when there is a murder. Wouldn't he at least have to go to court for involuntary manslaughter??? Maybe not. I'm no law expert.

I think there is more to this story, though. If the police wash their hands of it, will the brother do the same if/when he finds out Landry killed his bro? Will anyone else in town find out beyond Tyra, Landry's parents, and Landry?

I am SO hoping Tim and Julie do some freaky hookup. If Julie figures out that Matt is sleeping with the live-in, I can just see her turning to Tim to get her up to speed on what she's missing out on. Should be good! Bring it on!

Anonymous said...

Let's not put the cart before the horse. They have to analyze the evidence in conjunction with Landry's confession before deciding to drop the charges, if only for appearances. We don't know whether Landry's father reported the car as stolen or if it mysteriously disappeared without explanation. Even if we disregard the vanishing car, the police would still want to know not just how the rapist was killed but how his body was dumped. Landry was not shown explaining any of those actions. Remember, self defense only applies to Landry's actions outside the store; everything after is a cover-up, which is a separate crime. Just because he may not be guilty of murder does not mean he didn't attempt to hide his actions. Plus, the fact that he hid the body and refused to confess for weeks could be a possible basis to disbelieve his story. We know better since we saw what the police did not, but any police officer worth his salt is not simply going to take a confessed killer at his word, even if self defense excuses his acitons.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with the negativity this week and say that this was one of the best episodes of the season. Not equal with season one, but it gave my wife and I chills, especially the scenes involving Santiago.

In fact, I would argue that there was a sequence in which at least four or five scenes were Emmy worthy. The aforementioned scenes with Santiago - brilliantly cast, subtly played, and the head in the helmet scenes were fantastic, even if slightly cliched.

The scenes with Connie Britton and Amiee Teagarden were amazing, as usual. The decision to make Julie the prototypical obnoxious teenager is very brave but also very believable. The Tim Riggins and gymnastic scenes were hilarious and unexpectedly touching. The Street meets waitress scenes were both entertaining and consistent with the development of his character.

I am not sure what is in store, but I have to say that this episode renewed my faith. This season has not been as good as season one, but it has enough consistency to make me enthusiastic again. If the second half of this second season can return to what is the core of the show - football, community, family and faith - then I'll be back on board.

Anonymous said...

Despite the obvious flaws, I really enjoyed this week's episode and felt the same kind of magic each and every episode of Season 1 brought on.

- Glad they haven't phased out Jason Street. When I saw him again I breathed a huge, happy sigh of relief.

- Will gouge my eyes out if they hook up Tim and Julie. Maybe it's just my intense hatred of that freaking brat combined with my love of Tim Riggins, but the thought of that pairing makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

- Jesse Plemons is the best actor on the show, I think, and one of the best actors of all the shows I watch. Not one moment of his feels forced; it's a beautiful thing to watch. When he broke down after his dad dragged him away from the interview room, my husband and I had to pause it for a moment just to recover, and to marvel at how GOOD he is.

Glad to hear there are a few new eps left! I thought that was the last one.

Anonymous said...

When Tim Riggins muttered, "She's her own worst enemy out there today" regarding the gymnast, and really meaning it, and really CARING about how the gymnast was doing, I did a happy dance. Moments like that are what I LOVE about this show and what have been sorely missing.

Anonymous said...

I also LOVED Tim Riggins appreciating talented women athletes. A much better way of presenting girls sports in this football town than the stereotype soccer coach lady.

Anonymous said...

Well here's some good news for us all:

Marengo Main Street said...

The highlight for me also, was Tim's assessment of the 8.6 gymnast. Wonderful.

But if he & Julie hook up, that will be my Plot Point Which Shall Not Be Named. Tim is a hounddog, no doubt about it. But he has his own set of rules, and dating Coach's daughter would be disrespectful to Coach. So if it happens, color me stunned.

I liked Santiago's moment of glory. It wasn't overdone--he accomplished just enough to make his mark, and in a way that I found believable. In any other show, he would've intercepted a pass and run it back 47 yards for a touchdown.

Finally, I'm puzzled by why it took a woman of Tami's knowledge and wisdom so long to see that the old green-eyed b*tch had taken up residence inside her oldest daughter. But now that she's made some big strides in clearing that up, maybe she can exorcise Satan from the kid too.

Anonymous said...

I have to respond to those who object to Julie's self-absorbed and bratty behavior. Most teen daughters behave similarly, and worse, without a new baby sister to add to the family stress level. It is a mysterious miracle that shortly after they turn 18, the same loathsome creature becomes a daughter the mother actually enjoys spending time with and admires as a beautiful human being. The syndrome is so well documented that there is a book, the title of which says it all: "Get Out of My Life- but First Will You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?"

Donny said...

JP - love the Agent Pierce reference. I have been waiting for someone to bring up the fact that in Season 5 of 24, both Mrs. Coach and Landry's dad were prominent characters. Pierce obviously for more than just Season 5. But it was funny, I was watching it on Sunday and couldn't help notice how Connie Britton was fantastic in her brief 24 stint as well.

As for the show, I have to admit that I'm extremely disappointed. I didn't watch Season 1 live, but flew through it on DVD in time to watch the first episode of Season 2 live. The writers have lost focus, and are trying to make Season 2 appeal to people who aren't football fans. The problem with that lies in the fact that the greatness of Season 1 was not always centered around the football scenes, but the relationships that went along with being in a football town such as Dillon.

This year, they are pulling the relationships away from football and turning this show into your typical network drama. Too much Julie/Mrs. Coach, too much Matt and his love life, and too much Riggins doing everything but playing football.

This show needs to center around the Dillon Panthers to be great - and it is a far cry from that right now.

Anonymous said...

"Most teen daughters behave similarly, and worse, without a new baby sister to add to the family stress level."

There were 5 daughters in my family, and not one of us would ever act that way, to that degree. I have 8 nieces in their teenage years, and NONE of them act that way. They have moments of brattiness, but nonstop? Bah. I can't freaking stand Julie, even if it is common among teenage girls. Just because it is common and realistic doesn't mean I hate her any less. It's pathetic and disgusting, how that character behaves. Not to mention one-note and rather boring to watch after a while.