For the 95 percent of "Friday Night Lights" fans who don't have DirectTV, the show's return to NBC has been met with a collective sigh of relief. As the college and pro football seasons sadly slip away, the first sight of Coach and Mrs. Coach accompanied by the familiar Explosions in the Sky theme was a reward unto itself. But the third season's opener was not about warm welcomes so much as hard truths. Like the start of season two, we find our favorite Dillon denizens going through plenty of changes and thrust into new and unfamiliar situations. Of note: Tyra and Landry broke up; Riggins, the token looks-28-and-takes-weeks-off-school-yet-is-still-18-and-enrolled-year-old, is up to his old drunken tricks; Mrs. Coach is now principal Taylor; and Smash Williams finds himself at a crossroads after knee surgery.
"FNL" is beloved for many reasons, but one of its greatest strengths is the depth of its emotional resonance. Judging from the first episode, it looks to be a melancholy season. Not that Dillon was ever a jovial place to begin with. When encouragement was handed out this week it felt very real, not overly maudlin or trite. Both Smash and Tyra, who seem to have the best chances of leaving Dillion behind them, came upon some major roadblocks in their quests for freedom. But once the realities of staying sunk in (Smash locking up the ice cream store and Tyra watching her sister become engaged to Big Brother Riggins "so she can pop out a kid, get divorced and chase after him for child support for the rest of her life"), and they got some advice from one of the greatest couples ever to grace TV, they resumed their fervor. Lesson learned: Above all, kids need encouragement. No matter what the circumstances, something greater can be achieved if we believe in ourselves. Panthers on three!
Speaking of, we were rewarded with some brief but solid Panthers football action this week. Tuesday Morning Quarterback from ESPN comments in his "FNL" rundowns that as the show has progressed there's been more focus on relationship talk and longing glances than football. But this week we were treated to a few atypical moments on the field. For one, the Panthers actually claimed a decisive victory instead of winning by an 80-yard Hail Mary pass in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. And hey, was that Matt Ryan throwing his first big-league pass to Michael Jenkins for a touchdown? No, that was New Kid, a.k.a. #12 who, it seems, might pull the QB rug out from underneath quiet hero Matt Saracen, much to Coach's dismay. Plenty of setup in this episode, all of which I hope pans out over the coming weeks.
Next week: Saracen drama tenfold. Grandma won't take her pills! Saracen has a mother (...!) and he goes to find her! But will he keep his spot as the starting QB? What about his relationship with that holy horror Julie?
Musings and Miscellanea:
- The shaky cam is back. Hold on to your seats!
- "I'm just glad you're not in northern California with some vegetarian raising figs!"
- "She got into bed with Jesus and woke up with you. You're a rebound for Jesus, Tim."
- "You're going to need a 6.4 GPA ... which is gonna be tough."
- Loved how Coach Taylor embraced his inner Tim Gunn with Saracen and Riggins this week: "Make it work!"
- How sad was that video of Panthers' glory days gone by? A young Buddy Garrity, a pre-injury Street, and Smash at the top of his game
- This one is for "Gossip Girl" fans: Tim Riggins + Lyla Garrity = Chuck Bass + Blair Waldorf, yes?
- No mention yet of Jason Street and his maybe-kid? Hopefully more to come. Any other Street fans?
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