As "Friday Night Lights" reaches mid-season, it becomes clear that most of the show's narrative arcs and resolutions this time around are contained and resolved within a mere episode or two. There were always side stories and longing glances and relationship talks in earlier seasons, but they were overshadowed by something bigger, overarching: the aftermath of Jason Street, the state playoffs, whether or not Coach Eric Taylor can make it in Dillon. Perhaps it's the knowledge that this season may be the show's last that has the writers tying up lose ends and saying bon voyage to past characters by way of college or careers. (Smash is gone; Street's gearing up to go; and it looks like even Tyra and Riggins will be making it to a post-high school education on their own terms.) Regardless, the relationships among our core Dillon denizens remain compelling and often unlike anything else on TV, no matter how small the scale.
Episodes 6 and 7 seemed to focus on the idea of redemption, occasionally by way of football. Lately most of our characters have been experiencing significant growth and development, but it feels natural. In one instance, Coach Taylor encourages Riggins to "accept" JD McCoy as a QB and not just a freshman, in the hopes that the rest of the team will follow. Riggins gives JD a hilarious driving tour of "his" Dillon, which hits all the hotspots like the Landing Strip ("You are not ready for that yet. When you are, you will know."), Applebees, Rally Girl hangouts ("Lisa lives down that road ... you'll know, you'll know .... she's good times.") and other important Panther landmarks as he transitions into QB1. Riggins has experienced a slow growth of his own as the possibility of college looms. As for JD, his father makes Joe Simpson look normal with his Class A showbiz-diva antics, a fact that makes JD grow up much too soon.
As one Panther aptly puts it, "I told you man ... Daddy got him on a leash!" JD is a good guy and a good son, but he's also a red-blooded American who, when offered beer at an awkward party, is going to take it even if his body "is his temple." So go many first drinking experiences: The lad in question becomes absolutely inebriated almost immediately, a situation that has become exponentially worse with the advent of high-megapixel iPhones and digicams. Though we saw some filming take place, the aftermath of the experience was mostly a let-down. JD was made to apologize to a wary Coach Taylor, but other than that seemed just to collect another "I disappoint my dad constantly" notch on his belt. If the rest of these two episodes focused on how football (and coaches) are able to "inspire and empower" (as Tami says), JD's story is one where burnout is around the corner, and years in therapy loom because of this cray sport that makes people so gosh-darn passionate.
In fuzzy relationship news, Tyra is still seeing Cash who may or may not have a baby mama to whom he owes child support. All I can think is unless that storyline was complete filler, we'll be seeing some more of Cash's potential seedy side in the future. (Although how hilarious was it that Tyra's mom was anti-Cash until she found out he'd given Tyra money?) Tyra's ex Landry appears to have found love with a cute pixie girl who plays bass and knows about the Flaming Lips ... until she quickly derails his affections with the confession that she's a lesbian. Finally, Matt and Julie have some sweet toe-stubbing moments together before jumping all over one another as we knew they eventually would. Fans of the show were probably all pro the Julie-Matt ship until she became a holy terror last season. I think it's refreshing for everyone, Matt Saracen especially, that she's grown up a little and come to her senses.
Speaking of Matt and Julie, one of their exchanges reminded me of the reason I love "Friday Night Lights" to begin with. I've mentioned the perfection of the dialogue before not that it's incredibly witty (which it can be) or that's it's uber-realistic (which it is), but that it catches this otherwise indescribable pitch and cadence of people of a certain age who live in certain circumstances ... for instance:
Matt: Have you ever been fired from anything?
Julie: I babysat once when I was 12 and I was never asked back.
Matt (with a smile): And you still carry that with you, huh?
Julie: Still carry it with me, to this day.
I don't know anyone who would have expressed that fact in that way, and yet it's perfect in its Southwestern, slightly antiquated feel. A little bit like Dillon itself.
Next week: Jason works towards leaving Dillon, to the chagrin of one Tim Riggins, and Matt Saracen has a plan.
Musings and Miscellanea:
- Didn't get to Buddy Garrity's story in these episodes, but anything he does is gold. I loved the turnaround with his kids, and all the great quotes that came with it: "You ... look like a hippie, sweetie." "Dad, meat is murder!" "I can't believe I'm back in fascist Texas!"
- I also loved it when Tami redeemed herself to Eric and to JaMarkus' parents, which led Eric to open the car door for her gallantly. Their relationship continues to be my favorite on TV ... or even in real life, actually.
- Meet Billy Riggins ... walking disaster.
- If Jason Street is 20 years old, how old is Tim Riggins? And why is he still in high school? This isn't 90210!
- So what could be worse than Cash having a Baby Mama? "She could be his sister!" Thanks, Julie
- "I came up with the name 'Crucifictorious,' so I get to keep it." Good business sense, Landry! Now just get it in writing ... and on a T-shirt we can all buy.
- "Ha! He thinks he knows football!" Grandma Saracen about Coach
- Um, Mindy's wedding dress? Speechless in its horror.
- Notice the P. Berg locker tag for Producer Peter Berg in the picture? Nice inside joke there.
(Photo courtesy TVGuide.com)
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