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Something struck me about last week’s season premiere of Friday Night Lights: Coach Taylor’s resilience in facing his new, decidedly worse, job and inferior team. Throughout the episode, he didn’t complain once. He never uttered a word of negativity, replacing it instead with a determination to get the job done. Kyle Chandler played the part perfectly (as he’s wont to do) and went about his business with a steely determination. Taylor’s attitude is a perfect parallel to Friday Night Lights’s entire run as a television show. Always under-appreciated but yet critically acclaimed. The smart people in the room understand its greatness; the misguided sheep will never realize what they’ve missed out on. Friday Night Lights was even relegated to a run on DirecTV just to keep it afloat. (Not that DirecTV is some barren wasteland akin to the dilapidated East Dillon High, but you get my drift). Taylor and Friday Night Lights the show are the same, they do the best with what they’ve been given and just show up to work without worrying how the masses perceive them. That’s how they achieve greatness.
It was no real surprise Taylor’s machinations worked in bringing the team back together. It is easy to see why the team would leave, but also come back in the end. Even though Taylor quit the game, he made the point crystal clear he hadn’t quit on the team. Those two ideas, while not necessarily clear to all at first, became focused the more he sought out guys like Landry and Vince. And while I know FNL built the drama of the team collapsing in order to give us the “will they or won’t they” angle, Landry’s near secession rang a little false. After all, Taylor is the guy who never gave up on “Lance” from their days at old Dillon High. Sure Landry was hurt, but would he ever quit? Probably not.
Tammy continues her one woman crusade to retain an iota of power in the school system she divided only months before. It’s an admirable quest and I enjoy how she goes about her business with a ruthless edge hidden behind a smile, a little country charm and a pair of aviators. The writers have done an admirable job of putting both Tammy and Coach Taylor in positions of power where their authority is constantly challenged by those with their own end games. Tammy, like her husband, has been at her most vulnerable and refused to back down. Even when she was booed by her own students (a gut wrenching scene) she struck back with some classic passive aggressiveness at the root of the problem, Joe McCoy. The emergence of Papa McCoy from overbearing and annoying father to legitimate evil and conniving villain gives us one of the first chances to actually root against a mainstay in the show. And that’s what makes Tammy’s dismantling of him in front of the other boosters that much more sweet.
“After the Fall,” while not the strongest episode (relative to other FNL ep’s, better than really anything else out there), was still a story mover as the East Dillon’ers worked their way back toward the football field. How this season shakes out for them will be a sign of just how much the FNL writers feel the need to make winners out of the bunch. Personally, I don’t need tons of last second, improbably victories (a downside of previous seasons), but would rather just see a team learn to play together and overcome the walls of negativity already surrounding them.
Other character thoughts, some great scenes and bits of randomness:
- I like exactly half of the Riggins story so far. The aspect of him coming back to live in Dillon because he A: can’t come close to cutting it in college and B: feels like Dillon is the only place he belongs is spot on in terms of small town living. There isn’t any secret why people often return to whence they came, even if they have to sleep in their car to do it. The familiarity of home, no matter how downtrodden a life one’s doomed to spend there, is something that resonates with almost everyone. Riggins’s return is a combination of sweet, bittersweet and sad all at the same time. I don’t think Tim is any of these things, just the story. But the part where he moves in with the bartender and her daughter strikes me as a bit off. That it will probably lead to some dysfunctional love triangle has me a little worried about the Riggins story arc.
- Along the same line, I like exactly half of the Saracen story. He, like Riggins, is still in Dillon and while Riggins is somewhat resigned to his fate (because he chose it), Saracen is in a different boat altogether. Here’s a kid that passed up a chance at a career in art in order to take care of grandma, and plays out as one of those tough choices people have to make all the time. The part where he teams up with a crazy local artist is just the kind of random-save, let’s make Matt’s story happy in the end thing , that Friday Night Lights doesn’t need to fall prey to. Life is tough; people don’t always need to have everything work out.
- The scene where Tammy had to tell Luke that he wasn’t going to play for West Dillon anymore gave an absolutely perfect glimpse at the life of a teenager. Luke was equal parts angry, sad, confused, apologetic, devastated and, in the end, hopelessly optimistic. If that doesn’t encompass being a teenager then I don’t know what does.
- Buddy Garrity has finally been put in his place and he clearly doesn’t know what to do when he’s looking in from the outside.
- Maybe it’s just me, but I think they overdid it a bit with just how bad East Dillon High is. It reminded me of the school in Lean on Me before Joe Clark came and cleaned up the halls. I know schools like this exist, I just somewhat doubt the town would have divided knowing this school was such a clear have not in the educational stratosphere.
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