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Introducing new characters, new storylines and new plot arcs is never an easy thing for a television show. Establishing these things in the context of a show about high school is even more difficult. Friday Night Lights has tried its damndest to keep a continuous timeline with the characters. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. They’ve had to take some liberties with Saracen, Riggins, Julie and Landry in terms of their ages and years in high school. It’s a somewhat necessary evil because otherwise we’d be looking at massive turnover from year to year.
Friday Night Lights has been somewhat unapologetic about jettisoning big time characters when their story arcs had come to obvious ends. Last season we saw the introduction of the McCoy family as both football and town foils to Saracen and Coach Taylor. It took very little time to get to know Joe and J.D. as a pain in the ass dad and passive football prodigy respectively. And we were able to wrap up the storylines of characters like Street (even if it was a tad ridiculous), Smash and Tyra while moving Coach Taylor into unfamiliar territory. All was good in Dillon.
This season, Friday Night Lights has fallen victim to its goal of maintaining a non-Beverly Hills 90210 timeline (We just keep repeating Junior Year!) and episodes like “In the Skin of a Lion” suffer because of it. Because the season is relatively new, and we’ve been introduced to a number of different characters and situations rather quickly, it can be difficult to understand or become attached to everything that’s happening.
This is illustrated in Luke Cafferty’s move to East Dillon High because of residency issues. Luke is a new character, who somehow is a superstar running back we’ve never heard of before. I’m willing to go with his, until now, secret talent because the teams need players. What is tough to grasp is Taylor’s handling of him on the new team. I understand Coach wants Vince to become the leader (and it illustrates some of the racial tension this season is most definitely building), but why would he do it at the expense of his best, or second best, player? It’s even tougher to latch on to considering how little we know about Vince and Luke. We don’t know who to cheer for. That’s what happens when new characters come all at once. They’re still too unknown to get fully vested in. This isn’t so bad when we’re building towards something big, but the Luke/ Vince rivalry was shoved down our throats pretty damned quickly.
Coupled with this introduction of new faces is the part of FNL that wants to hang on to its past. Keeping Saracen in Dillon was necessary (not everyone can leave), but pairing him up with a whacko artist in an attempt to give Matty some depth and self-questioning is just the kind of thing FNL writers don’t need to do. I wrote last week the Saracen as an artist story is the kind of arc (like Landry’s murdering ways) placed in the show primarily to keep a character in the mix.
On their own the Luke/Vince and Saracen stories would be okay, but when the entire episode is about these storylines, the show suffers a bit. Throw in a non sequitur about religious faith with Julie and we have a Friday Night Lights episode that isn’t up to its normal quality. Like I said before, whenever establishing new stories, kinks will arise. It’s inevitable. I just hope we get less force-fed drama and more of the real life quality that makes Friday Night Lights great.
- I am kind of loving bringing Riggins on as an assistant coach. While he’s still probably too young for something like this to ever really happen, it’s more realistic way to keep him around than Matt’s art debacle. I always thought the writers cut short Jason Street’s run as quarterback coach too short and am looking forward to Riggins taking more responsibility. How else will he grow as a person than to become a role model for others?
- We’re seeing just how much trouble the Taylors are really in with Eric’s new job and lack of funding for the football team. This episode served to show just how dire the situation really has become and just how important getting those uniforms was for Coach.
- I could do without the possible Riggins/high school student budding romance. Not because it’s not realistic in an age sense, but because the way it’s come about is a bit frustrating.
- Anyone else thinking Gracie Bell is looking straight up weird?
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