[For those just tuning in: I first covered Friday Night Lights here at TV Club when it ran on DirecTV back in the fall. I'm rerunning those posts as it runs on NBC to a much larger audience. I'll be checking the comments regularly, as will FNL fans Scott Tobias and Noel Murray. A further wrinkle: My satellite crapped out on me shortly before the season finale so I'll be covering that as it airs on NBC. —Keith]
[Note 2: If you haven't watched this episode yet, bring tissue.]
Whether we like to admit it or not, nitpickery is hardwired into these TV Club blogs. Of course we're here to talk about themes, and performances, and the subtleties that become apparent when a show is consistently on its game week after week. And when a show is on its game then we get to focus on those qualities. But singling out "on the nose" moments and discussing weak links is usually part of the conversation too.
Not for me this week. This was just an exemplary outing from beginning to end.
And I wasn't necessarily expecting one from DirecTV's plot synopsis, either, which noted that, "Tyra breaks with Landry to take up with Cash, the new bad boy in town." So I guess if I were to nitpick, I'd start with Cash, who arrives studdus ex machina to sweep Tyra off her feet, with a container of "cowboy candy" in his pocket. Or at least I could do that if the subplot, so far at least, didn't play so well. Tyra clearly loves Landry as a friend. It's a cliché, but it's true here, and the show has spent the season building to their big confrontation at the Alamo Freeze this week. When two people love each other but have some radically different expectations it's not always possible to find middle ground, as this storyline messily illustrates. It's beautifully acted, too. I don't want FNL to end any time soon, but I hope both Jesse Plemons and Adriane Palicki get the roles they deserve when it does.
(I will nitpick this much, and this doesn't really have anything to do with this episode: Doesn't it feel like the Landry/Jean relationship was going to go somewhere else before last season ended? She was, after all, "God's own gift for Landry." But now Brea Grant's off shooting Heroes so we'll never know what was to be.)
On the adult front, both Tami and Coach faced difficult choices. Tami had to deal with her losing attempt to reassign the Jumbotron funds; Coach had to deal with the need to reassign his starting QB. For Tami that also meant dealing with the unspoken sexism that Janine Turner's Katie McCoy talks around when she points out that "nobody likes an angry woman." In other words, there are avenues of getting one's point across that aren't available to women. (Or minorities. Maybe it's just that we're in the middle of the election as I write this, but I couldn't help thinking of the restraint Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have had to employ this year that a white male candidate would not.) She also discovers that she's being held to a much lower threshold of anger later in the episode, though I don't know whether or not the ability to get legitimately angry would have made a difference. Fighting the Jumbotron always seemed like a losing battle in Dillon. At least she goes down honorably.
Coach caves too, though he caves for the good of the team. And am I wrong in sensing a little excitement when he finally realizes he has to play 15-year-old newcomer J.D. McCoy when he and Tami talk it out over that "scotch-flavored drink"? He's not stupid, after all, and the kid has talent. (Could he play even better with some chicken-fried steak in his stomach? Time will tell.)
Saracen doesn't take the news that he'll be sharing QB1 duties well. Of course, he's having a bit of a tough week with his mom back in the picture and his grandmother acting out more than usual. Returning to the role after making the briefest of brief appearances a couple of episodes back, Kim Dickens. I'm not sure how to fill in the blanks suggested by Grandma Saracen's lament that she "maybe could have helped her out." There's family history here and it's not pretty, as I suspect we'll discover. Or maybe not. The thrust of this storyline seems to be more about building something new than dusting off the past.
Finally, there's Smash, whose story comes to an end, at least for now, in the happiest way imaginable. But, damn, if the episode didn't ratchet up the tension first with that walk-on-that-almost wasn't then with Coach's pushy gambit, a trick he knows he wouldn't fall for but also knows it's probably Smash's last chance to make it. After he does, he swings by to say goodbye. Coach is, as always, full of good advice that Smash is reluctant to here, but for once Smash knows he's right to change the subject. Taylor has played his "molder of men" role and Smash is ready to move on. There's a lot that goes unsaid in their goodbye, but anyone who's been watching this show knows exactly what both men were thinking.
What I was thinking: Am I glad I watch this show.
— Next week: Exit Smash. Enter Jason Street, who's been missed.
— "They were playing Lionel Richie 'Lady' and I love that song." Of course he does.
— "I held your hand at Cloverfield. It was a scary movie." So at least one character on this show has my back on Cloverfield