Saturday, February 7, 2009

He's Still Gonna Bring the Whole World Together

Friday Night Lights: Hello, Goodbye
Season 3, Episode 4

The big-mouthed, big-talent tailback that was going to sell Whoppers and Big Macs, hock Reebok and Nike and finally unite Pepsi and Coke, didn't get the ride he expected. Coming after one week of a less than engaging storyline, the four episode arc to wrap up Dillon's love affair with Brian "Smash" Williams concluded yesterday. And one of the many wonderful little discoveries of this show, Gaius Charles, left... and he damn well better be seen again and often Hollywood! Hear me?! Cause yeah, maybe he and Kyle Chandler made sure it was pretty damn dusty in my apartment for a minute.

Check things out below the cut to read more about the final run of the Smash, Matt's ongoing struggles and Tyra's new feller.

I can't tell you how refreshing that after the consistent negative vibe that crushed some of the brightest spirits on the show last year that Smash gets his dream ending here. And if this is how we say goodbye (perhaps a cameo if they get a Season Four... please, please, please), then all the credit in the world. To see his family live their dream here was great and watching Coach charge across the A&M field, refusing to give up on this young man is the highlight scene of the year so far and I think closes the book on the pain in the butt that is season two. We're beyond it now, we're moving on to better things, just like our old tailback.

The tryout scene with Eric and Smash standing on the sideline for an hour after driving for hours only to be rescheduled. And Eric refusing to lose another battle, charging across the field with Smash in tow and demanding that someone else give a damn, steals the limelight in an already great episode.

"Remember that Rutledge game, fourth quarter you came into that game. You took over that game. Play-by-play you owned that game. I watched you that day and I said to myself, 'That kid is going to go all the way.' Right here, right now... God has placed you to do what you do best. Go all the way."

Now, that's a freaking speech baby! Eat it Al Pacino and every other actor playing a coach. And cheers to David Hudgins for directing the hell of the tryout scene and the episode all together.

Smash and his family getting the call... it's not just about football people. Smash stops by (driven my Riggins - apparently Taylor Kitch didn't quite have the week off, Landry and Matt - man I'd watch an episode just about that drive) to thank Coach for climbing a mountain for him. Ever the caring father-figure, he's still throwing tips at the kid to try and help down to the last second. Charles' delivery of that thank you just continually blew me away at the end.

Those four kids and a pile of beers goofing around and playing touch on the Dillon field one last time reminds me of one of the top scenes of season one when Street (I promise he'll show up next week) taught Matt to nail a hard route, and to see that incredibly wide smile on Smash's face as he's teasing Riggins and us one last time, great freaking ending.

And how great has decision to make Tami the principal this season? Her conflict over the JumboTron has been futile since the beginning (I mean were Buddy and the boosters ever not going to get their way?), but it's given her a chance to fight the culture of the town about what's really more important to the children of this town and their future... it really shouldn't be a high school football team. Of course, the storyline has also let Buddy explode and combine his most passive-aggressive pushing and the idea that he still wants to be pals with Eric and Tami afterward. The smile of his face when Tami pulls a relatively small win over him at the end, it's just honestly good-nature.

Almost as much as Smash, Matt really needs a win here. His grandmother's dementia is getting worse by the day and there are maybe four people in town that think he should still be the starting quarterback over JD McCoy, even Coach sees the end coming by splitting the offensive series between the two. Eric's decision here is totally true to the idea of putting the best possible team out there and he is still backing Matt more than pretty much everyone else is. I mean when the only way that he convinces himself to make the move starts with this exchange with Tami:

"I need a drink"
"Well, we have the wine at home"
"I need a scotch, I need a drink."

It's just that considering he's really the first adult that Matt felt was there for him, it's a gut shot to the kid whenever Coach isn't standing behind him. So the reunion between him and Julie is a much needed win, because this guy really deserved one. I expect her to have Matt's back roughly 100% of the time from here on out given the vibe of this season so far. And while it's tough for him now to see his mom return, in the form the acting clinic that is Deadwood-vet Kim Dickins, we all know this kid needs the help of a full-time adult in his life. She really seems like she wants to get back into Matt's life and knows she deserves the hell that he puts her through to get there.

The weakest plot of the show isn't really that bad. Seeing Tyra fall for a handsome, multi-lingual rodeo cowboy, Cash, over poor, wisdom tooth-less Landry is sad because we know how much the guy has invested emotionally in this girl and their eventual confrontation could easily be the highlight of the episode (if Chandler hadn't gone to that special place in the Smash tryout), so that's some pretty good weak stuff there.

Final score: 5 stars out of 5

Other spectacular things:

Eric and Tami in the bar, discussing the effects of the JD-Matt decision and her telling him how wonderful it is that he agonizes over the decision more than any other coach because at his heart he is "a teacher. You are a molder of men." That's a Chill scene. And to watch him do the same thing as Tami despairs the JumboTron decision later in their bedroom and his objections are completely in line with his character, a guy who cares more than just about everyone else about these kids and their future and as we saw in Mud Bowl believes in the purity of the game, "You think we need a JumboTron. We don't need a JumboTron. We need more teachers. You're right. They're wrong." And when he tells his wife that fighting this battle means she still wins, Big Chill Scene.

Matt and Smash hanging out in Landry's basement to check out that Coach has been talking to people at A&M unrelated to the running of the team about Smash... the humor that is Landry on drugs and how nice it is to get one more scene with these two kids in their full Alamo Freeze uniform glory.

Lorraine's righteous anger at having to see the mother that abandoned Matt as a baby. Louanne Stephens has had some humorous moments and lines, but never let this character become a joke or allows us to forget the utter tragedy of her condition. And to see her actually say a couple of good things about Matt's mom for only one reason: because she loves her grandson absolutely.

Matt and his mom in the restaurant towards the end, just watch two top tier acting talents ripping into the emotional weight of everything. It's an altogether very good performance from both Dickins and Zach Gilford.

Tami getting stalking tips to corner the superintendent from Katie McCoy. And the quick shoot down from the superintendent who right from the start shows he has absolutely no chance of giving that money to the school.

And how about following the incredible lack of football last year, that even in a non-game bye week we get two great practice scenes between the Matt-JD showdown and Eric showing up at the crack of dawn practice to try and learn (and finally let us learn) something about this kid. JD generally seems to be a decent guy, who just hasn't had too much in his life besides football, practicing football and playing Madden on the X-Box. He just lives with an incredibly obsessive dad.

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