Friday, March 27, 2009

Closing In...

Friday Night Lights: A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
Season 3, Episode 11

As the strong rebound of the third season winds down, we're getting into gut check time. They can't make things too easy for the team or our favorite characters. It looks like mighty Dillon is heading for another chance at a state title, their second in three years, which means its about time for everyone to take a trip through the ringer. But after months of simmering, things finally come to a head between big, bad Joe McCoy and his golden-armed son, JD. Plus, how can you turn down an episode named after a Dylan song? Unless you're Billy and inexplicably unwilling to give one of the best shows on tv a shot.

The slow burn of independence we've seen from JD the last few weeks seems to be the story that could power the show into a hypothetical fourth season. Of course, that's dependent on the show actually being picked up, so let's just leave our fingers crossed. Since the one-shot story involving the team's fullback, JaMarcus, fell pretty much on its face, it isn't just the Panthers' playoff hopes that sit on the Chosen One's shoulders. And the development of his anger has been very organic through his disapproval of a girlfriend like Madison, "She is a plague!" Joe started this year as an annoying man trying to passive-aggressively get his own way to an overly forceful influence on his son to the kind of person that would slap his boy around in a parking lot. Obviously, it's going to be a long week to see how this effects the McCoys, the team's state title game, and Eric and Tami (who witness and break up the incident). The last scene back at the Taylor's house does a great job in just two conversation contrasting the two defining families of this season and applying Eric's generally calm and collected approach to defuse a very tense situation.

It's been a great and fluid development this season of Joe McCoy pushing JD into the line-up to trying to coach from the stands to going off the hook disagreeing about the plays that (as his far calmer wife, Katie states) Eric is calling. One other note, besides state championship games, nothing rocks like a game played in a monsoon. It worked in "Mud Bowl" and it works here. And credit to Eric for having the guts to go for a two point conversion instead of risking overtime. I wish more real coaches has the stones. I suppose having the writers on your side helps.

Along with the McCoys, the big conflict that can have long-lasting results is the plan to redistrict Dillon and reopen the long defunct East Dillon. And after getting his life pretty trashed the last couple weeks, it's nice to have Buddy take over the boosters to ensure all the key current and future Panther players are on the right side of the District line. Of course, I love Buddy and how humorous his devotion to the Panthers can be, but to see him show some form of remorse over his life in contrast to Joe continuing to be a smug bastard is the type of scene I never get tired of having. Eric and Buddy arguing over the fudging of the district line is great, since we almost never see Eric take the "don't ask, don't tell" path and it usually has horrendous consequences (see the Voodoo Era). And if nothing else, he should have learned that keeping secrets from Tami is never a bad idea.

While it might not have as much an influence on future seasons, the story that shines just as impressively as that of the McCoy Family, is that of the Saracens. The further deteriorating condition for his grandmother has Matt battling himself, the doctors and his mother to accept that things will only get worse as time passes for her. Given how controlled and quiet Matt is at most times, to see him get this upset is a nice reflection on how much the woman means to him. Rather than coming off as close-minded, it seems he just needs some time to get to the point of acceptance. It all ends with a great scene where Matt tells his mom that he wants her to stay and she admits to never considering leaving.

I can say, I've never enjoyed Lyla as much as I do when she's getting drunk with Mindy and the Riggins brothers, doing battle on videogame racing. My only complaint about the funny scene is - why no MarioKart? 'Sup with that Jason Katims and Co.? But obviously, when Tim Riggins thinks you're letting yourself go too much, it's time to dial that shit back a bit. The Buddy-Tim conference on her status is both funny, poignant and shows that at times the brash fullback can drop some knowledge. For example, he rather quickly makes the jump that it isn't this one betrayal/mistake from her father, but the culminated idea that she's let her once incredibly important family fall apart around her.

And as much as I chuckle at the idea of Lyla being one of the top students in the school and getting into Vanderbilt, I always get perturbed at the idea of not being able to go to the school you want without a fund from Mom and Dad. They're called scholarships, grants and student loans, people! Hey, it worked for me... and yes, I'm putting aside the fact that I'll be paying those loans back until I'm middle-aged. But still, if Vanderbilt is such a big dream (hard to believe since I can't ever recall that institution's name ever being uttered before on the show) she'd find a freaking way. Just as the insightful Mr. Riggins points out to her.

A week later, Tyra is now back in the swing of things flirting with Landry, prepping for her sister's wedding (while not so subtly mocking it) and fretting over her future. And any excuse that gets Mindy Collette and Landry Clark in a conversation is great. Even as friends, scenes with her and Landry prepping for a bridal shower (thunderstorm included) are comedy gold my friend. Adrianne Palicki takes big steps this week to remind us she can be a terrific and subtle actress, crossing what we can call the Minka Kelly Corollary. In her final conversation with her mother, she can sell the sadness of her situation and hope in the future. It's good to have her back in Dillon and continuing her personal odyssey.

While the blow-up between Joe and his son was in itself well handled tonight and supplies a great deal of tension for the last couple episodes, it isn't enough to say I'd really be looking forward to a FNL without Saracen, Riggins, Tyra, Street and Smash and I suppose to a far lesser extend Lyla. But for now, with those two of those characters already gone and Tyra back in to her status quo, the show is at least firing on all cylinders for the rest of the way this season.

Final score: B+

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