Friday, March 6, 2009

One Last Time... Texas Forever

Friday Night Lights: New York, New York
Season 3, Episode 8

Let's face it, given the lack of options, it doesn't take a lot for FNL to win me over. And so this week had me at "tearful goodbye between lifelong best friends." It kind of stinks that this third season that has saved the show is all about saying goodbye. In his fourth episode of the year, it's time for Jason Street, a.k.a. Six, the quarterback whose injury changed the lives of almost everyone in Dillon, to follow his baby and that baby's mama to New Jersey. It hasn't been that big a surprise how he'd leave and even if idea of him becoming a sports agent was pretty unbelievable and hastily thrown together. And the idea that Riggins could miss a week of practice with no problem, repeating the mistakes of sending him to Mexico last year.

Despite it being the final episode for Scott Porter's Street, the star of the week is without a doubt Taylor Kitsch's Riggins. You want to talk about achieving the impossible? Kitsch actually has me excited to see him as Gambit in this summer's Wolverine movie. And I HATE Gambit. There's a near non-stop streak of jokes and fish out of water moments, seeing these boys rolling in the Big Apple.

Need a suit, "Hey this is it! Two for 125! You want dark or.. uh blue or..."

Need to get over not getting a job, "We got Gypsy tonight. Strippers."

Need to practice the speech to win over your baby mama, Erin, "Jason, I'm pregnant. I'm being your woman. What if she throws you a curveball like that?"

But the scene that makes all the complete improbability of the rest of their story this week is the finale with Jason showing up with a job and a chance for a future at the doorstep of the woman he loves and their baby. And as great as it is for them, Kitsch absolutely rules the scene and we're watching his relationship with his best friend end. I mean they say all the "I'll visit" B-S that every goodbye scene has, but if they talk every few months and visit every few years... you never get back to what you had before. I mean neither of these guys seem the type to chat daily on IM or... i don't know... start an entertainment blog together. It's over. And it's one of the many dust-in-my-eye scenes already this year to see Kitsch in this scene.

"Hey J-6.. I hope you get everything you wanted. But no matter what happens, you're always gonna be my best friend and you deserve to be happy."

Street starts to roll away and turns around, "Texas forever?"

"Texas forever."

Screw dusty, now I'm just crying a little. Shit. To go straight from that to Street holding his baby and winning over Erin and to see Riggins watch, tear up and nod his head... that's a freaking farewell scene.

The conversion of Saracen to a wide receiver is a bit more believable a storyline and leads to the single best non-Street/Riggins scene in the episode. After getting shut down on his own, Matt gets some advise from Julie on how to handle him. It's laugh out loud funny to see Julie absolutely force the conversation at dinner onto both her dad and boyfriend.

And for all the drama we normally have, to have Eric throwing passes to Matt in the street is one of the scenes that remind us how much these characters love football and how much fun they can have with it. It's refreshing to have the normally reserved Matt having a bit of fun with the one big father-figure he's had on the show, playing catch and teasing him.

And Coach continuing to be sublimely funny after throwing all those passes as he's walking in the house with Tami, "We got some aspirin in the house, right?"

This bit is even more important after the rather weak scenes for Tami and Eric throughout the episode. Coach gets dragged through the ringer after Mac's heart attack, pushed into hiring Joe McCoy's personal trainer, Wade Aikman, as a replacement. Tami is simultaneously stuck pulled into the painful Tyra-Cash the Cowboy storyline again and lets Katie McCoy sell her on the idea of getting a new house. And the scenes with Coach saying they can't afford it and Tami wanting to try... a rare average scene between the two of them. Can't hit a homer every time at bat I guess.

And yeah, I can't really talk calmly about Tyra leaving school while desperately trying to improve as the student body president and get in to college... to go on a rodeo tour! A! RODEO! TOUR! For Christ's sake people! Am I the only one who watched her character arc the last two and a half years?

But hey what a freaking soundtrack to the episode!!! The opening scene is set to "Feel Alright" by Steve Earle, a solid member of my iTunes Top 25 Most Played Songs which first rocked my world during the second season finale of The Wire. Guys, you just made my day right there.

One other note, four episodes each was probably one too many each for the farewells of Smash and Street. It's limiting to the other stories given the fact that low ratings mean there are only 13 episodes all year. Now I find myself torn between wanting the show to return for a fourth season, but worrying over the loss of Kitsch, Adrienne Palicki (Tyra) and Zach Gilford (Saracen). And they'd need to find some bad actress that looks good to replace Minka Kelly's Lyla.

Final score: B-

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