Friday Night Lights

If Friday Night Lights was a big ol’ ratings hit, Kyle Chandler would be Fed-Ex’ing this week’s episode to the Emmy committee for the showcase he had and the performance he gave with that opportunity. Really, has his Coach Eric ever shown so many sides of himself, been as angry and wise and abashed and funny and thick-headed and forgiving and flummoxed as he was here? I don’t believe so. For an edition of FNL whose plot arcs were really built around Gaius Charles’ Smash and Taylor Kitsch’s Tim Riggins, Chandler’s Eric really stole the show.

But let’s take Smash and Riggins first. Smash has been courted by colleges for some time now, and this was his “verbal commitment” week—we were pretty sure from the git-go that he was going to make his decision during this hour, and it was done with the show’s typically dramatic complexity. Gaius Charles has played out this football courtship beautifully—you can read in the expressions on his face all the pride, confusion, and excitement Smash is feeling. The episode gave Smash’s mom, Corinna (Liz Mikel) some really nice moments, as she fought through her fears and hopes for her son, and I really enjoyed the scene between her and Connie Britton’s Tami—one mother consoling another.

As for Riggins, well, it was another great week for Taylor Kitsch, who not only lived up to the forgiving Coach’s word for him—“honorable”—but also did some great Riggins Things such as making that nice zinger to neighbor Jackie about how, now that she’d gone through him and his brother, she might want to complete the “Riggins trifecta” and put the moves on his father. Thank goodness that brat Julie (well-played, Miss Aimee Teegarden!) cleared up last week’s mess and got Tim back in the Coach’s good graces, but I worry about this new stealing-money-from-the-meth-dealer plot. Are we fated to spend FNL’s remaining weeks with another brush-with-the-law mess so soon after Landry dumped that body?

OK, back to Coach Eric Taylor.

The show did an excellent job of piling one problem after another ontohis shoulders: his annoyance and eventual blow-up at annoyingsister-in-law Shelley (bye, bye, Jessalyn Gilsig! Loved the way thewriters worked in your love for The Office!); Eric’s doh!reaction when Julie told him the Riggins-redeeming truth about herdrunken night; his eloquent apology to Tim; his delicately firmheart-to-heart and expression of disappointment with Julie (“Damn,Julie—damn”); his quiet acceptance of Tami’s annoyance withhim. Eric is one of the most complex men in prime time. I just have tolodge one teeny-weeny complaint with the writers for undercutting thesatisfying revenge Eric could have taken against the mad-weasel-coachof the Larabee Lions by having this guy utter the corniest line everheard on Friday Night Lights—that his cancer-stricken wife has three months to live “and I don’t have a game-plan for that.” Bummer.

Oh, well. Still a wonderful hour.

For the record, missing in action this week: Jason Street (again!),Lyla, and Landry and Tyra (but I liked catching that glimpse ofLandry’s dad in the stadium stands). Let’s hope before the pre-strikeepisodes peter out, they all get some more screen time.

So what did you think about the way all these subplots unfolded?

Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights
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