Friday Night Lights

Don’t get me wrong, I love Friday Night Lights and I’m completely absorbed in the way Coach Eric is grappling with the challenge of building the Lions up from the ground. But this week’s episode gathered some of my least favorite subplots and really ran with them, with varying degrees of success.

Luke’s dependence on painkillers reached a crisis point, reducing him to visiting a neighborhood where he assumed he’d find drug dealers — it just happens to be the park where his teammates Vince and Tinker hang out — and I kept wondering yet again, Why is he not telling either his parents or Coach about this injury again? I get it that he doesn’t want to be sidelined for a long period, but, well, that’s what ended up happening anyway, right?

Becky’s abortion from last week turned into… another crisis for Tami. After last week, when Luke’s parents promised to support him when the kid was brave enough to tell them about Becky’s pregnancy, Luke’s mother this week is suddenly enraged at Tami, believing that Tami advised Becky to get an abortion. The emphasis shifted from Becky’s decision to an effort to have Tami removed as school principal. Connie Britton was great in these scenes — she knows how to play aggrieved resentment without coming off as self-righteous. I think we all sort of knew that introducing an abortion subplot into the series as quickly as FNL did would result in a follow-up that would lead to heated debate among some of the show’s characters, which was exactly why I thought it was a mistake: No consensus can be reached on this topic, inside or outside of the show, and I don’t see why this had to be yet another weight for the character of Tami, who’s already pretty overwhelmed, to bear. (I know it’s difficult to separate this hot-button topic from its real-life debate, but for the purposes of this recap, I’m simply saying that as the subject of a subplot, this one is so charged and complex that it was unwise of FNL to try and shoehorn it into its crammed list of subplots, and do it — and the actors — justice.)

The other troublesome subplot, from the stand-point of dramatic structure, is the way FNL has succumbed to making Vince get involved in a crime — in this case, acting as hired muscle for the law-breaking friend who’s loaning Vince the money for his mother’s rehab — and now what I assume will be considered an accomplice to a crime that ended up with another friend being killed. R.I.P., Calvin. Frankly, I wish we could have spent the rest of the season avoiding guns and just exploring Vince’s progression as a team player and dealing with his feelings for Jess, which have now been thwarted by her dating Landry.

More problems for some of our favorites: Yay — Tim Riggins is a land-owner! Boo — he purchased it with tainted money earned by stripping cars with his brother. Again, I remind you what I said before: No good can come of that get-rich-quick Riggins Rigs scheme. Back at his trailer, Tim had to fend off an advance from Becky’s mom. I thought this was a great scene, very well-acted by Alicia Witt; I’m glad the show revisited her attraction to Tim — it makes sense, since he’s turned out to be one of the few decent guys this character knows. But then came the misunderstanding that occurred when she came home to find Tim and Becky lying in (her) bed, having fallen asleep watching a movie. This is at once a hoary cliche (cue the Everly Brothers’ 1957 hit “Wake Up Little Susie”) and a believable scenario that sparked a fight destroying all the good will between the two adults. For such a brief scene, it was moving and sad.

And I almost forgot: Matt’s phone call to Julie! We see Matt in a rather miserable but realistic-looking Chicago apartment, heard about his job at an art gallery, and yet he looked miserable. Calling Julie for possible comfort and familiarity sparked a terrific bit of acting from Aimee Teegarden, who mingled fury with hurt in just the right amounts.

Also, random observation based on this episode: I would listen to a Buddy Garrity radio show every day.

As for the final scene: Is FNL setting up a new trouble-spot in the Taylor marriage? This is the second time Eric has chosen to stay out drinking rather than going home, leaving a lonesome Tami sitting on the front stoop of their house late at night.

If any series can make first-rate drama out of marital strife, it’s Friday Night Lights. We all as viewers have so much invested in the Eric-Tami relationship, watching their struggle could be agonizingly good.

And: only two episodes left this season — can you believe it?

Follow me on Twitter @kentucker

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Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights
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