By Ken Tucker
Updated May 29, 2010 at 12:30 PM EDT

Friday Night Lights

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Friday Night Lights had some heavy moments last night, but everything was trumped by the sight of Tim Riggins in that hunting cap he wore with intentional ironic goofiness while on a hunting trip with Matt Saracen. (The number written on Tim’s deerstalker cap, “33,” was his football jersey number.) This was superb.

The hour started out exceptionally well. I liked the way East Dillon Principal Burnwell (very nice, Dickensian name) wasn’t cutting Coach Eric Taylor any slack. His terse dismissal of a pep rally was, “Rah, rah, rah, sis boom bah” — and that last “bah” sounded like the start of “bah, humbug!”

As for the sudden escalation of Vince-Luke arguing and fighting, well: The producers have set up some problems for themselves in splitting our attention between two schools and two teams. There are so many new characters and so many subplots to juggle, it’s inevitable that some of them will be treated abruptly, as the rivalry between Vince and Luke was this week. That said, credit where credit is due: The punch Vince gave Luke when Luke knocked the plate of food out of Vince’s hand? That had to hurt, even in rehearsal. And Vince at that party, getting jealous over seeing Jess dance with Landry (a.k.a., “that Opie-looking dude”)? Again: genius.

Speaking of juggling subplots, of all the ones to choose when FNL has been spending its initial weeks setting up Eric’s challenges with new players and Tami’s woes with the redistricting, this was the week the series had to pick for Devin to ask Julie to accompany her to a gay bar? I like Devin from last season (as bassist for Crucifictorious, she is already installed in the Sleater-Kinney Hall of Fame, as far as I’m concerned), but her best-buds friendship with Julie seemed to come out of nowhere. But what the hell, it was worth it as a plot device to get Julie to witness Coach Stan in the gay bar. I’m hoping that this guy, who so far as been depicted as a loud doofus, will now become more three-dimensional as we see how this aspect of his identity plays out. But is this a case of too many characters distracting us from our core favorites?

Which brings me to a few faves in particular:

• Tami: How much is it going to take for her to start unloading on Eric to pay as much attention to what she’s going through as she does for his troubles? This week, her car is vandalized, and she… what, cleans off the mess, drives home, and offers to cook dinner for the bunch of team boosters whom Eric needs to schmooze? This isn’t the emotionally open Tami we know and love. (But all respect, as always, to Connie Britton for making the absolute most of every second of screen time; her reactions do a lot of storytelling the scripts don’t have time for.)

• Riggins and Saracen go hunting: How funny was that? In the midst of Matt’s mopey worries about his future with Julie, his apprenticeship with that nutty-but-brilliant artist, and his pizza delivery job, it was great to see ol’ Tim pull his pal out into the woods for a little hunting. And even better that Matt proved to be such a klutz at it.

• Finally, what did you think of the night’s big emotional payoff, the news of the death of Matt’s father, deployed overseas? FNL suddenly pulled Kim Dickens in as Matt’s mom for the first time this season, just so she could be home when a military team appeared at the door to give her the bad news. Into what sort of emotional tailspin will this death send poor Matt?

Did you watch? What sublots are you finding the most rewarding?

Follow: @kentucker

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Friday Night Lights

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