[For those just tuning in: I first covered Friday Night Lights here at TV Club when it ran on DirecTV back in the fall. I'm rerunning those posts as it runs on NBC to a much larger audience. I'll be checking the comments regularly, as will FNL fans Scott Tobias and Noel Murray. A further wrinkle: My satellite crapped out on me shortly before the season finale so I'll be covering that as it airs on NBC. -- Keith]
It would probably take more time to confirm the notion than it's really worth, but I would venture that tonight's episode of Friday Night Lights had more earnest, heart-to-heart talks than any episode before it. Let's count them up (all times based on the DirecTV airing):
- Buddy talks to Tim about Lyla (14 min.)
- Landry talks to Tyra about her SAT scores (23 min.)
- Tim and Lyla talk tearfully in church (25 min.)
- Saracen and his mom talk about taking care of grandma (35 min.)
- Tim and Lyla talk again after the game (40 min.)
- Tami and Mrs. McCoy talk after Mr. McCoy loses his shit (42 min.)
- Coach and J.D. McCoy also talk after Mr. McCoy loses his shit (43 min.)
- Tyra and her mom talk after the bridal shower (45 min.)
Is that too many? Maybe. I was starting to feel the weight of all those meaningful conversations by the end of the episode. But I don't think there's a bad scene in there and every one of them moves their respective characters forward. I particularly liked Tyra's two scenes, both with characters who want the best for her even if they've not previously been able to put her interests first. Now that he's no longer actively pursuing her, Landry can finally speak to her like a friend. And Tyra's mom finally–finally–does something right. She may not understand why Tyra wants what she wants, but she wants to see her get it.
While two heart-to-hearts between Time and Lyla might seem a little excessive, both reminded me how much the show has let these characters change. It's fun seeing Lyla finally get accepted into the Riggins clan by letting her self turn into a boozy slacker and to see Tim forced to be the responsible one. Of course, Lyla's lost weekend period isn't meant to last. But the bigger question is whether Riggin's good behavior will. My take: he can be this good when Lyla's around and she probably won't be around much longer.
Then again, who will? Not to sidetrack the conversation too much, but the Chicago Tribune fine TV critic Maureen Ryan makes the argument that the show might want to call it a day after this season in part because so many major characters have moved on or will soon run out of excuses to stick around. I don't want to go that far, yet, but big chunks of this season have started to feel epilogue-like to me.
On the other hand, with the redistricting of Dillon and the probable opening of Dillon East, we're certainly getting the seeds of a bigger of a storyline that looks too big to play out in this season. Where does everyone else see this going? And if anyone finds the idea of this kind of gerrymandering playing out in smoky back rooms based on the size of kids who aren't even in high school yet, I highly recommend the Buzz Bissinger book that inspired the series.
Will Mr. McCoy be in future sessions? Certainly screwing up in public hasn't kept Buddy away from Dillon's corridors of power (so to speak) but hitting your kid in public is a little different from tearing up The Landing Strip, especially when that kid is the star quarterback. While Mr. McCoy hasn't been a character of great depth, I've still found D.W. Moffatt's portrayal appropriately intimidating. He's got forcefulness and presence but no moral compass. He's a bit like Coach Taylor gone wrong.
Finally, there was poor Saracen for whom nothing but Julie ever seems to go right. (And unless I missed it, Aimee Teegarden was M.I.A. this episode, even with a scene sponsored by Applebee's.) Everything with Grandma Saracen feels both heartbreaking and real, from the helplessness he feels watching someone close to him start to slip away and become frustrated by the simplest elements of day-to-day life to the helplessness at the thought of handing that person into someone else's care. They're not giving the kid an easy way out but it wouldn't be the show we like so well if they did.