Aside from “Let’s Get It On,” the near-perfect fifth episode (which included Coach and Mrs. Coach rediscovering their lost intimacy, the touching conclusion of Street and company’s misadventures in Mexico, Matt rejecting Julie, Tyra’s forced break-up with Landry, etc.), I have to confess that the second season of Friday Night Lights has been an awfully bumpy ride so far. There’s been greatness in every episode—sometimes just a flicker, though—but also sticking points minor and major, and I’m not even talking about the VBM subplot. It’s been very strange and disconcerting to deal with those peaks and valleys every week, with one eye-rolling moment followed closely by another of real power and insight.
This week’s hour, “Seeing Other People,” epitomized the unevenness that has plagued the show this year. So just to be crystal-clear about where I stand on all these developments, I present to you an all bullet-pointed recap, Sergio Leone-style…
• Coach and Mrs. Coach. Has there ever been a false note in this relationship? Their subplots are definitely the “Old Faithful” of FNL, and this week’s conflict was particularly well-observed. The most cynical among us—and to be clear, I was never one of them—were worried that Glenn the substitute guidance counselor would become a potential romantic interest for Tami if her marriage got too sidetracked. This is a ludicrous thought, but it was nice to see that Eric’s apparent jealousy had nothing to do with the perception of Glenn as a threat, but as the sort of companion that usurps his role as her husband. Between the baby, Julie, Tami’s sister, and Eric’s long absence from the household, it makes sense that they’re having trouble finding their groove again. I like that they have their bum moments—Eric’s line about Tami needing to pay attention to her family definitely warranted some couch time—and it’s nice that they’re quick to hash things out, too. They share a fundamentally good marriage and it’s great to see how one of those work on TV.
• Though it goes way too far in the end, I mostly enjoyed the comedic adventures of Riggins and the gun-toting ferret guy. Those shots of ferret guy walking around in his underwear reminded me a little of Steve Buscemi’s roommate in Ghost World, only here he’s a redneck cartoon who makes Jack Daniels smoothies and holds forth on the greatness of Road House. (I’m right there with you, buddy.) Having Riggins discover the meth lab was a pretty low moment—the guy was trouble enough without it, wasn’t he?—but I cherish Taylor Kitsch’s deadpan reading of the line “I just feel free” during their hunting excursion.
• Smash’s visit to Party College U.S.A. was problematic to say the least (more on that in a moment), but it led to some good material with Matt about how to break up with a girlfriend. Having Matt try to dump the cheerleader by expressing his desire for an “open relationship” smacks of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s threesome request backfires, but hey, funny is funny.
• We haven’t seen Landry and Lyla interact much on the show before, but I loved their exchange at the restaurant. “Getting away with it” has never been enough for Landry, because it’s not the same as absolution; his soul is at stake here and after meeting with the victim’s brother, he can’t even take comfort in the assumption that he killed an “irredeemable” man. Lyla’s advice to him is simple and persuasive (“Telling the truth is a way to surrender to God”), and it’s a relief to see him following through on it in the end.
• Nice to see Dillon get whupped 37-0. No dramatic come-from-behind victory with a margin like that one.
• Matt and Carlotta. Many have complained about the rash of age-inappropriate relationships on FNL and for good reason; any more and they’ll have to change Dillon to Mary Kay Letourneau Memorial High School. But this one has become a real nuisance, especially now that they’re settling in for the long haul. Carlotta hasn’t emerged as anything deeper than a “magical Latina nurse” whose proximity to QB1 accounts for their relationship than any apparent chemistry. Matt’s tentative courtship with Julie was so beautifully drawn last year; they fell for each other and interacted with each other just as you’d expect a pair of good-natured, inexperienced teenagers to do. But what do we know about Carlotta? That she’s moody and good with the dancing lessons? I don’t see where this pairing can go and yet it’s only the beginning, apparently.
• Having the VBM victim’s brother show up requesting a meeting with Tyra doesn’t make much sense. Why would the cops ever agree to help arrange something like that—and without supervision, no less? While I appreciated how his meeting with Landry served to deepen Landry’s guilt, the premise of it was way too contrived for my taste.
• A couple of episodes ago, it looked like Julie was going back to being his old sympathetic self again, but Julie the bratty teenager returned with a vengeance this week. Tami may not have handled Julie’s flirtation with John From Cincinnati all that well, but her instincts weren’t off, either, especially given her daughter’s recent dalliance with The Swede. Julie was mortified for good reason, but her insolence was a bit over-the-top.
• Smash’s recruitment visit struck me as unrealistic and borderline insulting. There’s no question that athletes are treated to certain fringe benefits at college and there’s also no question that Smash will learn in some way that Mama Smash was right about that particular school being bad for him. Problem is, the key decision is made for him: It’s not like he wouldn’t enjoy life at a party college—he’s the Smash, after all—but having the nose tackle chase him off campus in his boxer shorts? What show are we watching here?!
• The VBM looks to finally come to a firm resolution next week. Excited? Nervous? Ready for it to be over? Wish it would go on forever?
• Fine scene with Riggins coming back into the fold. As many have mentioned, he might have been redeemed faster had he told the truth about acting on his loyalty to Street, but his apologies (and smart remarks) were nicely handled.
• Shouldn’t we be seeing more football? I know FNL isn’t about football per se, but the stakes of the game naturally goose up the melodrama, and have always been the show’s (and the book’s and the movie’s) driving force. It’s been straying too much lately.