Friday Night Lights: "The Confession"
A-

Friday Night Lights: "The Confession"

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Friday Night Lights

"The Confession"

Season 2, Episode 9

“I wanted to kill him, sir.”

Thank goodness for the Texas good ‘ole boy network, because there’s not much ambiguity in that statement. It’s funny: The staging of the scene where Landry brains Tyra’s attacker was filmed in at least two different ways. The screener I got before the season started had Landry taking a bottle to the victim’s head in what could be construed as self-defense in the eyes of the law. The version that aired, on the other hand, had Landry wielding a tire-iron to the man as he was clearly walking away, which is a whole different ballgame legally (and morally) speaking. Landry did, in fact, intend to do grievous harm to this man, and for him, coming clean means telling the truth in whole, even if it results in hard time. As he tells Tyra later in the episode, “I feel like I’m choosing between jail or Hell.”

I guess the VBM-haters will never be swayed, but after seeing the entire arc of the subplot play out, I’m now convinced that it’s been one of the most resonant elements of the show this season. That first scene, with Landry stubbornly refusing to soften his testimony, was just heartbreaking to watch, as was his father dragging him out before he incriminates himself any further. In two separate scenes later, his father and Tyra succeed in convincing him to play ball—the former by talking about how jail time will break his parents’ hearts, and the latter by painting him as her savior. He gets off the hook officially, but that chilling final shot of his eyes as he tells the good news to Tyra lets us know that he’s not persuaded of his innocence. He’s a condemned man.

I suspect that Landry will never really go back to being “normal,” and that the VBM will continue to reverberate throughout the series’ run. And I’m okay with that. I love Landry as the goofy, wisecracking frontman of Crucifictorious, but the VBM has shown us another side of him (and of Jesse Plemons, who’s been absolutely first-rate) that’s valuable, too. Over the course of a TV series’ run, I think we have to allow characters to evolve and deepen. The VBM seemed at first like an incongruous event on a show so vigorously devoted to everyday life, but it was ultimately well-handled and not disruptive to the overall tone. One could cynically claim that it was concocted as a ratings ploy or an outrageous contrivance to give two outsiders something to do, but I think it gave us a strong glimpse into Landry’s home-life (which is quite different from the average Panther) and an even stronger glimpse into his soul.

Overall, “The Confession” turned out to be a very strong episode, second only to the magical “Let’s Get It On” hour in Week Five. If casual viewers tuned in to watch the exciting conclusion of the VBM, they got a chance to see the show operating at near-peak form, with a nice balance of lump-in-the-throat moments and some refreshing light comedy. I talked last week about the rollercoaster ride this season, with great and dubious subplots coexisting rather queasily at times, but I’m feeling optimistic that the show will find a more consistent groove—and not because the VBM has been (technically) resolved.

Tami and Julie have been at each other’s throats all season, a situation that’s about 90% Julie’s fault and 10% Tami’s, but it was nice to see them finally have it out. Though I haven’t always appreciated Julie’s persistent brattiness—or, at times, the direction the writers have taken her character— I feel obligated to credit Aimee Teagarden (the one actress who’s more or less playing her age) for doing fine work in the role. During the screaming match that prefaced their reconciliation, you could swear Teagarden was Connie Britton’s real-life daughter, given their combative nature. When Julie insisted to her mother that she was in fact growing up, it occurred to me that she was exactly right. She’s not the freshman wallflower anymore, which makes her a pain-in-the-ass for the time being, but assertiveness is part of becoming an adult.

(Incidentally, it’s a small thing, but I loved Gracie’s baptism scene. Most shows treat church-going like the third rail, even though Sunday service is a ritual for many Americans. I remember some critics hailing The Simpsons simply for acknowledging this fact—even in a context that isn’t always flattering—and I appreciate Friday Night Lights for incorporating faith so organically and non-judgmentally into the overall picture. I’m not a religious man by any means—was raised Catholic, but it didn’t take—yet I was moved by the Taylors coming together as a family under God.)

In other developments, we finally get to see some friction between Buddy Garrity and his young project Santiago, who made up for his brooding silence by laying into Buddy for his self-serving act of charity. It’s not an unfair charge to believe that Buddy’s generosity comes with strings attached, but the big guy’s response was equally valid. At bottom, Santiago is just a scared kid, and I liked how his eventual entry into the game was charged with terror as much as resolve. I guess it was inevitable that he would finally break through and make a big play, but the way that sequence was photographed, I felt there was a good possibility that he would pass out from the stress.

In lighter subplots, Street starts dating again when he finds a pretty girl on wheelover.com, but it turns out that pee is what gets her motor running. Perhaps an obvious twist, given the fetishists who must haunts sites like that, but I was amused and liked his unexpected chemistry with the waitress who covered for him. Meanwhile, Riggins’ living situation with Ferret Guy goes so far south that he starts getting into his forced volunteer work as a gopher/laundry-boy for Dillon’s women’s sports teams. When Ferret Guy pulls a rifle on him for not feeding his animals, his interest palling around with dudes named “Shotgun” and “Petey” isn’t terribly keen.

Then there’s Matt and Carlotta, the magical Latina nurse. She’s taught him how to move his hips, and now she’s teaching him how to make mole sauce. And since this episode left me with such a nice feeling, I’ll just stop right there…

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

• He’s got more pressing matters to think about, but is Landry still on the football team? I’m surprised that Coach Taylor hasn’t been made aware of his situation, even in a glancing way. Surely Landry’s one big game hasn’t been so forgotten that no one’s looking for him in the locker room, right? Anyone else bugged by this?

• Dinner at Buddy’s: Steak and “ramenzini.” Now there’s a guy who really isn’t cut out for bachelorhood anymore.

• “You stole my grandma’s Snackwells.”