Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Friday Night Lights: "It Ain't Easy Being J.D. McCoy"

Illustration for article titled Friday Night Lights: "It Ain't Easy Being J.D. McCoy"

[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]

We've seen J.D. McCoy, the laser-armed quarterback, who last week supplanted our beloved Matt Saracen as QB1, all season. But until this episode we've really only seen him in the margins, quietly looming with youthful promise while D.W. Moffett and Janine Turner did most of the talking. Anyone who's seen Jeremy Sumpter's performance in P.J. Hogan's underappreciated 2003 version of Peter Pan knows he's got tremendous presence, however, so it seemed only a matter of time before he got the spotlight. That happened with this episode, although he seemed to take no pleasure in it. Sumpter's performance seems like a jock variation on Michael Cera's Arrested Development persona, filled with earnestness and doubt and a notion of how the world works that comes from being protected too long. He's alive on the field and has virtually no life off it.

None of which stops him from getting in trouble this episode, whether getting caught as part of the "naked mile" run or enjoying his first sips of alcohol (whose most immediate effect would seem to be a greater appreciation of Tim "The Last American Dude" Riggins) far too much. The latter confirms what we've suspected of McCoy's dad all along: He's a football stage mom of the worst kind. Between Riggins' Coach-suggested interest in the kid and J.D.'s forced apology, there's a lot of set-up here for confrontations to come. This could get ugly. Sumpter's not Peter Pan anymore, but he's still playing a character who's not growing up, only this time it's not by his choice.

Other characters, on the other hand, grow up plenty this week. The show never makes it explicit what happens between the newly reunited Julie and Matt during their trip to the lake, but it's not hard to fill in the blanks, as Julie does in a great, wordless scene at church. (These characters have been drawn so well that the show could probably do an episode without dialogue and longtime viewers would have no trouble figuring out what was on everyone's mind.)

Jason Street, on the other hand, finds himself moving backwards. With his girlfriend and kid on their way out East, he's stripped of the roles of dad and significant other and left to play house with the boys. It doesn't go well, though it does lead to a (final?) pep talk from Coach. I hate to see Scott Porter go, but his two episodes this year have made it clear that Street's future lies elsewhere (even if it means no more endearing scenes where he sings to his baby over a cell phone.)

Leaving, however, means he's sure to miss a resurgent Crucifictorious, who here weather a lineup change and take on a talented new bassist (played by an actress whose name eludes my Google skills) with some vocal chops and ideas about the direction of the band. Any plot that returns the focus to Landry's band makes me happy. And she's right: It may be time for him to stop focusing on Tyra. Whether or not she's the distraction he needs remains to be seen. (As for Tyra, I thought it was refreshing how quickly she gave up on the clearly-no-good-for-her Cash until, in the end, she didn't.)

This was an episode short on high drama and long on hang-out time with the characters and that's more than okay by me. I'll defend the second season up to a point, but in the pursuit of big moments it lost a bit of the lived-in feel, which has returned quite nicely this season, in no episode more notably than this one. I would gladly watch an episode with even less incident. I could probably watch and hour of Riggins showing off "his Dillon." It's hard not to want to spend time in a place we've come to know so well.

Grade: A-

Stray observation:

- Some wedding dress, huh? Are they over playing Mindy and Tyra's mom you've-got-to-keep-ahold-of-your-man talk? Would they be that upfront about it?