A week after our appetite for more Coach/Tami scenes was satiated, we’re then treated to the finest Friday Night Lights episode since Matt Saracen skipped town for greener pastures.
This is especially ironic, considering this had all the makings of an unmitigated disaster. Shows can often stray into preachy and heavy-handed territory when the decision is made to put a character into a socially relevant moral quandary, such as an unplanned pregnancy.
The key to the success of the Becky/Luke/bastard child story arc is that the show didn’t once make the dilemma feel “issue-ish”. Yeah, that’s a real world. The point is, there’s no pro or anti-abortion agenda being pushed on us here, the focus remains squarely on these characters in this scenario, nothing more. And on that level, this story was nothing short of brilliant. I can’t say enough wonderful things. I love that Tim’s first instinct was to bring Becky to Tami, because…well…duh. I love the completely sensible and level-headed manner in which Tami doled out the advice to Becky. Alicia Witt’s triumphant return as Becky’s enraged mom was nothing short of transcendent, particularly in the scene where Becky comes clean. Also, there was a terrific bit of misdirection afoot in the arc, since I really did not know what Becky was going to do right up until her erstwhile Baby Daddy Luke’s heart on the phone. Well played on all parts.
The other sect of the story that flowed along these lines was Vince dealing with his mother’s drug addiction. While the issue is less divisive than abortion, you still walk the fine line of having the episode play like a glorified after-school special. The problem is most easily quelled due to the captivating performance by Michael B. Jordan as Vince. Vince sort of epitomizes the challenge that the show is facing as it rounds into the home stretch. With so many of the show’s core characters gradually making their exits, we’re forced to sort of warm up to these new people in a relatively small amount of time. That said, it’s no accident that the rise of Vince has coincided with Saracen’s departure, as the writers have rather brilliantly transferred some of the qualities that made Matt such a fan favorite onto Vince: Kid in over his head, taking care of the person who should be taking care of him, dealing with things way beyond his maturity level. Until Wednesday’s outing, Vince was seething with this sort of quiet rage. He was a bundle of angsty, confused aggression with that clenched jaw and deep, brooding eyes that make him so innately watchable. It all came bubbling to the surface in the scene with Vince pleading with his mother to clean up after her drug overdose. In a series that has become adept at routinely churning out chill-worthy moments, that one ranks right near the top as far as I’m concerned. And then…well, we’ll get back to this.
I don’t know how I’ve gotten this far into the recap without mentioning the impromptu drinking contest between Coach and Big Mary, all while discussing the struggles of coaching supremely athletic, but undisciplined player like Vince. It was made all the better by Tami’s having to drive him back to the bar in the morning to retrieve the car. It’s great moments of levity like that in a show with such turmoil that keeps it a cut above the rest. And while we’re talking about Big Mary, I can’t say how glad I am that Steve Harris is fitting right in with the ensemble like I knew he would. He’s been a tremendous character actor for many years, and his performances are never showy, but always hit just the right note and accomplish precisely what they’re supposed to. Case in point, the scene where Vince asked him for an advance on his paycheck to pay for his mom’s rehab. And right on its heels the scene between he and Jess, who could not understand why he took such an active interest in Vince’s struggles, while keeping his own family at a distance.
Other moments of levity included Julie’s new Habitat for Humanity dude friend Ryan coming over dinner and being completely flabbergasted by the notion that people would play football in the rain, and how “weird” that would get. I don’t think much of this toe-headed, house-building, do-gooder. He’s a little bit of a dork right? And not in a cool, Landry-esque way. It’s more like that guy you’d never invite out, ever. Here’s hoping Tami’s assertion that he’s just a rebound guy is right on the nose.
In the midst of their eschewing their criminal venture, the Riggins brothers shared on particularly brilliant scene in which Billy was cooking for Mindy wearing an apron and…did you notice…a Dillon Panthers 2006 state champions shirt. That’s of course the year Tim won his ring, not Billy. Love those two.
Now, back to that ending. As Vince dutifully checks his mother into a rehab facility, I was almost enraged, since I thought the writers had just decided to ignore the issue of the rather sizeable cost such a a treatment would propose. My rage soon gave way to shock and awe, as Vince paid in straight cash and slipped into a seedy-looking Towncar, where he was greeted by some equally seedy-looking G’s offering him a replacement firearm, as he had relinquished his to Coach. The genius of the scene is in its simplicity. There’s no on-the-nose dialogue to explain what’s happened here, just a troubled kid looking like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The word “awestruck” comes to mind.
Tags: Friday Night Lights