Thursday, April 12, 2007

Friday Night Lights: 'State' (1x22)

The season finale, and hopefully not series finale, had pretty much everything that makes the show great, but also made a couple of missteps. Still, I think this will be remembered as one of the best seasons of any network show ever, and if it isn’t renewed, it’ll appear on countless “Shows that Shouldn’t Have Been Cancelled” lists.

I’ll start with what didn’t quite work in this episode. I’m not sure that it was a mistake to win state, not winning would have meant we’d spend all next season dealing with the same goal as this one, winning state. Winning opens up new possibilities, will the players be as motivated now that they’re state champions? Will they get cocky and complacent? This season was all about Dillon as the underdog, what do you do when you’re not the underdog anymore? So, I don’t think them winning was a major mistake.

However, I do think the game itself could have been handled better. This episode needed a lot more time, I’m sure there was easily another 45 minutes of stuff in there. The two best games were in the pilot and in ‘Mud Bowl,’ games that brought things to massive emotional heights, making me desperate for the team to win. Here, it felt more like the midseason games, where we’d see some highlights, then move on. The game never felt like the real focus, and that was a mistake in the season finale. The only moment that really had me emotionally was the half time speech, and the shots of everyone in the crowd.

I also am not thrilled with having Tami be pregnant. If the series is over, it’s fine, but if it continues, it’ll mess with the mature dynamic between Eric and Tami. I’d imagine the goal is to bring in more conflict, can Tami still work at the school, how will Eric deal with having to give up his dream? But, that’s obvious conflict, and this show has done a good job of avoiding those usual pitfalls. Pregnancy seems to be one of the go to plots for TV writers, but it rarely leads anywhere good. I’m not expecting an X-Files style debacle, but it’s still not a great choice.

Other than that however, this was a wonderful episode. We had the humor, in the Landry stuff, some sadness, in the banquet scene and the Matt and Julie on the stairs scene, and some inspirational stuff from that speech and in the last scene. I feel like everyone got some good moments in the episode, and the state game did keep things unified. If the show is over, I think it went out with everyone in a good place.

I think the best way to gauge the success of a TV episode is to see how much time is spent without dialogue. Here, we had the great sequence where the team walks out into the stadium, and just marvels that they’ve gotten there. There was also the fantastic parade sequence, which united everyone one last time, and showed where they all were emotionally. It was wonderfully scored and a really great capper to the season.

I hope the show comes back, but if it doesn’t, it went out strong and I’m sure I’ll enjoy future episodes on DVD. I think it was near impossible to top the power of ‘Mud Bowl,’ but this episode still did more to me emotionally than virtually everything else on TV. I think the greatest strength of the show is the way it make things that would feel sappy on any other show feel totally true and emotionally real. I sincerely want the best for these characters, and if I never see them again, I wish them well.


Rob said...

Curious to know if you ever got around to watching the second season - would be interested to read your thoughts...

Patrick said...

I did watch the second season, and had mixed feelings about it. Watching the first episode, the first 40 minutes or so were sublime, as wonderfully realized a world as any in TV, beautifully photographed and scored. Then, the murder plot happened, which I think was a massive drain on the series for a number of reasons.

First, there's the obvious absurdity and melodrama of the plot itself. It just didn't fit into the everyday drama universe of the first season. One of the show's best characters was sacrificed to this plot, and as a result we lost the great Matt/Landry dynamic from year one.

That plot was a total disaster, and exposed a lot of minor flaws in other storylines. When the show as a whole is working, you can forgive weaknesses, when things start going bad, it's easy to pick away at more problems.

There were a lot of plotting issues, but towards the end of the year, I do think things came together a bit. There was the classic Coach yells at Matt in shower scene, and throughout, the cinematography and acting were fantastic.

I'm hopeful that the third season, which I haven't seen yet, will pick things up and return the show to the glory of year one.

Rob said...

Yep, I agree with all of that. In hindsight the murder plot just seemed so throwaway as well - just a device to drag out the great Landry/Tyra chemistry, but in the process it took me out of that world, and ruined the charm of their relationship for me. Well, almost - those actors are so great that they nearly made it work.

I thought the penultimate episode was superb, the only one that hit the standard set in the first season.