Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Night Lights "After the Fall": Swing Your Sword

If the season premiere of Friday Night Lights was about orienting us to the new digs, then last night's "After the Fall" set fire to all the furniture to start things from scratch.

The theme of starting over was kind of thrown at us from every angle, with the best coming last in the form of the Lions coming back together. Ceremoniously burning their game film and old jerseys to a battle cry of "Let's finish this!" induced a few goosebumps here and there. Elsewhere there were students starting over at a new school (Julie, Luke*, etc.); Matt's portfolio (and approach to art); and Tim changing addresses. Heck, even the Dillon Panthers were going to have to start over thanks to their first game retroactive forfeit.

*One of the casualties of a shortened 13 episode season is we're missing all the back-and-forth that likely went on with Luke and his parents in getting him transferred to East Dillon. Same goes for Julie, as I can't imagine she had the last word on the transfer in last week's episode.

Coach was spurred into action through two unexpected sources. First, oddly enough, featured a cameo from then Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach (since fired and currently locked in a legal battle with the school), who played the random guy at the gas station telling Eric to find his "inner pirate," an approach that Leach had preached to his kids many times before. His kitchen sink approach to the philosophy of coaching is likely at odds with Coach Taylor's no-nonsense approach, but all the talk of swinging his sword seemed to sink in.

The second surprise visit for Coach was Tim Riggins, which put a smile on both faces (note the swelling of Explosions in the Sky's "Inside It All Feels The Same," making for a nice callback to the first couple seasons when the Texas instrumental band was relied upon a lot). Upon hearing that Tim had dropped out of school, Coach barely batted an eyelash. There's lots of work to be done and it's not exactly an unexpected outcome for #33. Let's just hope the coaching gig works out better with Tim than it did with Jason.

If there was a complaint to the episode it's that it wavered a bit from the weight of all the heavy lifting it had to do juggling multiple storylines and introducing more characters into the mix. Like last year with Smash and Jason, in order to get a proper send off we're going to have to just tag along with Matt's journey, even though it feels like another series. Meanwhile, we get brief introductions to Jess Merriwether (M-E-R-R-I-W-E-T-H-E-R, played by the dimply Jurnee Smollett) and daddy Vernon (The Practice's Steve Harris), who both figure to play in racial tension in the series, as "Red" Landry appears to have a weakness for dimples.

Speaking of race relations, there's always a danger when Hollywood tries to tackle the issue by depicting a white knight, like the Taylors, coming in and "fixing" things. The scene with Vince and the $20 bill he throws back at Coach was a great way of telling us that there won't be that kind of story on FNL. If East Dillon and the poorer neighborhoods are going to come out for the better this season, it's going to involve work from all sides, not just Coach Taylor (and Buddy Garrity).

Everybody duck -- here come the bullet points:
  • The title, "After the Fall," is probably a reference to the deeply personal Arthur Miller play, which in turn references the biblical story of Adam and Eve's exit from Eden -- both of which have a theme of starting over. Would that make another Dillon as Eden metaphor? And Elia Kazan directed the play, as well as last week's reference in film adaptation form, East of Eden.
  • Love that Tami was worried that her actions involving Luke might look like a "Mrs. Coach move." Mrs. Coach struck again this week, though, getting one over on the villainous Joe McCoy.
  • The Riggins Brothers get the laughs this week, especially Tim taunting his brother after his complaints about his wife's pregnancy: "Would you pass me that violin please? You're HOGGING it!"
  • For reasons both comedic and foreshadow-y, you gotta love the last line of the episode, from Coach: "I just gotta find out a way to get us new uniforms."

Friday Night Lights - Episode 4.02 ("After The Fall")
1. "Freeze Frame" - Northern League [download]: East Dillon High, Vince greeted by white flag on locker
2. "Radio Milk How Can You Stand It" - White Denim [download]: Tim in tow truck
3. "Horizons" - An Horse [download]: Matt drives with Julie
4. "Everybody Plays The Fool" - The Main Ingredient [download]: Landry visits Jess while she's at work
5. "Inside It All Feels The Same" - Explosions In The Sky: Coach Taylor lays out the plan for the team, then looks over the field; Tim stops by to talk with him
6. "Walkin' Blue" - Sonic Youth [download]: Cheryl offers trailer for rent to Tim
7. "What You Hide" - AM [download]: Tim moves in, Eric & Tami talk

Previously: East of Dillon (Episode 4.01)

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