Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Night Lights "In the Skin of a Lion": Losing My Religion

One of the things that Friday Night Lights does better than any series is show the uncomfortable moments between a married couple still very much in love. When Eric and Tami fight, as they did in last week's "After the Fall" and tonight's "In the Skin of a Lion," it's gut-wrenching because it's so real. And, thanks to the fine acting of Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, we're very much invested in their relationship, so when the Taylors aren't clicking, it's all too easy to lose some faith in love and marriage.

And it's faith that's one of the themes throughout the episode. At first pass, the Julie side story (losing her faith in church and Tami's concern) seemed extraneous, but it kind of ties the subplots together. Buddy continues his crisis of faith with his beloved Panthers, Matt still has a hard time believing in pantsless Richard Sherman's "piece of crap" philosophy; while the players (particularly Luke and Vince) have serious doubts about Coach's motives. When Coach writes the personal check and lies to Tami about it, I think we all kind of lost some faith in Coach. Much like Don Draper in this past season of Mad Men, Coach's lack of sleep is making him a lot more cranky and less communicative. It's easy to be like big Tinker, and want to question him, but as Riggins tells Luke over and over, "Trust in Coach."

And trust we do, even when Landry is told to take over the punting job. Thanks to the short season, we have to do some of the work here to see that Coach knows Landry's smart, so not only should he be able to "figure it out," but he may also apply some physics and math skills to job making better use of his noggin than hitting people with it. Deleted scene I'm imagining: "And while you're at it, Lance, why don't you kick some field goals as well."

In the end, most of the characters experiencing a crisis of faith witness a small enough a victory to prompt at least some conversion. A sincere apology (to Tami), new uniforms (players), an artery bulging screaming to with attentive in-the-ear side bar (for Vince) and a broken play touchdown (Principal "you's the only one who didn't get the joke" Levi) begin to build some trust in Coach. Meanwhile, Matt sees Richard's "beautiful piece of crap" -- an angel, just to hammer in the religious undertones -- and appears to be converted. Unfortunately, this last one is contributing to a totally separate crisis of faith for Julie - faith in their relationship. Add the fact that Zach Gilford (Matt) is only around for a couple more episodes, and the odds of this relationship lasting are as slim as seeing Richard Sherman teach a course in manners.

The title of this week's episode, "In the Skin of a Lion" could be a reference to the 1987 Michael Ondaatje novel, which fittingly deals with outsiders toiling away without acknowledgement in a new environment (see Coach Taylor, Matt and Luke). Most likely, though, it's a reference to the wearing of a lion's skin as metaphor for empowerment via the clothes on your back, like the new uniforms the Lions are surprised with before the game. (Or, as Tim says to Becky, "Go with the pink [dress]. You're a winner with pink.")

And now we finish with a hail of bullet points:
  • I know a lot of folks question how Landry would all of a sudden be the field goal kicker, but I have more of a problem with the opposing team. Why would you pass the ball with 30 seconds left when you're up 27-0. I'm sorry, but any team in that situation is either running the ball or taking a knee.
  • Having Landry practice punting provided a handy shortcut for coloring in the characters of both Jess and her father Virgil (Steve Harris). His falling out with football is the ultimate crisis of faith and I imagine his 'conversion' to the religion of Coach Taylor will begun soon enough.
  • When Becky offers to try on dresses for Tim, his days as a running back came in handy for that quick retreat.
  • Everyone should have an Under Armor rep as nice as the one Sam Jaeger is playing here. You might recognize him as Joel from Parenthood (showrunner Jason Katim's other series on the peacock).

Playlist: Friday Night Lights - Episode 4.03
1. "I'll Be In The Sky" - B.o.B. [download]: Lions push car in fundraising event
2. "Rock Candy" - Montrose [download]: Matt talks to Richard in his studio
3. "Million Bucks" - Maino feat Swizz Beatz [download]: Practice
4. "Are The Good Times Really Over For Good" - John Doe and The Sadies [download]: At bar, Eric begs to Buddy to help round up boosters
5. "One Shot" - Rollins Band [download]: Eric sends Landry in to kick field goal, broken play score

Previously: "After the Fall" (Episode 4.02)

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