Friday, June 04, 2010

Friday Night Lights "The Son": Also Rises

If you haven't been watching Friday Night Lights, then you likely missed out on what was possibly the most powerful hour of network television this year. It was a challenging showcase for actor Zach Gilford, who rose to the occasion and hit it out of the park. The pessimist in me thinks we might as well start writing a Biggest Emmy Snub article right now, even though Gilford won't be overlooked until next month.

Wonderfully set up at the end of last week's episode ("A Sort of Homecoming"), "The Son" is all about the aftermath for Matt upon learning of his father's death. Gilford's Matt takes us through the five stages of grief pretty dramatically, topped off by the added challenge of conflicted feelings. Mourning a loved one is hard, but one could argue that mourning a loved one who was difficult to love is even harder (and I say this from experience). Everybody has expectations of how you're supposed to feel, and you never feel you're able to meet them. That's what makes the reception at the house so painful to watch -- and so real. Of course, it wasn't painful to see Matt close the door on the villainous McCoys bearing gifts -- that was much needed catharsis.

But it wasn't until after a few beers with Landry and the Riggins brothers on the football field* that Matt finally breaks free of this paralysis, letting it be known how he really feels, which is just the beginning of Gilford's Emmy reel. This leads to Tim's brilliant idea of breaking into the funeral home to look in the casket. Matt's reaction at seeing what was inside was subtle, yet shocking, while later at the Taylor's dinner table (in the scene immediately following), Matt's breakdown had to melt even the iciest of hearts.

*This scene on the football field was not only reminiscent of early FNL, but also of the fifty-yard line post-party scene from the film Dazed & Confused, minus the marijuana.

Matt's interaction here with the Taylors also helped remind me of how FNL might be even more about absent parents than football. Between Matt, Tim, Smash (who gets a mention, playing for Texas A&M), and this season's crop with Vince and Becky, there are plenty of parental holes to fill. While it may serve as a plot device to help involve the Taylors in more stories as parents by proxy, it's easy to overlook when these scenes come out so true to life. When Eric offers to walk Matt home, it struck just the right note. Because as we've found out, Coach knows a thing or two about the value of a good walk home (Vince, Luke and Tim can all attest to that).

In the end, Matt calls an audible for his eulogy, remembering a silly moment involving his dad from when he was six. It was a bit clumsy and not a very funny story at all, which made it feel all the more real. Great Northern's somber "Driveway" backs the scene beautifully, building as Matt takes off his coat and works out his daddy/abandonment issues with a shovel. Loved the subtle flash on the bloodied handle and the final shot of dirt burying the episode (video below):

There was a lot else that happened, which we'll take out with these magic bullet points.
  • It felt odd to open this episode with game action, but having Vince and Luke ignore coach in favor of their own play (wildcat formation) both let us know the alpha males are now simpatico, and set up a theme of ripping up the playbook (Matt's method of mourning, Luke's relationship with J.D. McDick, Becky's switch from Tim to Luke).
  • Somebody call Donald Trump -- beauty pageants need more vibraphone solos!
  • Luke appears primed to take the shirtless torch from Tim Riggins.
  • Sorry Lance Landry -- in the battle between "twinkle toes" and "golden foot," alliteration wins out.

Playlist: Friday Night Lights - Episode 4.05
1. "What's The Matter Man" - Rollins Band [download]: Vince & Luke call their own play for a touchdown
2. "Atamakatahizaashi" - Junkface: East Dillon gets the ball back; the Lions get another touchdown.
3. "Popular" - (from Wicked) [download]: Becky sings as talent for Miss Texas pageant
4. "Drivin' My Life Away" - Eddie Rabbitt [download]: Becky runs into Luke at store
5. "Driveway" - Great Northern [download]: Funeral for Matt's father

Previously: A Sort of Homecoming (Episode 1.04)

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