First off, congratulations Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton for finally breaking through with their first Emmy nominations! FNL did receive nods for best casting and writing ("The Son"), but both the series (Drama) and Zach Gilford (Guest Actor) were locked out of the party.
After last week's The Wire-Lite, it's great to see Friday Night Lights deliver their second most powerful hour of the season ("I Can't), following only the tearjerker (and Emmy nominated!) "The Son." And it's here, in the tenth episode, that the actors playing characters introduced this season finally get a chance to deliver the emotional goods: Madison Burge (Becky) and Michael B. Jordan (Vince) did indeed deliver.
Whatever your stance on the abortion issue, you have to admit FNL has balls in going through with breaking the network television taboo*, and it's probably worth pointing out that when "I Can't" originally aired on DirecTV back on January 20th, that just happened to be two days before the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision. Not only did they hit all the right emotional notes this week, but there was also lots of thematic ties keeping it together, and as you've probably figured out by now, I'm a sucker for those themes.
*As pointed out last week, the last significant character to go through with an abortion on prime time network television was Maude in 1972. Again, I'll put this question out there: Is this the reason for Madison Burge's name being left out of this season's opening credits?
The most obvious theme at work this week was the title, "I can't," which served as a beginning to key emotional speeches that ultimately led to significant choices being made.
"I can't take care of a baby. I can't" - Becky
Becky delivers this emotional white flag to Tami after exploring her options and seeing no other way to go than for her to abort the child. Her phone call with Luke (Matt Lauria) at the end was just heartbreaking.
"I can't do this by myself" - Vince
Like Matt before him, East Dillon's QB1 has had to grow up too fast, playing caretaker to his mother, but in this scene (played incredibly by Michael B. Jordan), Vince shows the little boy is still there, wanting to be taken care of himself. Vince's desperation for his moms to get well forces a gun back in his hand, and when we hear "I got you" from his benefactor, the double meaning is not lost on us.
"I can't do this anymore" - Tim
The chop-shop days of Riggins Rigs appear to finally be behind us, but is it too late? Will that skeleton stay buried? Will Billy come up with another hair-brained scheme to dispose of the stripped cars? ("Let's tie a bunch of helium balloons to it and fly it out of here" Billy's a fan of Up, don't you know.)
Another subtle theme that emerged early on this week was the offering of a third party perspective to each storyline's problem at hand. Eric received unsolicited counsel from Big Mary on coaching Vince. Big Mary sees himself in Vince, much in the way that Cheryl and Tami see a little of themselves in Becky. Speaking of Becky, she finds herself receiving counsel from two mothers (Tami and Becky's mother Cheryl) that became parents earlier than they had planned, but have little else in common.
Julie also receives a sort of counsel from her Habitat for Getting Over Matt supervisor Ryan, who shows her what it might be like to skip college and travel the world, and I think it's that aspect of her story that serves a bigger purpose here, that of giving Tami (and us) an uncomfortable glimpse at two opposing futures for Julie. Tami has a nightmare about her being pregnant, but in reality, Julie's flirting with the opposite -- an untethered existence. While both possibilities frighten Tami (and Eric, for that matter -- just not as a hypothetical at 3 AM), you know that she'd be supportive of either path, whether chosen or happened upon.
And now I return to digging a hole that will never be big enough (commence bullet points):
- Loved that Tami gave Coach a taste of his own "a walk will do you good" medicine, sending him on his mini walk of shame back to his car after a few too many.
- Dinner with Ryan "It must be weird everyone out there in the rain. Playing football... it's raining." "Yeah, it can get pretty weird."
- First Academic Smackdown and now Pop Warner football has had the Lions square off against the Panthers. It's all just helping us build anticipation for the real Lion/Panther battle in the finale.
- And one final note: I'm on vacation for a week with limited internet access, so it's likely that I'll miss getting to next week's episode.
1. "Slow Dance" - Explosions In The Sky: Tim is told he can't bring any more stripped car skeletons to the wreckers.
2. "Love Is So Mean" - Richard Cook: Coach Taylor talks to Vince about various plays.
3. "Percussion Gun" - White Rabbits [download]: Practice; Vernon stops by to observe.
4. "Remembrance Day" - Frally feat. Teddy Thompson [download]: Becky looks at a picture of her mom & herself, then drops by the Taylor household to talk with Tami.
Previously: "The Lights in Carroll Park" (Episode 4.09)