Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday Night Lights: s.2 ep.7: "Pantherama!" wri. Bridget Carpenter, 2007

What do you do when the highlight of an episode is a storyline - in this case, Smash's - whose best trait is that it merely keeps with the tone and theme of the show?

There wasn't too much to hate about this episode - although Julie's hall-evading speech to Noah Barnett (John From Cincinnati's Austin Nichols, who is always good times on my computer, er, TV screen) approached this threshold - but there wasn't anything to love, either. No, "Pantherama!" was clearly about treading the middle ground. Even though the Landry/Tyra isn't anything for the writers to brag about, the worst thing that could happen to Friday Night Lights is for it to become just another teen drama. All of the potential pieces are there, just as they've always been, for FNL to tread this path, but this is the first episode - at least in toto - where it seems that they've come together. Matt and Julie's relationship, at least on J's end, has devolved into histrionics, two separate (three if you count Riggins' thing) child/adult love stories have come into play, the outsider trying to break in has put on his hurt puppy mantle, and - hell - we even got two (2!) love triangles in the works. Thank you, Dawson's Creek.

Yet, these plot developments wouldn't have seemed so off in season one. Why is that? I don't fully understand myself, but it seems that the various elements of the show have become more diffuse than they were last season. The show works best - as it did in every episode of season one - when its hinge is the Dillon Panthers. What makes the show special is that it is a character-driven show centered around a plot-based figure; when it's working best, the show is about the characters that orbit and are affected by Panthers football. Smash's storyline fit this bill, but it still lacked the power that his recruiting drama achieved last season; it seemed like a supporting pillar to a main story. The only problem is that all the other main stories have devolved in general drama that has no way of distinguishing itself from any other general drama. I don't mean to say that the show should make every episode about what happens on the field, but clearly what happens with the team - on the field and off - has a a powerful effect on the community of Dillon and Dillon High, and those effects aren't really being shown this season and - specifically - were mostly absent this episode.

The lower bits:

-How the hell did Santiago make it in juvi? Give this kid some guts, right? Or at least an emotion other than "broken and sad." I admit that his plot is directly connected to the team, but are we really supposed to believe that a kid who has never played football and already done at least one spell in juvenile hall is somehow supposed to get a spot on a state champion team?

-I actually like the Saracen/Carlotta development. I feel like it was presented early enough that it was given time to fully develop; the writers sprung it at the right time. Matt's home is one of those arms of the community that - as a carry-over from season one - feels like it is directly affected by the Panthers. His grandma puts so much stock in his QB1 position, and the writers have done a good job of connective even Carlotta to his position as a Panther. This is a good example, I think, of how seemingly ridiculous plot developments can be made to be organic.

-Kind of a waste of Riggins this go 'round. Shame.

-Pantherama!? This could've been great, but was really only a chance - like the two girls presented it to the players - to stare at Lyla and Tyra. Also: what was with Landry keeping his beater on during the players' half-monty dance?


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