Sunday, November 04, 2007

More thoughts on Friday Night Lights

Watching "Let's Get It On" a second time, the aspects of the show that are working vis-a-vis the parts that are not are so startlingly clear: Coach/Mrs. Coach, Saracen's side of the Saracen/Julie/The Swede thing (btw: a nod to Hemingway/Siodmak/Siegel? I see nothing Swedish about this guy), (recently) the Riggins/Street/Lila menage: these aspects of the show are firing. Not firing: Landry/Tyra/Rapist/Landry's pop/etc., Landry as football star, Julie's side of the Saracen/Julie/The Swede thing, Smash vs. Saracen. There are others, on both sides, that I'm forgetting, I'm sure. The divide goes like this: the elements in the former category are character-driven, the elements in the latter are driven by plot. The first season of Friday Night Lights worked so well because it took what by all means should have been a plot-driven show and made character its engine. The intent to make the most egregious of plots - the Landry & Tyra as murderers line - one driven by character is clear; Jason Katims has said, in so many words, that the point of this storyline is to get into Landry's life and household. The result, instead, is a facile exploration of Landry's family qua stock, clich├ęd characters whose engine is more along the lines of a lover's-on-the-lam plot. The parts of FNL not working are stuck in a teleological spiral, focused on getting from A to B rather than the journey therein.

There were some promising transformations in this episode, though: both the Saracen/Julie/Swede and Lila/Riggins/Street storylines moved from telos-based to character-based, the former renewing itself in the form of Saracen's will to power (although Julie is still fixed in a "rebellious, confused teen" plot, whose only resolution is reconciliation or complete removal) and the latter making a nice move from each character on their own telelogical arc - Will Lila keep Bible-Thumping!? Will Riggins drink himself to death!?? Will Jason Street walk again?!?!?!?! - to a place where these character traits are not ends in and of themselves, but means to something else, symptoms and indicators of a greater depth of character at bottom.

What FNL needs is to recognize this opposition - and it is, most certainly, an opposition - and avoid the lower, plot-based structure and find root - again - in that which is character-based.

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