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19 December 2008 @ 04:14 pm
Friday Night Lights Season 3  
I'm a long time overdue for a post about Friday Night Lights. It's been increasingly hard to resist making one, though, as season 3 has gone from strength to strength. Even though I haven't been posting myself, I've been pleased to see that acknowledged on my friendslist. I fell a bit behind in my FNL watching these last couple of weeks and sat down to watch episodes 3.09-3.11 all at once. Wow! I forgot how much tears that would involve!

I admit I was a little disoriented at the start of the seasons. It definitely felt like I had missed several episodes--and indeed, we had, since the final episodes of season 2 were cut. Once I adjusted, I came to be grateful that Friday Nihgt Lights chose not to condense, unrealistically, the plots of multiple episodes into 1 ep in an effort to get the audience 'up to spped', but instead proceeded as if we all knew what had transpired in the interim. This felt like a more mature writing decision, given how grounded the show is in realism.

The biggest 'leap' at the start of the season was Tami being headmistress of Dillon High. I read arguments either way on the likelihood of this in under-resourced rural Texas, but ultimately the show eventually won me round with the story-telling it resulted in. I particularly appreciated Tami having a role with such gravitas and seeing her be a more important public figure than her husband. It showcases the strength of their relationship, their ability to weather differences and still be completely committed to their family.

The lesser 'leap' was Tyra and Landry having broken up--that annoyed me because no reason was given for it. And it's taken me a long time to win me back on this point, but the recent episodes feel like pay-off. The Tyra/Landry relationship in Season 2 was mired in melodrama, with the murder plot--even when they did hook up later, it was hard to shake off the way they had come together. I think in Season 3 we've finally got past that. And while it was rather annoying to have to sit through, I can believe Tyra being swayed by the shallow charm of the cowboy (whose name I don't even remember!). And also her taking Landry for granted. I'm glad they gave Landry an arc of self-development, through music, independent of Tyra, and that makes me much more comfortable with their chemistry now. It's certainly a lot better than the on-again-off-again business in Season 2.

Meanwhile, the show was working wonders in the other character arcs, returning to its strengths and doing what it does well, really really well. I'm particularly impressed with how rounded and fulfilling a send-off they gave Smash Williams, and the more recent farewell to Jason Street. In both cases they packed in a final storyline which gave the character and the audience an endpoint of hope and optimism for the future, while still acknowledging the realistic struggle to get there that both boys (men! for they are grown up now) faced.

I initially wondered what had happened to Jason at the start of the season and then I was wary about the whole 'renovate and resell a house' plot, but it ended up being marvellous. Jason's capacity for determination and leadership shone through, but they also showed his naivety and his fragility when things didn't go so well. Throughout it, I loved the way Tim stood by him, and there trip to New York was just glorious. Tim sees Jason for who he is--and I love that in this case it was Tim who pointed out what he could do to win the job. It's the sort of thing Tim wouldn't pull off himself, but he knows Street could. And Street did! And their BFF farewell, and Tim's relief-but-personal-sadness at seeing Jason reunite with his family was heartbreaking. In a good way, because they'll always be with each other when it matters--and the show has made me trust that.

Aside: Jason rather fascinates me. I don't necessarily like him, he's so pushy and egotistical, but his ego is such a strength and I think he's a really good study in what makes someone a go-getter in life, and also how people like that don't always do so well when things do come crashing down around them, because they're not used to failure. He makes an interesting contrast to Riggins, who is used to life kicking him in the balls so much he's become rather too lazy to bother changing it. (And hey, I can relate to that!!)

Tim! Tim and Lyla are an established couple. Thank you, show! I love them. Once I had my Lyla epiphany in season 2, she's become a favourite character, and I like that those two are still completely in love and devoted to each other but that they each struggle individually and therefore as a couple as well. I think the show's done really well this year at showing how their different backgrounds and expectations clash. I also think it reflects really well on Lyla that she has ended up bonding with Mindy and being accepted into that world. Hell, if I was her, I'd be a bit snobby of them too. And if I was Mindy I'd think she was stuck up. But they've got past that, at least some of the time.

Buddy Garrety is one of the few characters I really don't like on the show, so I can't say that I'm surprised to see him screw up his relationship with Lyla in recent episodes. It makes me more fond of her and worried for her than ever, but does him no favours in my eyes. Oh, boy, that guy is a chancer. I do like Lyla's loyalty to him though--the episode where her siblings came to visit was really touching--and so I'm sorry to see it repaid so badly. I can understand her crashing emotionally when she found out he'd thrown her college fund away, but am glad that Tim talked to her about it.

Tyra's college hopes are the latest thing to bring tears to my eyes. Her mother's speech was so poignant! I like that they haven't had her achieve some miraculous score despite all her erratic behaviour--it's realistic, painfully so, for a teenage girl to get distracted by boys at her age, and to question her ambition when it feels so terribly hard to achieve. I loved Landry's speech about her not just coasting on her looks because it's so true. And deep down, Tyra does want more than just 'that', than what Mindy is thrilled with--a small town marriage. It's a rocky road but she'll get there.

Julie and Matt! They resurrected that relationship from the graveyard of bad teenage romances! I can't believe it. It is actually a relationship with heart and soul again. I love it! Thank goodness they have toned down Julie's annoying brat behaviour this season. She's still a totally believable character, but I don't miss the screaming matches with Tami one bit. I am happy for Matt that he got her back, though I occasionally wonder about Carlotta and whatever happened to her...

Poor Matt! He's still got a rough time of it, but it's been good to see things improving with his mother. It's sad to see his grandma going downhill though. :(

I loved the episode where Coach caught them sleeping together. Though the thing I took away from it is that women handle these things way better than men. Wow, was that speech from Coach to Matt painful/awful. Sure, Julie and Tami had a very awkward time of it to begin with, but ultimately they were both able to open up and admit that they were acting out of love for each other. I felt for Matt though--there was noone to reassure him and tell him that they loved him anyway, he just got a lecture with the subtext 'I don't really trust you'. Ouch! It made me think boys have it hard in some respects. Matt clearly felt very vulnerable and nervous and he loves Julie and I think they handled things responsibly and are clearly very happy.

The new character of JD McCoy has proven to be well-written and compelling as well. He seems convincingly younger than the other characters, especially with his awkwardness around drinking and girls. His sheltered rich-boy life with the pushy parents (mostly his father) has made for an interesting contrast to Coach's own parenting style. I rather wished that Coach would pull his father into line before now, and seeing what has now happened I feel justified in that. To me it seemed obvious that things were going to end badly at some point, but of course noone wants to tell another person how to be a parent or run their family. I don't really like McCoy's wife (so vacuous!) but I do feel sorry for her. She means well but didn't have the strength of character to stop her husband.

I do think, though, that Tim is the unsung hero of the football team this year. Hasn't he saved them in the last two or three games straight? Sheesh! Without him they'd be screwed. A little more credit would be nice, instead of all this buzz around JD. (Though I totally loved that he came home to Lyla instead of partying after the semis! Awwww.)

All in all, I'm amazed with how they've turned the show around again. Few shows manage that once they derail, but it does feel like they learnt from some of the mistakes in season 2, and are using season 3 to write some really satisfying storylines and payoffs for their characters.
Current Location: sofa of comfiness
Current Mood: sicksick
is that how they do it in the pros?: tv - bsg - kendraantismiles on December 19th, 2008 07:50 am (UTC)
Yay, FNL love! *adores show*

I just got into this show and am very close to being done with S1, so I'm not reading this because I don't want to spoil myself. But I felt the urge to chime in anyway. ;P
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL girlsbop_radar on December 19th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
Yes! FNL is truly wonderful! It stumbled in Season 2 but rights itself very well (a skill that certain other shows could do with learning! *coughs*).
elzedelzed on December 19th, 2008 08:18 am (UTC)
Word to all of the above, girl...
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL Lylabop_radar on December 19th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
:D FNL deserves some squee!
The First Evil: FNL - Matt - Hero - lila-valeriusasta77 on December 19th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)
Jason's capacity for determination and leadership shone through, but they also showed his naivety and his fragility when things didn't go so well.

I do wonder, since saw little of him before the accident, if the naivety and fragility is tied to the accident. He had his life planned out. He was going to college, he was going to be a football star, he was going to marry Lyla and he lost all those dreams and didn't know what he would do to replace them. He lived in a bubble as QB1 and when that bubble burst and he had to find a new life plan, he didn't know how to act or react. Like you said, he was so use to success he didn't know how to deal with failure and he didn't realize that, while people look back on his high school football career fondly, the world is what have you done for me lately?

I felt for Matt though--there was noone to reassure him and tell him that they loved him anyway, he just got a lecture with the subtext 'I don't really trust you'. Ouch!

I had a different take on that scene. Matt was obviously fearful of what Eric might do to him and his greatest fear was having Eric not speak to him, to turn his back on him. Matt is smart enough to know that Eric would be upset. Matt was caught in bed with Eric's, in his eyes, little girl. But by talking to him, by telling him to respect her, Matt knew things would eventually be OK. I felt he had a subtle look of relief on his face at the end of the conversation.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL Matt Saracenbop_radar on December 19th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
he was so use to success he didn't know how to deal with failure and he didn't realize that, while people look back on his high school football career fondly, the world is what have you done for me lately?
Yeah, absolutely--his bubble might never have burst if he'd not had his accident, or maybe it would have been more of a slow decline until a midlife crisis of meaning or something. But as it is, he tends to go from emotional high to emotional low very fast because he's not really experienced much in between: he's either the golden boy or a total failure. He doesn't have much middle ground and that makes him both interesting and fragile. I think fatherhood will ground him eventually, but he needs to stop expecting himself to move mountains every single time--give himself a break sometimes!

I felt he had a subtle look of relief on his face at the end of the conversation
I think that was the reading the show wanted us to have. *nods* But personally I was just left with a 'boy, do men suck!' feeling from that scene, because it was contrasted with the warm Julie/Tami one. And I know that Matt is not Coach's son, but he doesn't have anyone else who can offer him that warmth... It just left me with a lot of thoughts about the different messages we send boys and girls about sex. And while I understand that Matt wasn't expecting more than this, and that Coach was in some kind of unfathomable male rage about his 'little girl' (?!?!? sorry I don't relate to that at all), I still think it's sad and only perpetuates the gender divide. Actually come to think of it, while Tami had the best of intentions she did give Julie the feeling that her virginity was something she shouldn't have 'thrown away'--when I really don't think that was what she did at all! Julie was completely ready and in charge of the experience. And Matt was just as vulnerable, potentially, as Julie, in this dynamic. Yes, young girls need to be careful, but I kind of think both kids deserve more credit for making a healthy choice.

But then I guess I don't know much about 'normal' families when it comes to teen sex. My own family repressed all discussion of the matter.
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K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL Lylabop_radar on December 20th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
I about started sobbing at "Why can't I want that?"
I know! So heartbreaky! It was a great contrast to her earlier bemused/baffled expressions at Mindy and the girls' enjoyments.

I don't expect FNL to break that mold, you know? That's not what it does.
You're right, absolutely. For that reason it sometimes leads me to reflect on these norms--but I thought the scenes were pitch-perfect for the show.

I do think it was bittersweet for Tami, because she knows Julie was ready and made a good choice, but it's always a little sad to have your kids grows up.
Do you also get a sense from Tami that she wants Julie's adolescence to be what hers was not? I know that's been explored before when she talked about having gone through a rebellious period, but I get the sense that Tami had some rough times with guys--she's so vulnerable when she talks to Julie about saying yes once not meaning you have to say yes always... I mean I don't know, maybe all parents would be that worried, but it seems personal as well maybe? I know I'd want to protect my children from the bad things that happened to me--not in the same way as Tami, but I can imagine that something similar is motivating her. Teenage love and sex can be pretty rocky and emotional, and it's understandable for her to remember her own roller-coaster of emotions and hope to protect Julie from that (even if she can't completely).

The pat-ness of his getting into college unsettled me a little--not as a problem with the show, but in contrast to how characters like Tyra slave away, but those who are good at football have a free ticket they really didn't even want.
Oh yeah, I find that just CRAZY. A lot of the time I do feel like I'm watching a foreign culture--because it is foreign to me, definitely. I love the characters but so much of the surrounding culture makes me headtilt and go 'wt...?'

I don't think I'd like it if everyone got their happy ending. In reality, some of them won't get what they want, at least not right away
Yeah, I agree, and I have faith it won't be. I suspect it was more important to give Smash and Jason some payoff because their plotlines wrapped up earlier than the others--so to leave the audience feeling unfulfilled vis a vis their development would have been bad tv. With the remaining cast I think we'll see a mix. And also one thing I liked about the Smash and Jason round-ups was that they ended at a point where both characters at achieved a goal, but we know it's not the end of the story. I can imagine Jason struggling to balance work and family life, for instance. And I can imagine Smash having some highs at college but still struggling to balance fame versus study and not have it all go to his head. So I think it's possible for them to give us emotional satisfaction without making everything 'perfect'. Tyra getting into any college at all, for instance, and looking forward to the future, would be a win.
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K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL girlsbop_radar on December 21st, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
Tyra is my favourite (even though I think she's very selfish at times)--so yes, Tyra going to college is the thing I want most of all. But there are many other characters I love almost as much, including Tami, and I like the subtle way they've shown her concern for Julie to be tempered by her own past.
random_seriousrandom_serious on December 20th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)
You just basically said everything I have been thinking regarding FNL. It's become such an awesome show again, and it's got so much meat in both acting and writing. The standout for me this season has been Tim. I feel like He is both growing up, and seemed to be, until as of late, resigned to stay a small town almost alcoholic almost has-been. It's like you said: He's to life kicking him, and just takes it. I hope things work out well for Tyra and Lyla (and I really felt that the whoole crying on the phone Tami thing was OOC. Tyra would have called her, yes, but full on break down? no.) I just want Tyra and Lyla to ride ino the sunset and do great things, no matter how unreaistic that may be.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL silhouettebop_radar on December 21st, 2008 04:51 am (UTC)
Hee! I agree with the wanting the girls to ride into the sunset no matter how unrealistic. ;) I at least want the show to end on a high for them. And yes, Tim has been fantastic this season--the actor's really improved, and I'm glad the writers have crafted some material for him that is both realistic but also shows some progression and ambition, rather than just being life's punching bag forever more.
random_seriousrandom_serious on December 21st, 2008 06:23 am (UTC)
Kitsch is really improving: he had me crying in the scene where Jason stayed in NY, without hardly saying a word.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on December 22nd, 2008 11:34 am (UTC)
serenography: FNLcoachserenography on December 21st, 2008 06:31 am (UTC)
I'm peeking from between my fingers at your comments since I haven't watched the last two episodes yet.

I think the only thing that I disagree with you about is Buddy. Not that I like him all that much, but I do feel some sympathy for him. There are times that they've shown him to sincerely try to do the right thing, even though he's also got a streak of ass-hattedness. I'm just a pushover.

This season had be a bit worried, but I've been so happy with all the directions they've taken the characters. Not only hasn't it let me down, it's gone even further than I imagined it would have for a 3rd season.

K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: FNL silhouettebop_radar on December 22nd, 2008 11:23 am (UTC)
I think we're meant to feel sympathy for Buddy, but I'm just immune to that type of character. ;)

I didn't expect a lot from Season 3, I have to admit--and it's really delivered more than I thought it would.