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Friday Night Lights season two episode reviews

Friday Night Lights
Season 2, Episode 1. "Last Days of Summer" The Best Show On Television. Wonderful opening episode. Coach Taylor has been away from his family for a long time and it shows. The story deftly illustrates the impact his absence is having on the two women in his life: his wife in tears on the couch, his daughter ignoring the rules of the house. Without ever going over the top, the show shows us a family in pain. Lots of sadness in the Taylor household.

Julie is treating Matt like crap. Chasing an older boy and ignoring the one who loves her. To be fair to her, her boyfriend is being a bit of wimp about it and her own reasoning about why she is doing this (in the conversation with her father in the car) makes a whole lot of sense. It's not just me being fair to her, the script is fair to her. Her behaviour is that of a self-centered teen, yet the story allows us to feel for her and sympathise with her (even when she is being most unsympathetic).

Watching Coach Taylor suffer is also riveting. It's an age-old struggle: man wants to be at work to provide for family and wife wants man to be more attentive to her and the family. The best scene is probably the one where Coach sees how Buddy's family has fallen apart. Is it a warning signal? You bet it is!

Tyra and Landry are much closer now. It's a situation we've seen a lot of times before, but I'm utterly charmed by it all over again. The ending of the ending of the episode proved controversial when it first aired (Landry kills someone in a fight to protect Tyra). Fans didn't seem to like it. I do. I agree that it's a bit too sensational (and 'TV') for a such a low-key and realistic television show. I'm invested in these characters. St. Elsewhere was about intimate quite moments between very real people, too. And it often went way over the top and never lost it's touch. I have faith in Friday Night Lights to do the same.

Season 2, Episode 2. "Bad Ideas" Very weak episode. The episode goes to extreme lengths to show us that Coach is unhappy, and Mrs. Coach is unhappy. Enough already. Fix this! Put them back together. A man should be with his family. Someone has to move to be with someone. And fast.

The show loses some points with me for making the guy who replaced Taylor at the High School into a total jerk. There's no dilemma here. He will go and Taylor with return. It's too easy. And I expect FNL to deliver better than this.

Other storylines hit the mark. Everything with Tyra and Landry is a highpoint.

Season 2, Episode 3. "Are You Ready for Friday Night?" The first game of the season and... the Best Show On Television isn't quite as enjoyable this season. Coach Taylor left. The guy that replaced him is a bit of a jerk. Now, Taylor has decided to come back. And the jerk will be written out. Too easy.

Julie has been treating Matt like crap and has finally broken up with him. He is heart-broken. Meanwhile a beautiful home-help has arrived to help Matt take care of his grandmother and the sparks are flying. Hmm. Could it be that this will be Matt's new lover by the time Julie comes to her senses? Too easy.

Landry has struggled to win the heart of Tyra. Now that he's defended her honour (and, indeed, killed a man to save her) she is throwing herself into his bed. Once again, too easy.

And when things are this easy on FNL, I find myself losing interest.

The sparks of the show's greatness are still there however: Riggin's decline in this episode and his bout with religion. Tami hitting Julie and (later) crying about it to her husband were wonderful scenes. Wonderful in the sense that they were real and raw and painful to watch.

More of this please, and less of the 'too easy' stuff.

Season 2, Episode 4. "Backfire" Average episode. We get to see how guilty Landry and Tyra are feeling, as various scenes show us how paranoid they have become. Julie finds out that her boyfriend is... a normal guy, who's not that interested in her. Lyla tries to help a kid who's just gotten out of prison and Buddy steps in to help her help him. Down in Mexico, Street and Riggins investigate the possibility of surgery on Street's spine.

All good. But none of it particularly great.

The end was great, though. The (now-fired) rival Coach shows up on Eric's doorstep to remind him (before he drives out of town) that he has a family to worry about, too. It's a powerful, very real moment. Almost the only good thing to come out of this Eric-works-in-another-town storyline.

Season 2, Episode 5. "Let's Get It On" After a disappointing start to the second season, FNL delivers a perfect episode. Wow. Quite a ride this one. Every scene, every storyline, is a zinger. I loved it. The Tyra-Landry stuff is the best. He finds himself, suddenly, the star of the team (and all the best scenes in this episode are Landry scenes) and she finds herself in a confrontation with Landry's father (the always superb Glenn Morshower) and in a heart-breaking final scene, she breaks up with him. Then, quietly, goes to her car and cries her heart out.

Coach Taylor and Tami have some great scenes. He wants to kick-start the romance in the marriage again (after the arrival of the new baby) and it's hilarious to watch his plans in action. They really are the Best Couple on TV. Having Coach back with the team makes perfect sense, too. The whole storyline that had him living in another city was a waste of time/space. I'm glad it's over.

The complex friendship between Jason, Riggins and Lyla yields some wonderful scenes/moments in Mexico. The highlight was Riggins letting his guard down long enough to tell his friend that he loves him. Powerful moment.

Finally, Julie makes a play to get back with Matt and (very wisely) tells her to forget it. The Julie storyline has been superbly written and played. She's been behaving like a spoiled teenage bitch, but the writing has given us depth and motivation for every stupid thing she has done. Consequently our sympathies have always been with her. I feel a little sorry for her, as Matt walks away, but I still think he was doing the right thing.

In every way, this was the first perfect episode of the season. Every joke was funny, every shocking twist makes sense and every heartbreaking moment sends you reaching for the tissues. When the show does episodes like this, there is nothing on television that can touch it. Not even Lost.

Season 2, Episode 6. "How Did I Get Here" Almost perfect. Almost perfect. The fly in the ointment was the storyline with Tami and her sister. We've seen it a hundred times before: women don't get on with their sisters. Yada, yada. Fine, whatever. Everything else was golden.

Tim being cut from the team, seeing that his worth was defined by his membership in the team. Finally reaching out to help the new kid - Lyla's friend - at the very end. His conversation with Smash over the dinner table. Golden.

Jason Street's looking at his life and where it was going. And his decision to leave the team and his final conversation with Coach. Golden.

Landry and his father. Wow. Powerful. As his father realised the truth and set about covering up the crime in an effort to save his son from going to prison. Totally human and honest.

Julie seeing Matt with another woman. Very, very predictable. But I really felt for poor Julie. Through all her horrible behaviour the writing allowed us to feel for her. And I felt for her here, too. She's friends with Tyra. And Jason bonded with Tyra in one memorable episode in the firs season. What do they have in common? They are the only three characters who have expressed the desire to find out what there is outside of Dillon, Texas. The only ones who - at one stage or another - have thought to ask: is there more to life than this?

I loved all the stuff with Coach and Buddy - as they discussed his reduced salary - because it captured something very close to real life in those scenes.

It maybe have disappointed me (by giving Tami a duff storyline and ignoring Tyra's feeling in the aftermath of the break-up with Landry) but this was still one of the show's best episodes. Very, very close to perfect.

Almost perfect.

Season 2, Episode 7. "Pantherama!" Smash steps into the spotlight. Finally. Smash is one of my favourite characters. Who am I kidding? They are all one of my favourite characters. But I've been waiting, this season, for a Smash-centric episode. This one is great. Most of it is Smash fighting with his mother over his future. And, in true FNL style, it's not important that it's about football. It's the age-old struggle between parent and child over future. Where the child's optimism is seen as arrogance and the parent's concern is seen as negativity. Wonderful story, wonderfully told.

Santiago has become one of my favourite characters. His exchange with Buddy at the very end (where he said that this was his first bed) was heartbreaking. Under-played by both actors and totally heartbreaking.

Meanwhile, Tim Riggins can't find a bed. Tyra takes him in, but ultimately kicks him out and he finds himself is a less-than-ideal situation. Riggins is in freefall and I feel for him. I see no end in sight.

Matt kisses the girl who looks after his grandmother. It was a long time coming, but it was a great moment. And it makes more sense that Matt would fall for a girl like that, rather than the vapid cheerleader he's been kissing lately.

Julie, meanwhile, falls for the journalist teacher. Bit of a cliché... but it basically works.

We get a good Tyra/Landry scene in this episode but no sign of them getting back together. Frak! Frak! Frak!

Season 2, Episode 8. "Seeing Other People" I love when shows pairs characters together that do not normally share screen time. Lyla and Landry have a pivotal conversation in this episode. The guilt of the crime he committed bears heavy on him and (without knowing the details) Lyla urges him to come clean, and tell the truth. It's a great scene.

So is the scene where Tim Riggins apologises to everyone on the team. It's a surprise move and it works. Coach agrees to let him back. Tim has hit rock bottom and seen life without the team. It's pretty bleak. Has he learned his lesson or will he mess it all up again?

Matt breaks up with his girlfriend and - finally - gets things started with the girl who looks after his grandmother. The screen positively sizzles with their chemistry.

Finally, this is a rare episode that shows Tami in an unflattering light. Going too far to protect her daughter from a friendly teacher. Tami rarely makes mistakes, but she steps over the line in this one and the big confrontation scene with her daughter is painful.

An honest episode. A perfect episode.

Season 2, Episode 9. "The Confession" Tami and Julie have more mother-daughter moments. It's good... Don't get me wrong. But haven't they done this already? Or is this different in some way too subtle for me to pick up on?

Much, much better is all the stuff with Santiago and Buddy. I don't know what to think. After Buddy dropped the ball (ha-ha! a FNL joke!) with Riggins a few weeks back, I keep thinking he'll make a mess of things with/for Santiago. But, in this story, he appears to give some really good advice and Santiago gets to not only play at the end but also understand what it's all about: playing with/for your team. Powerful/moving storytelling.

Jason has a dreadful date but, predictably ends up with the waitress. Predictable but irresistibly cute nonetheless.

And, in the main storyline, Landry is cleared of all charges. His guilt/stubbornness nearly ruins things for him. He and Tyra are back on speaking terms now, even hugging and stuff, but they are not dealing with their relationship. Which is what I want to see/hear. Is she going to tell him (on camera) why she said those horrible things to him?

Glenn Morshower continues to steal this show out from under it's named stars in exactly the same way he has been stealing 24 for all these seasons. He's awesome. Every show needs to cast this man in some supporting role. Immediately!

Season 2, Episode 10. "There Goes the Neighborhood" Poor Tim Riggins. Guy just can't catch a break, can he? Most of this episode shows how the Taylor household adjusts to having Tim living there full time. And, to my surprise and delight, it adjusts pretty darn well. Eric, in particular, seems happy to have another male in the house.

But it all turns sour over a misunderstanding and, as the episode comes to a close, Tim has to flee the house in the middle of the night. Very unjust.

But great storytelling.

Season 2, Episode 11. "Jumping the Gun" Smash and Coach Taylor are the two featured characters in this episode. Smash has been overlooked this season, sadly, but this is a great story for him. Eric Taylor is usually well featured in most episodes, of course, but this is one of his best stories and Kyle Chandler is simply fantastic in the role. He should be getting an Emmy (or a Golden Globe) for work like this. Instead, he doesn't even get nominated...

Smash is trying to decide what to do after High School. His mother and he are in conflict over this. He doesn't want to listen to her, and she is in pain as she prepares to let go of her son. It's a well-told wonderful, very human, storyline. Smash and his mother are two of the very best characters this show has. A Texas version of John Connor and his mother Sarah!

Life for Eric Taylor is a series of confrontations and apologies in this episode. Conflicts with Tim Riggins, Coach Dickes, Shelley and - even - his wife drive the story. A story of dignity within humility. Tales like this are why FNL is more akin to Homicide or St. Elsewhere than soap operas like 90210. Everything about it is real.

Best scene? Eric tells Smash to go home and listen to his mother. Watching that gave me tingles at the base of my spine. All television drama should be so good...

Season 2, Episode 12. "Who Do You Think You Are?" A mixed bag. Some stories are great, and some are pedestrian.

Carlotta leaves Matt. It's a lazy ending to a pointless storyline. Corlotta was just somebody for Matt to be with while he wasn't with Julie, and the show made no great effort to turn her into anything more. Which is a pity.

Lila, meanwhile, starts working at a Christian Radio station and Riggins makes a play for her. He arrives, flowers in hand, to find her in mid-smooch with her on-air co-host. Predictable, predictable, predictable. Sigh, sigh, sigh.

Over in the Taylor house, Coach and Tami try to figure out what to do with Gracie during the day (when they are both at work). They have the ol' should-the-woman-quit-her-job-to-mind-the-baby conversation. Predictable.

The only good storylines are the ones devoted to Smash and Santiago. So, all told, this is a disappointing and ordinary episode.

Season 2, Episode 13. "Humble Pie" Jason becomes a car salesman, Tim makes a play for Lyla and Landry has a new admirer. It's all good. Tami starts coaching school volleyball and - in the episode's best storyline - Smash faces charges for what happened in the previous episode.

It's a real winner all round. It's corny as hell, but I really felt like cheering when Jason sold that car and - I know I've seen it on many shows before - but I really enjoyed seeing Tyra get jealous of Landry's new 'girlfriend'.

Tim Riggins was in three storylines: paying back the stolen money, trying to win Lyla's heart and being attacked by Tyra and the volleyball team. Later on, as Smash's friends sat beside him as the news crew got his side of the story, I was reminded of one of these reasons I love this show most. It does feel like a small town. A town where all these different people are friends and hang out. A town where the guy cleaning up after the volleyball team, might also be a guy trying to win the heart of a beautiful girl while he dodges bullets from a vengeful drug dealer.

FNL has captured something here, and it's great fun to watch it.

Season 2, Episode 14. "Leave No One Behind" Smash urges the team on to victory (even though he is no longer one of them), Matt Saracen goes on a drinking binge with Tim Riggins, Tyra confronts Lance, uh, Landry to tell him how she feels about him. And Tami and her daughter have another fight. Or is it the same fight? Being repeated over and over...

FNL is a great show, but it does repeat itself a lot. The show has three identical love triangles, for instance.. It looks like Tim and Lyla are fated to be together, but for the time being Lyla is dating Chris. It looks as if Matt and Julie are fated to be together, but for the time being Matt is dating Carlotta. It looks as if Landry and Tyra are fated to be together, but for the time being Landry is dating Jean.

Chris, Carlotta and Jean are badly sketched characters, added to the story to serve a single purpose: act as an obstacle to true love. Jean is easily the best character of the three, and Brea Grant is wonderful in the role, so much so that I was really sad for her when Landry broke it off to go kiss Tyra.

The episode's best scenes, however, belong to Smash as he deals with the destruction of his future. It's been a wonderful storyline: Smash may have been hot-headed but he's never done anything wrong and he's taking a severe punishment from fate. It's not fair, but it makes great television.

Season 2, Episode 15. "May the Best Man Win" A flawless conclusion to season two finds Smash having good fortune (for a change), Jason about to become a father and Eric in a fistfight with an ex-boyfriend of Tami's.

Picking highlights from this wonderful episode is next to impossible, but I'd have to go for the Eric storyline. Tami's abrasive, millionaire ex-boyfriend (Peter Berg) shows up in town and Eric isn't pleased. Most of the scenes between Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are laugh-out-loud funny. And, in most of those, Kyle Chandler isn't speaking. Just reacting to what is happening around him.

The ongoing Smash storyline (which has been a major highlight of Season Two) comes to a happy conclusion when Smash finds a college that is willing to take him in.

Meanwhile, Jason looks set to be starting an exciting new chapter in his life.

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