Friday Night Lights – “Humble Pie”

“Humble Pie”

January 25th, 2008

The WGA Strike afflicting Hollywood was supposed to be a blessing of sorts for Friday Night Lights, as it stands as one of the only series left with a considerable number of episodes in the can. However, it is obviously also a curse, as “Humble Pie” came across as a stagnant filler episode that provided (attempted) payoff for contrived storylines introduced in the previous episodes.

This is not to say it was all bad: I was happy to finally return to the world of Jason Street, and the Landry storyline was effectively charming to allow me to ignore the lack of post-traumatic stress in his vicinity. But, they were mere sidenotes in an episode that otherwise didn’t seem to go anywhere, and never really settled on what it wanted to be (What DOES Friday Night Lights think it is, anyways?). The result was something that, really, someone could miss and not really mind all that much. And that’s not the Friday Night Lights that can leverage this strike situation.

There were five, count ’em, five storylines on the move in this episode. We have Smash’s arrest in the wake of last week’s theatre brawl, Riggins’ run-in with his ferret-owning, meth cooking pal, Lyla’s crisis of truthtelling, Landry’s inability to see that his new physics partner is making Tyra jealous, and Tyra joining the newly Tami-Taylor led Panthers Volleyball team. Oh, wait, there was actually six: Jason Street decides to get a job working for Buddy after realizing he couldn’t afford his own car otherwise.

Needless to say, that’s a lot to cover, and I think that it was too much: Riggins’ run-ins with the meth dealer were fleeting and lacked resonance when in-between he was proclaiming his love to Lyla. The conclusion, too, felt like it proved nothing: they totally broke Chekhov’s gun rule, and it just didn’t add anything to the characters or the episode. The same goes for Smash’s storyline, as he is arrested and apologizes before deciding he actually needs to stand up against the racist white males who are accusing him.

I’d be more kind to this storyline if this wasn’t the exact pattern we saw last time, when he changed his mind on the Mac McGill issue after Waverley pressured him to do so. It’s not a terrible storyline, but it feels like they dipped into the same well just to contrive a challenge for the team moving forward to the playoffs (Smash was suspended for the final three games of the regular season after rescinding his apology). I know the first season was good, but that’s what DVDs are for.

Lyla and Tyra, meanwhile, are also living in the past: we already saw Tyra get involved in a sporting event and using her anger to advance her game during the PowderPuff, and here it just seems aimless and time-killing. I enjoyed the banter from Julie about the team’s suckiness, but it didn’t seem like a necessary storyline when everything else seems more important. And Lyla poured her heart out to Chris (Matt Czuchry, who pulled off a strong sermon at episode’s beginning and remains too good for poor, idiotic Lyla), which resolves her of her sins but doesn’t keep her from helping out Riggins with the $3,000.

And this leaves us with the two I enjoyed. Landry’s precocious physics partner may have been a bit too on the nose for me, but I at least liked seeing him laughing and talking about Crucifictorious again. However, I couldn’t help but notice the parallel to Gossip Girl: somewhat geeky guy (See: Dan) finally gets a chance with out of his league blonde (See: Serena), but there’s this other girl whose interests match up entirely (See: Vanessa) and who represents a threat to alpha female. It’s derivative, but at least I was entertained both by Tyra’s jealousy and Landry’s “Aw Shucks”ness.

And the triumphant return of Jason Street was good as well, if not quite great thanks to some product integration and heavy handedness. What I loved was the return of Herc, and the return of a Jason Street that is actually confident in himself; heck, it was also nice to see Buddy be good at his job for a change. Herc’s return injected some great humour to the storyline, and I only hope that the ladies would, indeed, be on him.

…did I miss any storylines? Nope, I think I’ve got them all. It looks as if next week brings the ramification of Smash’s suspension and, oddly, Matt Saracen the alcoholic. I’m curious to see how that goes, although the preview promised a Coach Taylor smackdown. I am looking forward to it.

Cultural Observations

  • Not that I dislike Connie Britton being featured in these episodes, I would much rather not see her forced into storylines like the volleyball one. It didn’t feel necessary, and while it got some nice laughs here and there I’d rather she have storylines she can sink her teeth into.
  • I don’t know if it counts as a callback, but it was cute that Landry’s crush made him a mix tape, which was Landry’s suggestion for how Matt should apologize to Julie last season. Physics geeks DO think alike.
  • I really hope that the preview indicates that football and that culture will be returning to center stage again: I don’t mind these brief interludes, but this episode tried to do too much without anything to tie it together. Football’s the glue that holds this show together, and everything now and then you need to re-apply.

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