Saturday, August 07, 2010

Friday Night Lights Season 1, episode 2: "Eyes Wide Open"

In spite of a miraculous, last-second win in the season-opener against Westerby, Dillon, Texas is not embracing Matt Saracen as QB1. The boosters, led by Buddy Garrity, and Mayor Rodell are giving Coach Taylor unsolicited advice on strategy and brazenly telling him how little faith they have in Saracen. Even a customer at the Alamo Freeze, one wearing a Panther hat, lest we mistake him for someone who could be ignorant of who Saracen is, gives him a hard time while he tries memorizing plays while filling orders.

When I watched the first episode, I thought it wasn’t clear how familiar Street was with Saracen, the gaps in social standing and athletic ability between them being what they were. In this episode we learn that Street not only knows who Saracen is but he likes and rather envies him for his creativity.

Some other thoughts:

  • The expense of a new air conditioner prompts Tami to get a job as a guidance counselor at the high school. This is a pretty major thematic break with the book, where head coach is, by far, one of the school district’s best-compensated positions.

  • Matt’s reluctance to let Coach Taylor see inside his house echoes a character in the book who’s too self-conscious about his home to let even his girlfriend see it.

  • Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton had pretty great chemistry and timing in their scenes together very early in the show…

  • …but Taylor Kitsch (as Tim) and Minka Kelly (as Lyla) did not. I’m glad the characterization of Riggins as a brooding alcoholic, and possible racist, didn’t stick(*). Likewise, Lyla Garrity becomes a much more interesting character when she becomes disenchanted(**) with the Dillon football culture. Both of these characters and performances really come alive starting in the third season.

  • (*) I do appreciate that he will always be a drinker, though. The show’s nonchalance when it comes to teenagers acquiring and drinking alcohol (to say nothing of its matter-of-fact approach to teenagers having sex lives) is pretty remarkable, and must be due somewhat to the fact that almost nobody has been paying attention to this show.

  • (**) In some ways, Lyla’s arc is very similar to Becky’s in the fourth season, in that both stories are about a young woman learning in hard ways that their options in Dillon are limited. All the major teenage characters (including Julie, Tyra, Matt, even Jason) come to this realization at some point, but Lyla and Becky have in common that they start out as especially, sometimes annoyingly, callow (one's a cheer leader, the other a beauty pageant contestant) and end up much wiser and stronger.

  • Another character who gets better as they develop: Tyra.

  • This is the episode where we first meet Corinna, Smash’s mom. I've always liked that she works at Planned Parenthood. I worked at one for a few years, and in spite of the organization's political baggage, a lot of the front-line employees had more in common with Corinna than with political activists; just wage-earners raising kids on a small amount of money.

Trivia and historic moments
  • We find out, via a picture in Grandma Saracen's house, that Matt's dad is deployed to Iraq.
  • Eric and Buddy have known each other a long time (since Buddy was a junior salesman and Eric was a junior high coach).
  • I think this was the first episode with Rally Girls

Notable Music (all replaced on the DVD)
  • Explosions in the Sky, "Yasmin the Light"
  • Explosions in the Sky, "Your Hand in Mine"
  • Explosions in the Sky, "First Breath After Coma"
  • TV on the Radio, "Wolf Like Me"


Stephanie said...

I love FNL and I am thoroughly enjoying the few posts so far! :-)

One of my favorite aspects of the show is the relationship between Eric and Tami. Their interaction is awesome... the way they talk, fight, make-up, brood... It's so authentic.

Also, it's rare that I can make it through an episode without tearing up at some point. Is that true for you? Or guys in general? I usually just chalk it up to myself being more on the emotional side, but I've been curious about this.

Thanks for this series! Looking forward to it!

bryan h. said...

Thanks, Stephanie, that's really nice of you to say.

Eric and Tami are a big part of why I love the show, too. I didn't make as big a deal out of in this post, but I really was surprised by how early in the series the Eric & Tami dynamic seems fully formed. They're amazing together. Tami and Julie's relationship, too, seems very familiar and intimate. The whole Taylor family, really, is incredible.

I don't know anyone who watches that show and doesn't cry at least a little. If I make it through an episode and only tear up once or twice, I feel like I'm made of granite. If you haven't seen the fourth season yet, you'll want to have plenty of tissues on hand.