Monday, January 12, 2009

10 Hours: 5. Friday Night Lights, "Hello, Goodbye"

"Hello, Goodbye" (3x04; DirecTV, 10/22/08)


Read more after the jump.

I've come to decide that for all of its accolades (most of which date, appropriately, back to the first season), Friday Night Lights is a little too enamored of precipitous melodrama to be the messiah in naturalism that some of its more overzealous fans claimed or wanted it to be since it dips so frequently into the well of emotional confrontations. Personally, I'd love the series more if it just showed the Coach and Mrs. Taylor at home in real time for one tv-hour over them dealing with a new crisis each week.

That said, FNL often begins storylines with refreshingly temperate calm, even though they may quickly devolve into conflict-addled hysterics meant to stretch the drama into feasible season-filling lengths. So why stick through the predictable histrionics? The third season premiere answers: When Smash asks why Coach Taylor is driving him so hard to rehab his knee when the odds of Smash ever playing football again are becoming ever more remote, Coach responds, "'Cause I need something good to happen." Which is to say, the resolution to these stories so often features that rare, deft magic which captivated us in the first season, is captured once more -- maybe even rivaled -- by the send-off for Smash Williams in "Hello, Goodbye."

Smash's rehabilitation -- physical and mental -- constitutes the best arc that the show has had in a long time and hands down gives Gaius Charles the best material he has had to work with as Smash Williams, whose arrogance typically kept us from sympathizing with him as much as some of the other characters. But when his swag got knocked off in the season premiere, he's working fast-food full-time, we don't pleasure in his misfortune. Instead, just as we're seeing Smash's emotional valences uncovered by his circumstances, we realize the hidden depths of affect and sympathy are at work in places we never thought they'd appear, and in Smash's case, he's the character whom I most wanted to see recover because his irrepressible spirit did not belong in an Alamo Freeze uniform. (And you know that FNL loves all of its characters too much to stick them permanently in small-town hell.)

So after a handful of episodes with the expected (and, honestly, desultory) ups and down and "what's the point of all this" moaning, we get the payoff in "Hello, Goodbye" where Smash prevails, as we knew he would, but the unrestrained -- unrestrainable -- joy that bursts through is that something good that needed to happen to Coach Taylor, and FNL viewers too; in the midst of all of Dillon's mess of drama, Smash represented the restoration of idealism and hope.

Indie rating: Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. – "Buy The Moon Of Jupiter"

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