Somewhat surprisingly in light of the title (to say nothing of the avalanche of network hype), Landry’s admission of guilt occupied a relatively small chunk of “The Confession”. That’s too bad, since it offered us by far the best scenes of the episode. There were some fine moments in the other story lines—most notably the biggest, loudest Julie v. Tami throwdown yet—but some seriously false notes in Jason Street and Tim Riggins’ stories kept this from raking among the upper tier of Friday Night Lights episodes.
If I feel as if Landry’s plot deserved more time, it’s because the shortge of it kept Jesse Plemons and Glenn Morshower from having more scenes. The story wouldn’t work at all if Plemons wasn’t such a fantastic actor who puts across so much more than is in the script. Given the self defense/defense of another aspect (and, well, the fact that they’re all in Texas), Landry’s chances of being prosecuted were pretty infinitesimal. Add his status as the son of a lawman and those chances are basically nil. Landry should be smart enough to realize that (and so should his dad, come to think of it), and his failure-or refusal-to do so, says a lot about him. Landry would probably be just as haunted if he was a soldier who’d killed a man on the battlefield—for him, taking a life is just not something done even remotely lightly. Landry’s insistence on being punished for his actions is all there in the script, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s not terribly convincing on the page. Plemons played the scene as if Landry had gone over everything in his head enough times to have effectively brainwashed himself, and when he decides to play along with his father and the attorney, I got the sense that he did so not because he’d been convinced his actions were justifiable but because if he went to prison, he’d be extending his punishment to his parents and Tyra, none of whom remotely deserve to be hurt by his actions. The story line may have been resolved, but the look in Landry’s eyes in the final shot implies he’ll be carrying the burden with him for the rest of his days.
After being MIA for two weeks, Jason Street returns with what may very well be the dumbest plot point FNL has ever asked the audience to swallow. In light of Dillon’s apparent size, the likelihood of the town having more than maybe two women with profiles on the dating site for wheelchair fetishists is pretty slim…so it completely destroys suspension of disbelief to have one of them be a chick with a jones for water sports who has apparently never even heard of Street before. I could maybe buy it in a town of a couple hundred thousand people, but Dillon has consistently been portrayed as a city that can’t have more than 60,000 residents max. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen ways they could have set Jason up with the waitress (and, more importantly, have engineered circumstances to make him Herc’s roomie) that didn’t require such an inane stab at comedy.
Speaking of comedy, the scene where Matt and Carlotta are interrupted by Grandma Saracen could have been quite nearly as bad if it hadn’t been played and cut in a way that made it feel really true to the characters instead of coming across like an American Pie outtake. The same can be said of the scene where Smash gets ready to give Carlotta the full treatment only to learn that she came into the Alamo Freeze looking for Matt. FNL doesn’t do comic relief very often, but when the writers go for it, it only really works when it plays off well-established characterization.
I was sure we’d seen the last of Riggins’ crazy-roomie story line and had mixed feelings about seeing it turn up again. I expected Riggins to wind up living with the Taylors back during the first season and was surprised to see it happen now. The development makes more sense at this point, attached as it is to the continuing story of his struggle to rejoin the team. I’m really glad that Coach is still making Riggins work for his spot on the team, but it doesn’t seem quite right to have the story line lashed to the roomie action, which plays as if the writers can’t quite decide if they want to elicit comedy or suspense. I liked the scene where the roommate menacingly stalks Riggins at the gymnastics meet, but after seeing how long Landry’s story line got dragged out, I’m really wary of this one taking way too much time to resolve (to say nothing of the potential for cheesy melodrama created by the roomie’s instability and drug use—with Landry’s story line finally over and done, it’s way too soon for the writers to be covering even remotely similar territory).
Santiago and Buddy’s story line continues to be one of season two’s stronger elements, though the odor of Good Will Hunting during Santiago’s big scene in the pickup truck was perhaps a little too strong. I didn’t expect things to work out as well for him and the Panthers as they did on the gridiron, and the game was one of the better football sequences that the show has served up in awhile. Otherwise, the most notable scene in the episode that I haven’t covered yet was the latest Julie-Tami dust up, their most spectacular and entertaining yet. It was a great showcase scene for Connie Britton, though it also had the unintentional effect of pointing out the degree to which Coach Taylor has been somewhat shunted to the sidelines and rendered a little more passive as a character in the weeks since he’s returned to Dillon from Austin (if nothing else, it would have been nice to tie him in to Landry’s story line and let Kyle Chandler have a scene or two with Morshower, since the effects of Landry’s confession etc. on his involvement with the Panthers has largely been glossed over). Going into the writers’ strike, FNL had more episodes in the can than many other scripted dramas—15 of the 22 episodes ordered for the season have been shot. That means there are six episodes to come, which I expect to being rolling out during February sweeps at the latest. The creators of the show obviously realize that Kyle Chandler is one of their greatest assets; that being the case, I very much hope to see him take a more proactive role in the series when it returns in 2008.
Andrew Johnston is the television critic for Time Out New York.