The Season Everyone (else) Thinks Should Not Be Named

There is a tendency among fans of the television series, Friday Night Lights, to want to pretend that season two never existed, uncomfortable with the very notion of including it among the show’s other four, spectacular seasons. It is the tarnished section of an otherwise beloved program, and led to much fear when it first aired in 2007 with a “jump the shark” moment. The sentiment seemed to be that this would be the ruin of the streak of quality storytelling viewers had grown to expect. Such fear is reflected in television critic, Alan Sepinwall’s, blog post discussing the season’s first episode, Last Days of Summer. As he says, “Once you know that the show is willing to go to this place, it changes how you look at the entire series.” I disagree.

 

The Problem

I started watching the show late, when all the episodes were already released on DVD. Therefore I went into this storyline clean, unaware of any approaching hoopla or controversy. In simple terms: Landry Clarke killed Tyra Collette’s attempted rapist and together they attempted to cover it up by throwing his body into a river.
 

Why It Shocked

I will be the first to admit that I would have never guessed going into season two that a major plot point would be murder. Outside of underage drinking, there had been no indication that crime was a major issue in West Dillion, Texas (and it is a theme that does not really get introduced again until season four, with the reveal of East Dillion and questionable car parts deals).

This was a show about a realistic married couple. It was about some high school kids going through the trials and tribulations of growing up, while playing football in a small town obsessed with football. It was not about hitting someone in the head with a pole, and for some viewers, it came across as pure a contrivance which would never happen outside of a script.

The general conclusion was that humorous, guitar playing, straight-A student Landry Clarke, with a cop for a father and an eagerness to extol advice (“One word: Members Only Jacket.”), would have never done such a thing, let alone be hanging out with “bad girl” Tyra, whose usual boyfriends were drunks and whose family life consisted of her “the other woman” mother and stripper sister.

Tyra

Tyra

Landry

Landry

But actually…

…is it such an out of character moment? If the crime had been premeditated I would completely understand the protests. Yet this is an instant reaction to a bad situation. Landry is an established loyal character, not naturally inclined to violence but who has proven himself many times to have guts. He says things as he sees them, not curbing his opinions to fit what would best please his audience, and willing to stand up for friends, even when he is out of his depth (which is usually the case). He also has a crush on Tyra and where on most such a crush would wear like a cliché, the sweet nerd falling for the hot girl, Friday Night Lights, does not deal in such flatness. Landry is so comfortable with himself, giving off a vibe of sincerity and cool confidence that completely sells well and makes the relationship works.

Landry and Tyra watching the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes

Whether he should or not, he carries some guilt for what happened to Tyra last season. It was when he showed up late for their tutoring session that the man first attacked her. Now, upon being made aware that this man in front of him is that same guy, approaching Tyra while he was in a store buying snacks, he cannot stand back and do nothing, let him get to her while he was looking the other way again. To make it worse, the guy had been following her lately, to the point that she had to drive into a police station for him to stop and drive away.

Even once Landry hits him in the head, it is not with the intention of killing but self-defense that motivates his attack. Logically, yes, if you hit someone in the head with a pole like that there is going to be death, but none of this was thought out. The worst you can put on these two is the covering up the murder, especially when they realize he might still have a faint pulse. For that there are two slightly redeeming factors:

  1. These are scared teenagers who did not see this coming. Tyra, especially, has had to be looking over her shoulder, haunted by this guy stalking her in his truck. She already has a bad reputation, with people defining her by her looks instead of seeing her intelligence. If this came out, instead of feeling sympathy for her, there would be scandal, and right when she is trying to turn her life around so she can go to a good college. That frustration, fear, and desire to put this behind her leads her to do this, and Landry, who is also in shock, having never done anything remotely like this before, follows suit.
  2. The victim was a creepy attempted rapist/successful stalker of a teenage girl.

Granted, maybe it was more “television” then usual. Yes, it stands out from everything else the show has ever done, in being far less grounded. And yes, the murder is basically never mentioned again after this season (like Santiago, the teen Buddy Garrity adopts who disappears in season three). Continuity has not always been the shows strongest point but it has so many other redeeming factors and emotional rawness that all is forgiven. Protestors got past this incident and people who liked how Tyra and Landry relationship was portrayed, as I did, continued on, able to look past the murder, or at the very least be able to shake it off as an unexpected event that led to some interesting new dynamics and developments and one incident of incinerating evidence.
 

For Every Death, There Is A Birth

(and in this case, a baby!)

Murder is the storyline that has come to epitomize season two but there is so much more to it:

  • Tim Riggins hopping from place to place after leaving his home with older brother, Billy, while simultaneously trying to get ex-girlfriend, Lyla, back and failing hilariously
  • Baby Gracie’s birth while Couch Taylor is starting a new job at TMU, leaving his wife on her own (because one should never assume daughter, Julie, might offer assistance)
  • Couch Taylor returning home to a hurt team and an angry quarterback (following the general pattern that Matt Saracen (see side-note) can never win)

For any fans of the show, feel free to dispute my defense or share your favorite moments from season two in the comments. Otherwise, all the seasons can be found for purchase on Amazon.

Their great prices are not representative of their worth in repeat viewings.
 

~SIDENOTE~

Best Friends Matt Saracen and Landry Clarke

Unlike Sepinwall, I found Julie’s relationship/idealization of The Swede to be quite disturbing (probably more so than Landry’s new felon status) Perhaps some girls, “…do stupid stuff at 16,” but that doesn’t have to be a generalization. Most girls don’t meet Matt Saracen’s at 16 either. It would have been different if she broke the relationship off (a terrible move on her part but acceptable). To cheat on him and excuse her actions as being out of a dread of turning into her mother (who happens to be none other than the wonderful, Tammi Taylor) was simply ludicrous, and cruel to a guy so undeserving of such treatment.
 
 
 
-screencaps from homeofthenutty.com (NBC/Audience Network)

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My Precious: The Remote Control

My name is Rachel and I am addicted to television. When I say addicted it means the act of staring at my collection of DVD seasons in my room is eerily similar to Gollum’s attachment to the One Ring. Over years of deal finding and gathering (thank you Amazon, eBay, and Black Friday), my crowded shelves include at least eighty-seven different shows. This does not include all the shows I watch live when they air, nor the shows typed up on an ongoing wish list to watch in the future.
 

Shows

It is my belief that I follow such a variety of different programs that anyone could find at least one they liked, and probably a few they have never heard of. Some are American (Treme), while others are British (Life on Mars) and Canadian (Slings and Arrows). Genre-wise, there is a wide, unlimited range of classics (I Love Lucy), comedy (New Girl), mystery (Castle), science-fiction (Doctor Who), quirky one-season hits (Wonderfalls), dramas (Nashville), violence (Sons of Anarchy) and anything that comes out of the brain of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
 

Characters

My favorite characters range from the protective siblings to the annoying person every other fan cannot stand, the witty best friend (see Friday Night Light‘s Landry Clarke) to the well-intentioned rebel (which sounds like such a cliché but cannot be denied when people like Gilmore Girl‘s Jess Mariano, Veronica Mar‘s Logan Echolls, and Breaking Bad‘s Jesse Pinkman exist).

 

Bonds of Siblinghood
Dean Winchester and his Metallicar Credit: WB, CW

Dean Winchester and his Metallicar

Credit: WB, CW

While not predisposed to be a watcher of horror shows or movies, I love Supernatural. In television, it is rare that the protagonists are siblings, seemingly preferring solo stars or love interests. That is why shows like Supernatural, Tru Calling, and the new [UPDATE: canceled] comedy, Ben and Kate, mean so much to me. They focus on the relationship that is so important in my world, instead of acting like the only place for a brother or sister in television is as an annoyance. For example, it is not uncommon for Supernatural fans to be obsessed with Dean Winchester. I mean, it basically comes down to being a member of Team Sam or Team Dean. As a member of Team Dean, though, I find the character (portrayed winningly by Jensen Ackles) incredibly charming, and a lot of that comes from the fact that he is a protective, older sibling. Like Dean, I would do anything for my little brother. He means the world to me and every extreme action Dean does to take care and protect Sammy, is exactly what I would do… if I fought demons for a living.

 

Defender of the Hated

As for my penchant to adore disliked characters, I know Ziggy says some stuff he should not say (like here), that he should have known ducks and alcohol do not mix, but everyone treats him like an idiot. He just looks so sad sometimes, like he has gotten himself stuck in this shtick and does not know how to get out. No one thinks he can change or do anything right to the point that even his friends refuse to see him as anything but a mess up. It’s not fair. Sure, maybe I give him more credit then he deserves, and at times he is in the wrong, or takes a wrong approach. Then again I am also trying to find some means to redeem Dutch Wagenbach (one look at his name and you know he gets no respect) after he killed a cat on The Shield. I simply refuse to give up on these broken characters, who never seem to be given a chance and are always picked on, but have heart.
 

We all make mistakes. He just made many.

We all make mistakes. He just made many.
 
Credited: HBO

When a disk skips even a minute I go crazy running from room to room, trying to find a DVD player that will play through the missed seconds.

I read books called, The Office and Philosophy, from Blackwell Philosophy and PopCulture, or Pronto by Elmore Leonard, starring Justified lead, Raylon Givens (but missing my leading man, Boyd Crowder).

TV Guide magazine is a weekly read.

In other words, this hobby is not limited to video content but is reflected in everything I do.
 
 

Television vs Movies

All of this could be considered extreme (I use “could be” hesitantly) but I love it. There is something to be proud of, in a sense, in knowing so much detail about one area, to be able to name the actors and actresses who appear as minor guest stars, as well as provide their previous work credentials. The appeal of television over movies is the emphasis on characters, who get to really grow and change over thirteen to twenty-two episodes, as opposed to being restricted to two and a half hours and that is it. There are story arcs which you actually have to keep track of as they are referenced weeks later. They are even divided into attainable thirty to sixty minute segments, which can easily fit into my busy schedule. There is no better way to debrief and recuperate than with a show. Drop all the homework for a moment and just sit: pure watching, no multitasking.
 

Why It’s OK to be Obsessed with Television

As an added bonus, I can warrant my habits to the more skeptical individuals with the fact that my goal is for this beloved obsession to lead to some form of career, the pipe dream being a television critic. Alan Sepinwall is my role model in the field. Through his blog, and now his work on the web-site HitFix, he gets paid to watch shows and write reviews for each episode. Indeed, he spent one summer re-watching The Wire and writing two separate reviews for each episode, one for new fans and one for people who have already seen all five seasons so would not be spoiled. Not only does that take a lot of commitment but, having read most of the “newbie” reviews personally, it really adds to understanding and provides new ways of looking at events that took place.

The whole concept sounds amazing, such a fun thing to do for a living. Since first grade, writing has always been the discipline where I found my niche and now I know what I want to write about. Indeed, that is one of the reasons I am so excited about writing a blog in this class. Alan Sepinwall got noticed writing about NYPD Blue on a blog in college. This assignment could be a great opportunity to replace my talk with action towards an ambition that, if successful, could lead towards a paying job one day.
 

Something Quotable for the Last Lines

The best thing about television is it is still fairly separate from the combined gadget world technology seems to want to head towards (like the phones no longer being only phones phenomenon). Some have increased in size and flatness. There are more channels. 3D is being attempted. For the most part, though, television is still that box in the living room we all know and love to turn on. That is something to celebrate.