Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Night Lights "Fracture" Review

Buddy Jr. suffered a hair-line fracture on his foot during practice. Hair-line fractures are in the middle between broken and healed, according to Buddy Sr. The symbolism nearly concussed me. Turns out, the East Dillon Lions are like Buddy Jr.'s foot. The team's not broken but they're...wait for it...fractured.

In such a short time, the Lions have gone from a tightly-knit team into the fictional equivalent of the early 90s Miami Hurricanes, with the type of team chemistry that would raise the collective eye brows of Portland's beloved Jailblazers of the early aughts. Vince Howard walks around the town of East Dillon like he's Terrell Owens, ignoring the team in the interest of "me me me!" His teammates have begun to resent their QB and their leader because he's hardly a leader anymore. Ornette arranged an unofficial visit to fictional powerhouse Oklahoma Tech and the visit interfered with the Lions practice. Luke and Hastings, specifically, took issue with Vince's absence. Luke, in particular, feels the lingering burn from the TMU sham, in which the university played him to get closer to Vince. At the next practice, Luke takes a cheap shot at the quarterback and insists they worked on the play while Vince visited the college. Coach broke it up quicker than bedroom antics between Saracen and his daughter. Not only do the players have problems with one another, the coaching staff's...fractured. Coach Crawley took issue with Billy's aggressive coaching style and his emphasis on violence during the football game. Before the pep rally, the two coaches need separation as well as the two best players on the Lions. As Scooby Doo would say, "ruh-roh."

Coach is trying to control the team, their emotions and their egos. Ornette Howard's entirely responsible for Vince's change in behavior and his inflated ego. Ornette made it known in "Perfect Record" that he'd run the college recruitment part of his son's life because he needs to protect his son's future. Unfortunately, father and son are on the precipice of so many future NCAA violations. Coach's interest is in protecting Vince from infractions but the influence of one's father is more than the football coach's influence. Ornette even threatens Coach after a conversation in which Coach threatens to bench Vince because he refuses to let one player be above the team. Ornette's done his homework. He's aware that Coach talked with another fictional powerhouse college football school about a head coaching job, and he questions the Coach's commitment to the team. The piece of blackmail doesn't work in that particular scene because any one would be a fool to criticize a coach for moving up in the ranks--that's how it works in professional sports. It only works after Levi commends Coach for reviving East Dillon's identity. The town would eviscerate Coach if word leaked that he talked with a college during the Lions' magical season. Coach is in a delicate spot.

The episode worked despite the sarcasm in one or two sentences. "Fracture" had a weird pacing though. Actually, the episode felt fractured in a way. The writers and the crew were in love with the theme evidently. Transitions to other scenes weren't as natural or seamless (the actual cut of the episode seems like it had a few jump-cuts...weird). The B and C stories had no thematic connection with the A story. Whenever the episode cut to Tami and Epyck, or Julie Taylor in the C story, it felt like another series. The A story dealt with recruitment issues, fractured team unity, cut-throat politics and the B and C story were nothing like it. It's tough to create a balance with these stories and I'm sure the writers tried but it was an oddly edited and structured episode overall.

Tami and Epyck emerged from the broom closet. The last few episodes were Epyck free. Suddenly, the wayward kid's back and the writers want the audience to believe that she and Tami have a connection that didn't happen in front of our eyes. Epyck's story is weird. She lied about her foster home and the people within the house. She lied. Her foster mom opined that Epyck's earlier years were rougher and addiction filled; therefore, she behaves in bizarre ways. Again, though, in an episode with a clearly different focus the story seemed like it belonged in Katims' Parenthood reboot rather than Friday Night Lights.

Meanwhile, Derek, the TA, came to Dillon to convince Julie to return to school. He and wife will file for divorce. He re-signed from the school. He'll live in a cabin in Tennessee for a few months while he completes his dissertation. Derek only wants to save Julie's education. Following their conversation, she informed her parents about her decision to return to school; however, she drove to Chicago to reunite with the one and only Matt Saracen. If the nonsense TA subplot existed to bring Julie to Matt then I feel the writers really should've spent more time brainstorming before resorting to a tired dramatic cliche.

Only five episodes remain and so much discord and divide exists. I'm looking forward to how everything resolves as well as the return of some of the original characters.

Other thoughts:

-Madison Burge has been so good throughout the series. I knew the abortion would make Becky think twice before seriously committing to Luke. Madison played the scene when she told Mindy and the other Landing Strip workers so well. As annoyed as that plot made me last season, the moments following it have been exceptional.

-Monica Henderson wrote the episode. Allison Liddi-Brown directed it.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.