Finally, Friday Night Lights produced an episode that's worthy of the show. Throughout the previous four seasons of the series, I've become frustrated with some of their creative choices in terms of storylines and characterization. Jason Katims and his writers borrowed too freely, sometimes, from the land of the daytime soap. The show irritated me when Landry committed murder, when Saracen hooked up with the maid, when the show tried to tell any story involving crime and the Riggins (or crime in general). FNL consists of many deeply layered, complex characters who don't need to put into ridiculous soap-ish situations to make them interesting; however, the FNL writers can't resist those soap-ish temptations and tendencies. When they resist those temptations, episodes such as "Kingdom" happens.
"Kingdom" is one of the finest examples of why I've watched the series through its ups and downs. The story's simple. The Lions traveled to Kingdom, Texas to face the team they forfeited the game to last year in the season four premiere. In between the game and after the game, the team bonded in a way it never had. Last year, they were at each other's throats--a mismatched group of misfits who had no discipline or structure until Coach Taylor instilled those in his player's lives. A year later, the team's winning but they weren't a team...yet. Vince would improvise on the field, taking the open gap rather than wait for the play to develop. The players would fight. The Lions played together but they weren't a team...until they came to Kingdom.
The game against Kingdom represented redemption for the Lions--a chance to correct the mistake they made when Coach forfeited the game. More importantly, the game brought the Lions together. It unified them. Beyond the game and the team's unity, it was important to flesh out the key players on the East Dillon Lions. My investment in the Lions never equaled my investment in the Panthers during the first three seasons because I knew the characters. Hastings, Tinker and Buddy Jr don't have much depth. "Kingdom" gave those three depth. Their scenes were as natural and enjoyable as any scene with Riggins, Street, Saracen, Smash and Landry, which is important for the show to maintain. Before this episode, I didn't care whether or not the Lions wanted to win the state championship. The arc felt forced and contrived, an easy decision to make in the final season. My opinion changed though. It had something to do with the scenes between the key players on the Lions and a lot to do with Coach.
I complained that Coach was arc-less in the last FNL review. The episode made me look stupid because the man's arc began in season four. His team sought individual redemption for the forfeit. Coach wants a different sort of redemption--not even redemption as much as a reminder of who he is and what kind of coach he is. Eric achieved success with the Panthers in season one but his reputation as a coach has been in question since that day. McCoy and the boosters forced him out of West Dillon High, his college experience didn't pan out and he led the Lions to a 2-8 record. Coach wants to remind everyone how good he is, and he wants to do it the right way. The right way is why he stops Vince from improvising during a play and why he tells his team that they won't win that way again (that way being 24 penalties for 230+ yards). The East Dillon Lions would be his greatest achievement yet because of the history, the way the team came together, the difficulties he had. When Hastings asks, "are we there yet?" on the bus ride home, Coach responds "Not yet...we're getting there...slowly but surely we're getting there..."
"Kingdom" is the episode I waited for. It's the episode I heard set the season into amazing motion. It was so simple in its execution and so masterful in its effect on the viewer. It's no surprise that Rolin Jones is the credited writer. He penned last year's critically acclaimed "The Son." "Kingdom" also delved into the recruitment process a bit, which has enormous potential if told realistically.
-Julie returned home after Derek's wife confronted her in the library. I have no interest in his story but it happened and it seems like episode six will be about the fall out.
-Tami just hung out with Laurel and discussed how much she misses her daughter. Nothing else happened. I felt obligated to mention these two minor stories though.
-Patrick R. Norris directed the episode.
THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK