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Friday Night Lights “Mud Bowl”/”Best Laid Plans” Review (1×20/1×21)

9 Mar

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“It’s a football game. What you need for a football game is a football field, 22 kids, and a pigskin.” 

Sometimes, simple is the way to go. Sometimes, all you need to do is go out and participate in something you love, a passion that’s part of who you are. This is exactly what Coach and his players do in “Mud Bowl”, a thrilling, intense, and pretty much perfect episode of television.


Coach is in a similar situation here as he was in the pilot; he’s being pressured from all sides, possibly heading on a new journey with TMU. As a result, he has to juggle that decision, his family, and the playoffs, and it’s safe to say that it feels liberating to him to be able to essentially build a field from scratch, to fight against the commercialization of high school football and get down to the gritty basics. The scene in which he and Mrs. Coach head out to the field is a thing of beauty, especially given that for the first time, cows are more supportive than Tami.Sure, it’s all a bit far-fetched, but this is one of those instances in which I say, “To hell with it.” The unbridled joy we see unfolding on screen during the game is so infectious, so entertaining in its depiction of teamwork and strength and pure celebration. The show certainly goes all out with this game–I especially like the camerawork for both the actual contest and the aftermath in the crowd–and like the sport or not,Friday Night Lights is brilliant when it comes to conveying the importance of football to these people.

Of course, as the Panthers are at their strongest as a team–heading to State!–everything else is continuing to crumble around them. Smash talks to Lyla about Waverly’s condition, Jason and Lyla are once again up to their good ol’ Jason-Lyla shenanigans, and Tyra suffers from an attempted rape. In fact, the show does something intriguing here by intercutting the Mud Bowl with the Tyra scene. At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, but now I think it’s effective. The sexual assault takes the “We’re gonna take this game! It’s ours!” mentality of our football players and warps it beyond recognition, providing an interesting parallel with an act that’s both shocking, vile, and really hard to watch. One thing I like is that Landry doesn’t come riding in as her savior, and that Tyra instead fights off the attacker on her own; nevertheless, it’s nice that she has someone there to comfort her afterwards.

All in all, this is a brilliant episode that strikes at the heart of this show, sending us on a whirlwind of emotions into the final two episodes of season 1. FNL can portray life falling apart, but it can also build it back together again; it’ll add the mud and the wind and the rain, and it’ll play through it with all its heart. That’s the Mud Bowl for ya, ladies and gents.

OTHER STUFF:

-For all you people who don’t care for football, that last game has to evoke something in you, right? Just a little bit? I’d never do that in a million years, but hey, it’s thrilling to watch it on TV.

-A lot of mud is in this episode. Rain, too. Guest star Emmy for nature.

-The episode itself is great, but it sets up some storylines that are going to turn out not so great, sadly.

EPISODE 21, “BEST LAID PLANS”
-The Roast! Ahh, the Roast! First of all, Tim bombing up there is absolutely hilarious. Second of all, it just reaffirms how great of a wife Mrs. Coach is; she’s able to deliver a heartfelt, loving, and funny segment seconds after arguing with her husband, and it’s not phony to keep up appearances or laced with anger and annoyance. She truly believes what she’s saying, and the TMU situation isn’t going to affect anything that came before it.-Speaking of TMU: Man, I don’t know whose side to take here, and that’s sort of the point, I guess. We can sympathize with Coach, but we can also realize he’s being selfish. Anyway, I say this every week, but Connie Britton is awesome. Just take a look at her face after Coach tells her about accepting the job.

-I’m happy Matt pushes Landry toward reporting the assault, but then again, I also want everyone to respect Tyra’s wishes. As expected, this is a very complicated situation, so I’m glad Tami is involved.

-I love the parallels between Tim genuinely complimenting Tyra at the end, Landry doing the same, Coach’s “I love you completely” to Mrs. Coach, Smash bringing the cake to Waverly, and Lyla calling Jason out. That last one is interesting because while it’s an ugly situation, Lyla’s actually empowering herself there; that ties in to the other scenes very nicely.

-Landry! His heart’s in the right place and I completely understand how hard this is for him as well–the writers do a good job of conveying that conflict–but c’mon, his reaction to Tyra’s apology is not good at all.

Photo credit: NBC, Friday Night Lights
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