This show is a masterpiece in storytelling. Every single scene is dense with dramatic action and every scene has a point. It’s drama at its absolute classiest: thought provoking, heartbreakingly moving, laugh out loud funny. It’s real life! The cast are so so pretty, but FNL is not about pretty people. It’s about people. Who have real problems and real relationships and who feel real emotions and who behave and react in real ways. I swear to God, I have never seen a show this good before. As the NY Times said in their review: it’s a work of art.
“Everyone’s got a sad story. It doesn’t excuse anything.”
Jason’s story arc in this episode is richly compelling. He has two serious things he needs to face: whether to play scrimmage or not - even though playing could mean doing irreparable damage to his body - and the horrifying truth about Lyla and Tim. I love that Lyla lied to him about Tim, and for exactly the reason’s Tami smartly advised her to: she’s devoted and deeply in love with Jason and being honest about it would hurt him; it would destroy Jason’s friendship with Tim, and Jason needs that friendship; it’s over between Lyla and Tim, so there’s no point telling him just to assuage her own guilt. And, of course, Jason has been through enough. It’s telling of their relationship (and the kind of person Jason is) that she knew he knew though, despite the fact she lied.
Jason has a new life now, he has new friends, and Herc, while brutal with it, is honest with him, and… he’s exactly who Jason needs at this time, because Herc’s been through it, and he’s survived it, and most importantly, he’s adjusted to it. That fight they had in the corridor was amazing, because Jason does need Lyla (and Tim), but Herc’s *not wrong*; just because Jason’s in a wheelchair doesn’t mean he should just accept being betrayed by his girlfriend and best friend. The scene then switches seamlessly to something magically feel good: they fall off their chairs and are forced to call out to Phil because there’s no way to get up off the floor without help, which causes them to start laughing hysterically. It shouldn’t be funny, but it is, because it would be, and that’s (one of the billion reasons) why this show is special.
I love all the disabled characters; how proud and fun and smart and normal they are. When have you ever seen a show with more than just one token cripple in it? Never. That’s when. This show is fucking groundbreaking.
The scene with the doctor, when he warns Jason about the risks of playing, is both horrifying and heart-warming. It’s a truly scary prospect for Jason to play, but, because he’s human and he’s always been a competitive, active person, he has to play. And the others know that, and they laugh and joke and support him. They understand him. Later, when Coach talks to him and tells him to follow his heart, it’s right. Screw the danger, Jason needs to keep being Jason, and that means taking risks.
I love that the scrimmage game was as excitingly filmed as any of the football scenes. After Jason got back up off the floor and started kicking butt and the crowd was going wild, I was squealing with delight. (Note that there were no football scenes in this episode; the only glimpse of the game we got was when Billy went to talk to Coach.) And Jason’s confrontation with Lyla shows that he’s learned many painful things: he doesn’t need to and he can’t accept the betrayal, because he deserves better. Because if he wasn’t crippled he’d never put up with it. On the other hand this is an unforgiving stance to take, and I'm certain we'll see Jason go through that journey next. He needs to understand that what Lyla and Tim did was a product of the (impossibly difficult) situation and that neither of them did it to hurt him, and that they both still love him.
Tim lost his best friend (at least for now), and it’s still the least significant aspect of his story. Back with Tyra (who readily takes him back, not because she’s weak, but because there’s actually something between them; they work far better together than Tim and Lyla do or could and I'm really looking forward to seeing how their relationship plays out), but mostly dealing with the fact that he’s now got a shot at a future as a football player, his brother wants that for him badly, and he doesn't know how to be ambitious.
Billy is great. He loves Tim, but he has no idea how to be a father, and he knows it and he resents it and he resents that he has no choice in the matter. All of their interactions were very revealing. Billy is bitter about the situation he’s in and there’s an underlying anger there, but he’s doing the best he can, and Tim has no idea what it’s costing him. Tim is proud and loyal (I was interested to discover that he doesn’t consciously blame his parents) and he lashes out with petty insults (“you were a terrible football player” etc) when Billy expresses his frustration at the way Tim goes about living his life. Neither are wrong and neither are right, but the responsibility is all on Billy’s shoulders.
Tim’s smile at the end was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen on tv or film, btw.
Coach and Tami are, hands down, the best onscreen couple on television in... ever. I love how Tami just tells Coach all the shit the students tell her in their counselling sessions. Is that even allowed? It’s so unethical and yet I just adore that she does it because their relationship is so honest and brilliant and their bickering is the best thing in the entire world. Also, they are SO HOT together it blows my MIND. I want to marry them both. When Coach played ping pong with Julie and was hilarious and wonderful (SIGH) and then he reported back to Tami and said the best line of the episode:
“Contrary to popular opinion I’m very good at communicating with women folk.”
That scene? I CRIED WITH LAUGHTER.
Finally, there’s Smash. On the one hand we have him struggling with the temptation to A) take performance enhancing drugs, B) steal for those drugs, and C) teach darling Matt how to tell a girl what she wants, and you’ve got another great story on your hands; one that mixes light and dark flawlessly and that both amuses and distresses. That his church ended up footing the bill for his drugs is a sublime piece of dramatic irony.
Julie is going out with Matt!!! I am so very pleased, because I love those two. Matt has the cutest stammer in the whole world. I LOVE HIM AND I LOVE HER.
Here endeth my squee.