If Friday Night Lights doesn’t get renewed for another season, it won’t have been for quality reasons. This season came crashing out of the gates with a revamped and rejuvenated show and continues to maintain its steady course in “How the Other Half Lives”. The Panther’s may have lost their fictional game, but the episode is a win with the exception of a few very minor weak spots.
In football, tough calls have to be made on the fly, but the people of Dillon are all finding those hard choices playing out off the field in this episode. Coach Taylor is being made to choose between a boy he knows and one he doesn’t; a boy with crazy-mad drive and spirit and a boy with years of silver spoon-fed talent. Smash has to face his future and decide whether to go for his dreams by playing football at TMU or supporting his family by taking a promotion at the Alamo Freeze. And then Tim is finding his loyalty split between his brother and Lyla, and realizing having to choose between blood and love isn’t easy.
What makes Eric’s decision work so well is the way that the writer’s have decided to portray JD and the McCoys. Mr. and Mrs McCoy are the villains of the season, with their fake smiles and deep pockets, but their son may not be an apple from their tree even if they’ve slapped a coat of glossy, red paint on him. When Matt and Julie find JD’s “shrine” in his home at the big Panther party (hosted at the McCoy’s home rather than the Taylors, after the planning proves too stressful for principal Taylor), JD finds them and makes a little joke at his own expense about showing them his gold plated diaper. The coach probably says it best when accosted by Buddy, Mr. McCoy and others: He knows who Matt is, both as a person and as a player, but he knows very little about the very young JD, and though it doesn’t mean the kid isn’t good or that he doesn’t have all kinds of potential, he’s going to stick with his guy, Matt. This whole setup could make room for JD as an upcoming character, possibly to replace seniors like Matt, who could become a very likable addition to the cast. He just doesn’t seem like another VooDoo, meant only to serve as an antagonist, and outside of his headache inducing parents could be a really good character with a lot of baggage to bring to the pile.