Those Emmy nominations for Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton could not have come at a better time. This week’s Friday Night Lights gave us one of its finest hours ever. Abortion, addiction, and the way parents raise their children were central to this episode, entitled “I Can’t.”
Following last week’s revelation that Becky is pregnant by Luke, Becky (on the advice of Tim) went first to Tami for advice about what to do. Tami was caught in the awkward position of wanting to help yet knowing she’s in a tricky spot, as the principal of a high school (albeit not of the school Becky attends). She told the girl she could guide her to a “teen clinic, an adoption agency,” and — but Becky interrupted her by asking, “What if I don’t want the baby?” Tami’s carefully worded response was to tell Becky that she could “direct you to literature” on the subject. (As I did last week, I again want to stress that I am not going to discuss the pros and cons of this highly charged subject, but rather write only about how an abortion is presented in the context of these fictional characters.)
While Becky’s own mother supported the girl’s decision, the woman was too caught up in her own self-consciousness about how she and her daughter might be perceived (as “trash”) to offer much except love. (Terrific, laser-focused acting here by Alicia Witt, by the way.) It was left to Becky and Tami to have the excruciatingly difficult, delicate talk they had later in the hour about the 15-year-old’s final decision. When this episode first aired on DirecTV, I questioned whether Becky would go through with the abortion, since I doubted that NBC, which would and now has aired the episode, would permit such a controversial plot line to play out the way it did. Obviously I need not have wondered or fretted: FNL dealt with its subjects by addressing us as adults and by showing its characters as complex, agonized, and prone to doubt, fear, and guilt. In the end, Luke phoned Becky to comfort her only to be cut off in mid-speech as Becky said, “Luke, I took care of it, so you don’t have to worry… It was the right thing to do.” Yet everything in her voice told us that she wasn’t sure of that at all.
This was not the only plot of the night, of course. Vince had to cope with his drug-addicted mother, who had to be hospitalized and then placed in a rehab facility that Vince couldn’t afford. This was another heartbreaker (beautifully acted by Michael B. Jordan), since it led Vince to get the necessary $4,000 the only way he thought he could: by associating himself with his old pal Calvin and his law-breaking friends.
There was also a bit more nervous activity at Riggins’ Chop-Shop — I mean, Riggins’ Rigs, where Billy was jumpy and Tim was angry about the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.
And FNL finally found some good scenes for Steve Harris’ Big Mary, who was reluctantly pulled back into the football life he’s spent years trying to keep in his past. (The full story of Big Mary’s football career is one I’d be eager to hear about, wouldn’t you?)
All in all, an amazing hour of television. What did you think?