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Friday Night Criminal Intent? Examining a Strange Turn

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Last week's second season premiere of Friday Night Lights offered a development so wildly off-pitch that it could conceivably cast a pall over the series for the rest of its run, according to an MSNBC column.

The plot twist, as anybody who watches Friday Night Lights knows by now, was the accidental beating death of a man who attempted to rape Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) last season, then resurfaced in the Season 2 opener.

After would-be suitor Landry (Jesse Plemons) killed the man, the freaked teens decided to dump the body in a river instead of notifying police.

Lyra

For a series that constantly tried to make an end run around audience resistance by insisting that it was about its small-town Texas characters and not football, the killing added a level of sensationalism that wasn't helped by the fact that Tyra and Landry are both high school students.

Make no mistake about it: the first season of Friday Night Lights was about as perfect as any season can possibly be. The pilot laid it out fairly clearly.

When star Jason Street (Scott Porter) was injured and the confidence-lacking second-stringer Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) was sent into action in his place, it could have simply been another example of the underdog that nobody ever saw coming winning the big game in front of the entire town of Dillon.

But the fact that that all happened in the show's first very episode subverted the clichés through the recognition of one simple fact: victory over overwhelming odds was the beginning of the story, not the end of it.

The rest of the season chronicled the fallout from every angle. Rookie coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), already feeling pressure from the football-crazy town to deliver a state championship, found the season much more difficult with an untested quarterback anchoring the squad.

Matt Saracen had to deal with sudden celebrity he wasn't prepared to assume and expectations that he wasn't sure he could meet.

Street, meanwhile, had to adjust to his new life in a wheelchair, which had ripple effects in the lives of his girlfriend, ever-optimistic cheerleader Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), and his best friend, monosyllabic fullback Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), who ended up in each others' arms.

And so on, and so forth, as the reverberations from the events of the pilot echoed through the lives of the people of Dillon. The show explored racism, steroids, mental illness, team loyalty and first love with intelligence and heart.

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Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Friday Night Lights Quotes

Billy: Texas Forever.
Tim: Texas Forever.

All I wanted to do was come home.

Riggins

Friday Night Lights Music

  Song Artist
Muzzle of bees Muzzle of Bees Wilco iTunes
Song Evergreen The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Song Bang a Gong (Get it On) T. Rex