The murder / corpse-disposal plot twist, and what it does to Tyra and Landry - is clearly the focal point of this young Friday Night Lights season.
Below, Friday Night Lights producer Jason Katims discusses the plot twist and its fallout in an interview with blogger Alan Sepinwall.
Alan Sepinwall: While I loved a lot of "Last Days of Summer," especially scenes like Eric and Tami arguing on the couch about when he had to go back to TMU, I was really concerned about the developments in the Tyra and Landry storyline. Can you talk about how that story developed, and what you're trying to do?
Jason Katims: First of all, I've heard some people say it's Ben Silverman trying to change the show or something. The first thing is it's a [plot twist] that we were talking about doing last year in the first season. It's not something that we're doing because the network asked us to change the show. This is a storyline that the writers and producers of the show came up with separate and apart from any network dictate. Now, have you seen the second episode?
Alan Sepinwall: NBC only sent out the premiere.
Jason Katims: We should get you that episode, because honestly, a lot of questions you might have about why we're doing this... Here's our idea behind this storyline. What we want to do is not turning into a murder mystery or CSI, but it's basically these two teenagers in a position where it leads to this incredibly intimate storyline between these two characters that would never - their relationship would never become as intimate as it does if not for this event.
Like all Friday Night Lights stories, it's about character, two people trying to deal with it, what they've done, all the guilt and everything would happen to them, and that the two of them get more connected than they ever would have.The other thing that it does is it allows us, through this storyline, we meet Landry's family and in particular his father who's a local cop. As the story develops, his father becomes very connected to the storyline as well. The story gives us an opportunity to get into Landry's house and see who he is and who his family is. it's something that's served the show so well in the first season, when we would develop our characters, to start to really get to know the families, where they come from.
I feel we did that successfully with Tyra's character where you meet her mother and her sister, Smash with his mother. By meeting the characters' families, you really get to know who they are. We never saw Landry's life outside of being Matt's buddy, so now we're going to get the opportunity to do that.
And the actor, Jesse Plemons, has so much to offer, that while we love his comic relief sidekick stuff and don't want to lose that, we know he's capable of giving us so much more. What inspired us to do this story, when we did the attempted rape storyline last year and we saw what Jesse did with those scenes after he finds Tyra in that vulnerable state, we though, 'My god, we're sitting on a goldmine with this actor.' That, more than anything was the impetus to do this storyline.
The only other thing I'll say about this is that, although this is something very different from what we've done on the show before, that it is in the tradition of storytelling we've pursued on the show. When you look at the pilot episode, you have a situation where the guy set up to the be the star of the show gets paralyzed at the end of the episode. That has served us well where you have this very big, shocking moments in the show and surround that with the smaller character moments and the more intimate storytelling that we also do on the show. To me, this feels very much in concert with the kind of stories we do.
Alan Sepinwall: Okay, but for argument's sake, when you talk about wanting to introduce Landry's father, you're already doing this story where Landry tries out for the team, and you could introduce his father there, and this (the murder) kind of overwhelms that. Couldn't you have just done the football tryout story?
Jason Katims: We could have, but we are doing that and we're not stopping that.
Alan Sepinwall: I just worry that I'm not going to be able to look at Landry the same way again. Regardless of what they did with the body, I don't know that a Landry who killed somebody can still be Landry.
Jason Katims: You need to see the next episode and the one after that and the one after that. All I can tell you is it's (bleeping) great.
I don't know what to say other than the story, the way the story is woven into the fabric of the show is something the show really does not break tone with the show, but adds a grandness to it. And as I said, we've already mixed these kinds of storylines, whether it's Jason getting paralyzed, or Lyla and Riggins having this affair, the big racism story that happened with Smash, or the steroid story.
This is really what we do on the show. While it's different from what we've done before, if it wasn't different from what we've done before, we'd have another problem. This is a show that is going to continue to evolve and surprise. That's in the spirit of everything that's kind of gone into going down this road.
Alan Sepinwall: Obviously, some fans have already seen the episode on Yahoo!, and a lot of them seem unhappy with this direction. Is there anything you would say to them right now to reassure them?
Jason Katims: I would tell them what I just told you. Just get them the second episode, because it's so great. You immediately see the scenes between Landry and Tyra in the next episode, you see where this story is going. I feel like it will really, for fans of the show who might be concerned about this, it'll really be a relief. I think people will be on board with it going forward.
I think that once they see the next episode and the episode after that, they'll see that it's a really compelling story that is about character, it's not changing the show or trying to take the show into a murder mystery. The show very much stays tonally in keeping with everything the show has been before.