Have you ever meant to get into a TV show but never had the time — till suddenly it was a few seasons in and you feared you'd never get caught up? That's what inspired this new occasional feature, Five Essential Episodes. Kind of like Getting Into for television, I'll choose the five episodes of a current show that are the most important for new fans to check out.
The first show I'm tackling is Friday Night Lights, which returns to start its third season on NBC on Jan. 16 after previously airing on DirecTV. I've seen a number of the DirecTV episodes and can say they're outstanding; I imagine many of them would end up on a future list of essentials. But for now, I'm sticking to episodes that aired in the first and second seasons. For the record, I'm assuming you know the premise and/or can also get your hands on the pilot episode. That said, here are my five essential episodes:
- "Wind Sprints" — The third episode of the show's first season had one of the most iconic images of the series: the whole team running sprints up and down a sloppy, muddy hill in the rain, followed by Coach Taylor making Tim Riggins walk home while everyone else takes the bus. I'm not sure what falls harder when I watch this one: the rain or my tears.
- "Black Eyes and Broken Hearts" — This season one episode comes on the heels of a walkout by the team's black players — led by star Smash Williams — over a racially charged comment made by an assistant coach. It's a great balance of FNL's meatier moments (the walkout story, the Taylors worrying about Julie's friendship with bad girl Tyra) and lighter ones (Matt trying to buy a gift for Julie).
To see the other three, read more.
- "Mud Bowl" — There's just something about rain that must bring out the best in FNL. This gem comes toward the end of the first season and includes not just a football game in a mucky field but some juicy developments with Jason Street, Landry waving around Our Bodies, Ourselves, and a really shocking Tyra-related twist that would unfortunately lead to some of the worst parts of season two — but it seemed right at the time!
- "State" — To think, the first-season finale could have been the final FNL ever! And what a satisfying episode it is, with the Panthers taking on their toughest football foe yet, Tami getting some information that will change her family's lives forever, and one of the most awkward and cold motivational speeches in the history of football.
- "Leave No One Behind" — The second season was a little rough for FNL, but the show was back on track by the time this episode rolled around. The most stunning scene comes when Coach Taylor literally throws Matt in a cold shower, but Smash's sudden doubts about playing college ball bring up some shiver-inducing moments of their own.
FNL fans, what's on your list of essentials?
Photos courtesy of NBC