There are some FNL episodes that pick a theme and just go with it, no matter what. This is one of those episodes, and true to its title, "Fracture" grabs onto the idea of fissures building up throughout Dillon. Most of these involve Coach and Vince, who find themselves at odds. There's cracks in the foundation between Vince and Luke, Vince and Jess, and Vince and the rest of the team, and ones between Coach and Ornette, and really Coach and the team as a whole. At the same time, Coach Crawley and Billy Riggins are sparking off one another, Julie clashes with her TA-turned-lover (as does Coach, in a memorable scene), and really the whole of Dillon, or at least the corner of it we see, is in some state of discord.
It's notable then, that amid all of this tumult, there are two stories in the episode that focus on the bridging of those divides. The first, and the better of the two, is Becky wanting to "start over" with Luke. I'll admit, I haven't been the biggest fan of Becky as a character. She felt like Tim Riggins's own personal Jar Jar for much of Season 4, and her storylines were often more interesting in principle than in practice. But they seem to have found a nice groove for the character here. There's complexity in the concept of feeling attraction to a someone who was a major part of one of the most difficult experiences of your life, and the show doesn't shy away from it with Becky. Her tearing up backstage at the Landing Strip is the character's best emotional moment in the series thus far, and there's something strangely endearing about Mindy and her co-workers as Becky's den mothers and confidantes. Some of it's a little cheesy, but they make for an interesting, semi-realistic sounding board and impromptu support group for Becky, that helps her to move past her trauma and hopefully begin anew with the young man she cares for.
The second of these stories, which featured Tami slowly but surely working her way into Epyck's comfort zone, was far less successful. Again, I appreciate FNL attempting to delve into the types of stories and characters who aren't normally seen on television, but this plot has two problems. The first is that we've basically already seen this with Tyra, and in smaller doses with other characters, so the beats are a little too familiar. Second, Epyck is such a stock bad girl from the wrong side of the tracks with a rough life but a hidden heart of gold if you just get to know her and so on and so on and so on. Her entire deal feels like an after school special, and Tami's trite "I have to get through to these kids" routine is beginning to wear thin.
We also get what is hopefully the end of the Julie/TA story line. The whole thing has felt like something of a diversion, a way to keep Julie in the fold of Dillon and the reach of the show despite the fact that by all accounts she should be off and away by now. The show tried to use that, but it still felt like a convenient way to keep her around with a plot that had little to do with anything else happening in the show. The "Guest Starring" credit at the beginning of the episode spoiled the final reveal for me, but even then, I kind of appreciate the fake out where they make you think Julie's off to Tennessee. But instead, she recognizes the hollowness of what her TA was offering and goes back to what made her feel truly loved and appreciated. It's a nice beat, even if it was something of a slog to get there.
But of course there's a lot more to the "fractures" going on throughout the episode. The most notable portion of it is probably the Howards' visit to Oklahoma Tech. (The school feels like a pretty thinly veiled version of OK State, with an off-brand T. Boone Pickens and a similar color scheme.) I like that the show is exploring the somewhat shady world of recruiting, and the various loopholes and manipulations that go on within it, not to mention kids (and adults) from humble circumstances are set out to be mesmerized by the glitz and hollow promises of it all.
The problem is that, once again, it all feels pretty quick and easy. This show's only been intermittently about nuance, but the skeeziness of what's taking place is not exactly subtle, nor are the various breaking points among characters on the show. In some ways, this has been the most serialized season of FNL, a show that often straddled the line between serialization and being episodic. It feels like we've been building to the idea that Vince, and the whole team for that matter, has been growing in ego, in rowdiness, and in lack of temperament since episode two. And yet the jumps along the way, the sharp increases and quick developments on that front, feel very sudden. As I've said before, my favorite part of Coach's move to East Dillon has been the sense that this normally unflappable man finds himself without answers or options (and Ornette throwing the Florida head coach offer in his face and silencing him is a nice beat on that front), and his yelling at his players to "shut up" feels like the peak of that, but something about it feels somewhat convenient and out of character.
There's too much we're supposed to assume about things going to Vince's head rather than seeing that develop gradually. There's too much to the team's infighting that feels like it came out of nowhere after they'd recently bonded so close as to brand one another. There's too much about this whole conflict that feels like it came to a boil awfully quickly. Maybe that's just a consequence of the 13-episode season with so many characters to service, but it creates a sense of unearnedness to the major conflict of the season, if only by degree, and that hurts the effort.