Emily, I, too, was taken in by the moral inversions. The episode was very Old Testament in its invocation of the flawed prophet, the Lord speaking through the mouth of the donkey—in this case, Buddy and Richard Sherman. (We were set up for this prophet-type by the appearance of the mysterious stranger played by Mike Leach last episode, and here it continues.) Standard morality fell flat this week. Tami's attempts to explain the importance of church to Julie were fairly vague and unconvincing, I thought. "There are always gonna be some bad apples." Or "It makes me feel like family." That last justification, which made you sniffle, Emily, could be said for eating dinner together or going to the movies. You need more than that to believe in God. And Julie was just being a gum-smacking teenager there; she wasn't even rebelling particularly hard.
Instead, it was Dick Sherman who got to play a kind of lunatic Jeremiah, speaking a painful and necessary truth. Meghan, I, too, found his explanation for what it means to make art much more convincing and surprising this time around. It also happens to be exactly the message Matt needs to hear, since Matt is constitutionally incapable of being selfish. The final moment when Matt walks in on Sherman brought to mind for me the story of Noah's three sons walking in on their father, asleep, maybe drunk, and muttering. But when Matt is staring up at the golden angel Sherman has created from junk (his "dark materials," in the words of John Milton and Philip Pullman), the experience is indeed ethereal, much more so than the very mundane comings and goings of Julie and her mom dressed in their Sunday best, idly talking about church gossip.
And then Buddy, the one angry, righteous man in the room, and the feminist! Whatever else we say about the treatment of women on this show, we have to bow down to Buddy for defending Tami's honor. What made him finally crack was not that golf cart Joe McCoy rides around in, or the mailbox, or the jokes about Eric's forfeit, but some booster calling Tami a "bitch." Yes, it's a man's world, but that's a world where you have to defend a lady's honor. Not so in the McCoys' world, where all that counts is money, victory, and stealing other people's girlfriends. (What happened to Mrs. McCoy, by the way?)
This scrambled morality was quite refreshing, I thought. It served as a distraction from what could be a very simplistic plot of the kind we feared when discussing episode one: holy East Dillon vs. evil West Dillon. Now we have the good guys coming from all kinds of surprising corners. And such it was with the final touchdown: messy, flawed, but moving nonetheless.
One thing we haven't discussed: more interesting to me than the gender issues, or the marriage troubles, is the racial tension. Luke and Vince make for such great antagonists because they are both blinkered and naive in certain ways and have so many different and conflicting loyalties tugging at them. Both of them have really interesting family relationships, which they are navigating in different ways: Luke just wants to get the hell off the ranch, while Vince is fiercely protective of his mother. (If this goes anything like The Wire, Vince will always be dragged down by the neighborhood.) Their different relationships with Coach Taylor are also full of potential drama. Luke is a baby about demanding Coach's attentions, while Vince will always resist him. ("You're not my father.") I absolutely loved the screaming showdown on the field between Vince and Eric. It was a moment when race disappeared, and they were just two beasts butting heads.
As for Riggins: Ladies, are you kidding me? What a patsy! You call handing out walking-around money in a poor neighborhood a sign of "maturity and reason." Not to mention his sissy whining to Eric about Luke. It was Coach Taylor who set Luke straight by letting Riggins know that Luke has "got to get rid of the concept that we have to kiss his ass because he's graced us with his presence." Right on. And then Eric fixed it with the home visit, which was just the right thing to do.
Riggins and Becky, on the other hand—that had a lot of nice touches. The dress scene, and also the tooth-brushing as a form of flirtation avoidance. Have you noticed people are always brushing their teeth on this show?