Wednesday, October 17, 2018

REVIEW: 'All American' - Spencer Feels the Responsibility to Win At All Costs All the Time in '99 Problems'

The CW's All American - Episode 1.02 "99 Problems"

While trying to be all things, on and off the field, Spencer quickly discovers the rules he played by at Crenshaw no longer apply in Beverly Hills. Coop is also forced to learn a new set of rules, with Spencer's protective "Halo Effect" now gone. 

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of The CW's All American.

"99 Problems" was written by April Blair, Mike Herro & David Straus and directed by David McWhirter

The survivor's guilt aspect of All American is the most compelling perspective of the show so far. Spencer has the opportunity to make something of his life that takes him far away from the neighborhood he was born into. He has the skills to go places that most people in his situation could never dream of. He has already escaped. He has moved in with Coach Baker and his family. And yet, he still feels that pull to return to Crenshaw to continue supporting and helping the people he cares about the most. His family and friends are still in that environment. He feels the responsibility of being a big brother and a good friend. He doesn't want either Coop or Dillon to be pulled into that gang life. He worries that will occur if he's not around on a regular basis. They will be punished for his success. He is already being threatened because he left this life behind. He continues to feel like a man with no place to truly belong. He's not welcomed in either Crenshaw or Beverly Hills. That's difficult for him. It puts the pressure on him to succeed. And yet, this hour also highlights how he is angry and upset when he wins and loses. In the past, he is angry that his father didn't come back to see him score the game-winning touchdown in the first game of the season. In the present, he is angry because Coach Baker pulled him out of the game for the last play and the team lost because of it. That's the way that Spencer sees the world. He sees this as an opportunity that has to go well. However, he's jeopardizing all of it because he believes he has to be all things to all people. He can't just be solid in one position for the team. He feels the need to push himself as someone who can play defense and offense despite being injured. Coach Baker has to rely on him now because of pressure from the boosters to succeed this season. He has to turn around the team or he will be fired. That's the additional pressure put on Spencer. But again, football isn't the most interesting or compelling aspect of the show so far. Sure, it's a solid component that will easily be able to build tension as the season goes along. But it's more important to see how the relationships are changing because of this pressure that is fueling everyone's decisions. It forces Coach Baker to reckon with the fact that he didn't consult with anyone in his family before letting Spencer move in with them to ensure he can still play for his team. He has to apologize for that here with the family ultimately deciding to let Spencer stay. Meanwhile, Coop is having to find new compromises in her life just in order to survive. Spencer will always look out for her. But now, he can't protect her all of the time. And so, she feels the responsibility to step up and do in this neighborhood. All of this is fine character work. And then, there is confirmation that Coach Baker really is Spencer's father. That was a bombshell twist that was only teased at the end of the premiere. It is only expanded a little further here with Coach Baker not telling Spencer the truth just yet. He understood that he needed to do so. The longer he waits though the more it will blow up into a huge and melodramatic thing. It also seems like such a strange twist where the show will have to explain the logics of pretty soon as well.