Jesse Plemons: The True ‘Friday Night Lights’ Breakout

When a television show receives the right mixture of passionate admiration from fans and mediocre to low ratings, things will almost never end well. For “Friday Night Lights,” the five-year run finished about as well as it could. The story wrapped up nicely, and the fans got satisfying closure. Surely, the powers that be would reward the talented cast whenever they went onto their next project.

Kyle Chandler was always going to benefit from his time as Coach Taylor. How could he not? This year he has “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” arguably two of the most anticipated movies of the fall. Next year, he’s working with Scorsese.

But what about the younger stars? Taylor Kitsch does a great (not so) bad boy. Adrianne Palicki has got attitude and looks in spades. All Zach Gilford would have to do to collect a check is say “Grandma” like he does. At least one of the leads was destined for big things.

But what if we told you that the real breakout from “Friday Night Lights” was none other than Matt Saracen’s right-hand man, Lance Landry Clarke, Jesse Plemons?

Fresh off of “Friday Night Lights,” Plemons scored a scored a supporting role in a big movie that shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Of course “FNL” creator Peter Berg was going to jump at the chance to cast some of his own in “Battleship.” Plemons stepped aside to let his more conventional leading man of a co-star, Taylor Kitsch, take top billing and, eventually, lead his second tent pole of the summer to a disappointing open.

While Kitsch was bouncing around Mars and Palicki couldn’t find a movie that wouldn’t get delayed for more than a year, Plemons signed on to Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master.” He even delivers a thematically important line in the trailer. But while we all wait to see how many Oscar “The Master” will collect next February, Plemons picked up another TV gig in the process.

Spoilers ahead!

As Todd on “Breaking Bad,” he became one of two major new characters in the show’s fifth season. Last night’s episode, “Dead Freight,” unveiled the true nature of Todd, ironically with echoes of Landry Clarke a la season two. The episode’s final twist will be a decisive turning point for the story.

To summarize, in the same year that his “Friday Night Lights” co-stars didn’t quite live up to the expectations of box office analysts and fans, Jesse Plemons joined the best show on television and a film by one of the greatest working directors.

Not bad, Lance. Not bad.