All American After Billy: Without a Central Character, Can Show Still Score With Viewers?

Billy Baker is dead.

So what will this mean for All American going forward?

One of the primary pieces of the CW series was taken off the board when Billy was killed attempting to save one of his players from a bus teetering on a cliff-side on All American Season 5 Episode 11.

It was exactly how one would expect Billy to go out: Doing something heroic for another person.

If you watch All American online, you know that as hard as he tried not to be at times, Billy was the series’ social conscience.

Billy used football to escape Crenshaw. Then he paid it forward, bringing Spencer, son of his longtime friend Grace, out of Crenshaw to Beverly Hills. Granted, that made his football team stronger. But it’s the thought that counts.

Then Billy returned triumphantly to his alma mater, South Crenshaw High, at Spencer’s urging, serving first as football coach, then adding principal to his titles.

Kudos to the powers that be at All American for keeping Billy’s shock ending a secret. It had more impact than if it had trickled out over social media.

Why is Billy gone? Taye Diggs told TV Line that he’d had a gut feeling it was time for him to leave, while showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll informed Variety that it was a “strictly narrative decision.”

The answer likely lies somewhere in between. Whatever the case, Billy’s exit had been in the planning stages since the middle of Season 4, which is why the episode was shocking and seamless simultaneously.

There’s not much gossip on social media about Diggs’ future plans. He’s done all manner of acting and has served as an awards-show host. Maybe the “Rent” veteran may head back to Broadway for a change of pace.

Diggs was the biggest name, by far, in the All American cast. Let’s face it; the series was lucky he hung around as long as he did.

All American has already been renewed for a sixth season. It can’t be a coincidence that the new CW owners, who have been savaging its scripted programming roster, renewed the show just before its likely most expensive actor left its cast.

Billy had a significant impact on both Beverly and Crenshaw. So let’s examine what his death will mean for those remaining characters.

Let’s start with the Baker family, particularly the child seemingly most in peril: Olivia.

Olivia, a recovering drug addict, was last seen fishing a bottle from Billy’s desk drawer in his football office on All American Season 5 Episode 12.

In the past, Olivia maintained that her drinking didn’t constitute falling off the wagon until she got in trouble. Since then, Olivia has been the model of sobriety.

But, with her father’s death the latest blow that Olivia has endured, after the breakup with Spencer and receiving little credit for her article that took down Garrett, is she going to be able to stay sober?

All American Season 5 Episode 13, airing at 9/8c Monday on The CW, promises to tackle that question.

And what about Olivia’s twin, Jordan? He has had a lot going on this season, not all of which he handled well.

He and Simone broke off their long-distance relationship, then he and Layla got together secretly. They’ve come out of hiding after Billy’s death, but how will being a public couple affect them?

Also, after the scandal broke at GAU, Jordan seriously considered transferring. Once Billy told him he was taking the GAU job, Jordan was back on board. So what’s he going to do next in his football career?

Jordan also needs to become the man of the house, something he’s never previously shown any capability of being.

Finally, there’s Laura, the family matriarch. Not only has she lost her soulmate, but she also has to hold it together for her grieving children.

Even more importantly, Laura is the only regular adult character remaining. Billy’s gone, and Grace has moved to Oakland to start her new life with D’Andre.

Sure, All American focuses on the young men and women who comprise the social group “The Vortex.” But there also need to be adults to offer wisdom from their years of experience. And Laura has a law practice to grow as well.

So, first up, a new GAU head coach must be named. It’s likely to be Spencer’s favorite, Coach Kenny. But a new face is always a possibility.

Another possibility is that one of the recurring adult characters – Grandpa Willie, Denise, or Preach – becomes more of a regular presence.

And who’s to say that, after a reasonable mourning period, Laura might return to the dating pool after all these years?

Billy’s death will likely have a lingering effect on Spencer, the show’s titular character and Billy’s other “son.”

Spencer was listening to Billy’s heartfelt voicemail on his phone when the others found out about his fate. Spencer is bound to feel guilty because he was quarreling with Billy at the time of his death.

Here’s hoping this doesn’t put Spencer into a funk where he questions the value of football and college. Also, kiss the idea of him and Olivia reuniting goodbye.

There’s only one Billy Baker. But maybe some combination of new and existing characters can fill a few of his many roles.

Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.


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