Thoughts on Weeds
Posted by therebelprince on August 12, 2009
I’m bored, and procrastinating my Nurse Jackie and Better Off Ted reviews, so I thought I’d post my thoughts on this season of Weeds to date. It’s been an odd season, nowhere near as clever or cohesive as previous installments, but incredibly watchable since there’s just never any way of telling with this show what’s gonna happen next.
The strongest part of Weeds remains the performances. Mary-Louise Parker (above, with Demian Bichir) is always believable and captivating as Nancy, while Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Nealon and Justin Kirk have dealt admirably with their languishing storylines this season. (Perkins, particularly, has risen to the challenge of Celia finding another way to make money every few episodes with admirable vigour) The kids – Hunter Parrish, Allie Grant, Alexander Gould – have really proven themselves as actors, despite being cast so young. (Incidentally, has Parrish suddenly decided that his theatre career makes him too good for nudity? It was all we saw last season, and now we’re viciously deprived!) And I hope that Jenji Kohan lives up to her desire of bringing Jennifer Jason Leigh back next year as Nancy’s self-righteous sister. She was a hoot.
On a weaker note: just about everything else. The third season made the ballsy move of burning down Agrestic and sending the Botwins fleeing, and the fourth season – despite a few contrivances to get the rest of the main cast down to the border town of Ren Mar – ultimately managed to be surprising and original, with Nancy rising from a drug mule to the girlfriend of a Mexican politican, and her family each taking their own inevitable paths down the road of drug dealing. Unfortunately, season 5 has stalled somewhat. Captain Roy Till (Jack Stehlin) is still out there somewhere, and he damned sure knows about Celia and Nancy’s drug connections. As a result, the development of Nancy from soccer mom to godmother has been put on hold to investigate her personal problems. And, although Demian Bichir is remarkable as Esteban, his larger-than-life presence and all that comes with it have overshadowed the natural relationships of the characters. (Hell, when Shane was shot recently, Nancy’s concern and later catharsis were played as secondary to the motivations behind said shooting).
I recognise that, with its wonderful characters so well realised by a great cast, Weeds is stuck with a bit of a double-edged sword. When the cast diverge – Celia’s recent abduction, Doug and Andy’s coyote business last season, Silas’ relationship with the cheese lady – we get amusing storylines which detract from the development of Nancy Botwin. But when they’re all together, it’s beginning to feel forced and a little cramped.
Ultimately, while I appreciate the way things have turned out, with Silas and now Shane inevitably drawn into Nancy’s lifestyle, and with no one else able to return to their old lives, Weeds this season feels… drained. Even Nancy’s pregnancy – the talk of the season hiatus – felt to me like an afterthought. She was briefly in danger, then briefly pregnant, and I don’t think we’ve even seen the baby since Alanis Morissette (below with Justin Kirk) helped deliver him. I guess it’s logical: Nancy is protected at the moment, and too high in the ranks to personally deal drugs, so instead she gets to muddle through personal problems while the extended Botwin entourage walk on the wild side. But something’s missing and I think it has to do with the fact that last season so heightened the stakes that we can’t back down, but it’s not quite time to go all-in. Andy’s love for Nancy, for instance, was thoughtfully and realistically dealt with in season 4. This year, it’s been the cause for a lot of humour but has been diluted by the presence of Morissette‘s character and the needless birth certificate contrivance (which, as of “Perro Insano” appears to have been negated anyway.)
Perhaps the show can’t have it both ways any more: perhaps the amoral comedy which Weeds has always excelled in just can’t survive once we know the mortal peril these characters live in daily. Or, more likely in my opinion, we’re stuck with such a wealth of great characters that the writers are too trepidatious to risk changing anyone other than Nancy herself.
Either way, I’m going to stick with Weeds – for now. I hope that the cast and crew are sensible enough to say vaya con dios after the sixth season. With the intricacies of the plot now so complex, it’d be great to see Nancy’s house of cards fall down around her (although – somehow – it’s felt less like a house of cards ever since Esteban accepted the pregnancy), and I’d look forward to seeing what side everyone chooses in the end.
I just realised how negative this review sounds. Well, it’s not unwarranted but I should point out that I’ve still enjoyed the season. Sure, Celia’s “You’re Pretty” subplot feels like it belongs back in season 3, and Andy hasn’t done anything of note all season, but it still flirts around the edges of greatness. Season 5 has undoubtedly been the weakest installment to date. There’s no overwhelming sense of dread – as we had with Peter in season 2, the authorities in season 3, and just about everyone in season 4 – unless you count Nancy’s own self-destructive ego. And I no longer fear for the characters, since they’ve managed to survive just about everything the world can throw at them. But without the consequences of the risks, the serious half of the show feels more and more like a pity party for Nancy and her own twisted web of self-interest, leaving us with a comic half buoyed by the pep and black-hearted delight of the show’s first season – which I enjoyed four years ago but would’ve liked to see evolve by now. Weeds can do a helluva lot better than this, so I’ll hold out hope.