Weeds: Season Six Review, Episodes 1 – 5
Posted by therebelprince on September 25, 2010
The news broke this week that Showtime’s Weeds has been renewed for a seventh season. Seven. I’m sure I wasn’t the only longtime viewer to just put my head in my hands, even if this season has been a welcome return to something-resembling-form.
Weeds opened with a great premise, and spent three very tightly-written series exploring characters who showed us that ‘dark underbelly’ of suburbia which television so often promises, and rarely provides (beyond a manic-depressive mother-in-law or two). Mary-Louise Parker’s Nancy Botwin is a truly terrible mother, not wrong when she opines that the wrong parent died at the start of the series, who is forced into a life of increased desperation. The cast were impeccable – Elizabeth fracking Perkins, people – and the plot’s machinations felt both absurd and genuine at the same time. And the closing episodes of season three – the burning of Agrestic, and the finale’s deliberate deconstruction of the entire series to date – were magnificent.
Even though season four was where the show fell completely apart, I don’t begrudge what they tried to do. It’s the one thing that sours the otherwise astounding Breaking Bad for me: the need to keep reminding us how close the law is to tracking our antiheroes down. Sure, capture needs to be a crucial element to raise the stakes. But when you have main characters in the DEA (as with Breaking Bad), or when you continue to turn the screws on a weekly basis (as was done here through seasons three and four), you leave the audience thinking not “will they get out of this one?” but “how will they get out of this one?.
Anyway, the show collapsed when they decided that, even though they had moved to Ren Mar, nothing about the show would change. Celia, Doug and Isabelle could just come too! Silas and Shane could have relationship storylines exactly as they would have back home! In removing the show’s hand-crafted setting, we were just left with a bunch of unlikable people doing pretty unlikable things, and no reason to care. Season five was definitely the nadir of this show – and a generally terrible season of television – but it’s really the fault of the lacklustre planning that went into season four.
Season six, however, has done what the Ren Mar seasons should have. Sure, it’s still basically the same show, with Nancy dealing pot under increasingly desperate circumstances, but at least the characters are attempting to make progress these days. Silas living a fantasy life at college, where his girlfriends aren’t crazy Christians or thirtysomethings, and he can pin his hopes on studying botany rather than creating it; Shane developing into a killer with strong paternal tendencies; Andy wondering if he could actually have achieved something had he set his mind to it. By removing the Hodes family – well-cast as they were – Weeds has been able to pull back some semblance of its former self by finding a narrative focus rather than a sprawl.
Now, though, it appears we’re moving on. Goodnight Seattle, so to speak. What we thought was the season’s narrative arc was merely a prologue to give the characters – or at least the men – a promise of a life they could have led. And now big bad Nancy Botwin – Nathalie Miller, I should say – is here to drive them further into oblivion.
It’s been good fun to watch Andy prove himself in at least one plot that didn’t involve his scattered sister-in-law. And both Hunter Parrish and Alexander Gould have shown that Jenji Kohan had some very good luck in casting these young kids six years ago. The writers have even found a valid way to incorporate Doug (lord, I love Kevin Nealon) into the plot again! Watching Nancy battle her way up the hotel food chain – and stop occasionally to flirt with handsome patrons – felt far more her style. This is the Nancy Botwin who burns her house down when cornered, and who needs time to recover after stumbling through a tunnel into Mexico. Not the vaguely-drawn mob boss of season five.
What is going to happen next week? It must be said, the climax to “Boomerang” was fantastic and gripping. Will Shane take out his captors? Will Doug prove himself a hero? Silas is our trump card, as he’s both free of the cops and the killers. Obviously even if Ignacio and Cesar are killed, this doesn’t stop Esteban – or the cops – from pursuing our heroes. I’m somewhat relieved that Weeds is dealing with this plot already, because we can’t reach season seven and still be running from the Mexicans. But I genuinely can’t predict where this series is headed at this point. I’m not sure the writers can either, which lends me less confidence, but every year I tell myself “I’ll watch til the end of the season and then give up”. This year, Weeds is back with renewed vigour, and I’m hoping I can tell myself a new story.