“The Three Coolers”
July 7th, 2008
A cooler can be many things, but the eponymous ones referred to by this week’s episode title are of two varieties: two literal coolers, the refrigeration equivalent of The Matrix’s red/blue pills, and one cooler that follows another definition.
From Urban Dictionary:
A hand in poker in which a person with a very strong hand (often the 2nd best possible hand) is beaten by the best possible hand (usually a very rare full house, four of a kind, or straight flush). The 2nd best hand is so strong that it is impossible to fold, usually resulting in the loss of a lot of money and sometimes, an existential crisis.
For Len Botwin, his Cooler was his mother, and while her departure leaves him with a house he can’t sell it also leaves him without that other hand there to beat him at every turn. Albert Brooks’ short stint on the show, spanning only this first set of episodes, has been a strong one largely because he hasn’t been a dominant hand. What made the character so strong is that he was a disruptive but not destructive element for all of these characters: he didn’t destroy anyone, but laid the seeds in all of them for a season’s worth of development.
And it looks like a good season: with everything now mostly settled, including how to bring Celia and Doug back into the fold and how to normalize Nancy’s drug work for Guillermo (All ruined by the previews, although maybe not in a bad way), it’s time to move on from Len and focus on how these characters will truly embrace their new habitat.
The opening, a quick series of scenes showing Bubbie’s week-long Shivah, is the type of comedy that the show has been doing well this season. Yes, it’s a huge tonal shift from the show’s first season, but it works quite well: whether it was the dueling Real Estate brokers (Paid off by Len’s decision) or the return of the Rad, Ren Mar has thus far been portrayed as a place where wackiness didn’t need Doug Wilson to arrive for it to break free. It doesn’t quite feel like the outright satire that was Majestic, but it has its own flair and fits with the show’s cast and the overall dynamic.
And this episode was really our first glimpse into some of that, which we’ll be seeing more of now that Silas’ weed has matured and he’s ready to take to the streets. I was a little flummoxed that the guys at the Towing Company were so willing to let Silas go for only a small amount of the drugs (Although I suppose the risk of Silas ratting them out for possession if they took them seems like something that could convince me), but it does indicate that there’s a reason Hunter Parrish was so prominently featured in early promotional materials for the season. We should be seeing more of that in the weeks to come.
But in the meantime, this episode was a sendoff for Lenny and the official return of the wonderful dynamic between Nancy Botwin and Celia Hodes. Yes, they only share a single scene in the episode together, but it’s one of Weeds’ classic cliffhangers that will resolve itself fairly quickly. We know that Celia won’t die (This is not a show that kills its main characters, not at this point), so we have to presume that the two will have to forge at least some type of tentative partnership in order to keep her from being shot for spying on Nancy/Guillermo. From the preview, that relationship is as entertaining as ever, and both Elizabeth Perkins and Mary-Louise Parker are fantastic when working with the other.
For now, though, Nancy’s life was a bit more simple: just some mourning for the woman she smothered with a tempurpedic pillow that moulded to her face, followed by a drug run where she was surprised to find the Tijuana police assisting Guillermo in his smuggling operation. In the process, though, we got some great interactions between Nancy and Andy, and one highly sexually charged one as Nancy (in her paranoia over the police’s arrival) decides to play the sex card and climb all over her former brother-in-law.
I don’t think the show is actively suggesting a pairing between these two characters: their relationship has always been build on subservience, so altering that to the point of romantic equality just doesn’t seem possible. It does, however, extend the nice moment where Nancy does say to (stoned) Andy that she appreciates having him around for her and the kids. Andy is an integral part of the family, and the show, so I’m a bit frustrated that he seems to have been sent on another of Andy’s independent storylines, this time following a group of Mexican travelers to who knows where.
I do hope, however, his daddy issues stick around even with Len’s departure. Albert Brooks brought out a lot of good in Andy, and Shane (with whom he spent most of this episode). The door is clearly open for his return, as he gets Nancy’s profession from Shane’s tell and confiscates some of her money for rent before fleeing off to Paris, but I do hope that his time with both of these Botwins will resonate. Shane is definitely going to be the odd one out when it comes to the show’s new path, so I’m wondering how quickly Isabel returns in order to give him someone to spend his time with.
But it shall be time well spent, I think – after this opening segment, the show seems to have vision and a good sense of which of its dynamics work and which don’t. The hope, now, is that as things branch off from this little frame setup they’ll find themselves still rooted in those relationships; but, at the same time, this seems like a great opportunity for a bit of new life and new direction for Nancy and Co. Let’s see if they deliver.
- I was just thinking the other day how Doug’s character’s past is often forgotten, and watching a scene from the pilot a few weeks ago reminded me that we met his son in that episode. Before Doug had him sent to boarding school, Justin Chatwin’s character was a huge part of the pilot, and so finally hearing Doug refer to him again was kind of nice to see (And did make for a few laughs with the “Do you suck dick, Silas?” runner).
- I’ll be honest: again, I don’t miss Heylia and Conrad. I do think that they were strong characters, but where could they fit into this picture? There’s no denying the show needed a change of scenery, and the choice of dumping those two characters was likely very hard but also very satisfying to see the show developing so strongly from a creative standpoint.