July 21st, 2008
Well, Weeds, you might have run out of goodwill. Thus far this season, as some have been critical of the show’s new direction, I’ve been a herald of prosperous futures. I embraced the change of scenery, cared not for the departure of Conrad and Heylia, praised the introduction of Albert Brooks, and didn’t even blink as the show transitioned Doug and Celia back into the mix without even a wiff of plausibility. This resulted in last week’s episode getting at least a moderately solid review, as Andy’s Mexican oddysey was balanced out by the return of the great dynamic between Celia and Nancy.
But the jig is up, Jenji Kohan. While I felt the change in scenery was breathing life into the shaky framework the show operated on (with some success) in the third season, now it has fully reverted back to retreads of previous storylines in a way that feels neither fresh or organic. What was once a show about people doing things has become a show about things happening to people, and whatever agency the characters have is largely either hideously misguided or just inexplicable. I’m fine with some of this, as it certainly can still be funny, but when I leave the episode thinking mostly of how good the show used to be versus where it sits now I have to be concerned that these “Treasures” just aren’t worth searching out.
I’ve always felt that Weeds is one of those shows where nothing happens in the span of a single episode, an overstatement but one that kind of captures some of my issues with it. This isn’t a huge deal in some cases: I get that there’s multiple storylines that they’re balancing, and they need to give them all time to grow. But when they’re growing in the same way they’ve always grown, it’s not as easy to forgive the lack of movement.
This is particularly true for Nancy, who finds herself in yet another situation where she is in over her head in the drug trade and finds a fancy boss man who wants to have sex with her. Esteban, the mayor of Tijuana or so it seems, joins a long line last seen with Sullivan Groff last season. While I understand the desire for Nancy to use her sex appeal, and Mary-Louise Parker is great in that role, I also feel like it’s far too cyclical for its own good.
And it’s mostly because I find Nancy downright stupid in the role: in particular, her decision to follow the tunnel was like a cat and shiny objects, as if some sort of plot contrivance fairy was forcing her way. I understand that she’s curious, but shouldn’t she be angry or concerned instead? It just seems like a really easy way to throw her into everything when, really, she’s making a killing and only has to run a storefront to get it. That’s something that should be pretty easy to accept, but her insistence on “getting into trouble” is getting to the point where you can literally see the writer’s strings on Nancy because no human being would act that way.
The same goes for Andy, who is once again being given a crusade that has nothing to do with his character. What I liked about Lenny was that he gave Andy something personal, really, for the first time since Kat left at the end of Season Two. Since that point, it’s been “Andy Joins the Army” or “Andy is Drawn to Something Related to Either Culture or the Season’s Location;” here, it’s “Andy decides to become a Coyote with Doug.” While it does kill two birds with one stone, and I like them as a pairing, it just seems too convenient to have the illegal immigrants wash up on the beach in front of them, and for Andy to get to this point in his journey. I kind of liked the days when these people were a family, and abandoning that so quickly seems ill-advised.
This is especially true for young Silas, who is embarking on the rumoured (aka Spoiled by Casting announcements) January/May romance between the elder Botwin son and their neighbour, Mrs. Rad (Lisa). I like that it means we get more of Rad, who I find endlessly entertaining (in small doses) but it seemed like a really strange introduction to the character. I know he’s legal now, so that’s less weird, but the focus on asses (First with Andy/Doug checking out Lisa’s, and then her checking out Silas) seems an odd and pointless introduction into this story. She’s also just a little bit too head over heels for the teenager, and the fact that she didn’t immediately jump his bones confuses me (Or maybe that walk wasn’t going to be along the beach).
In all honesty, that’s the most genuine storyline of the bunch: Isabel wanting to live with Celia has me as confused as it did Celia, and it was yet another pointless saga in their interaction. It just seems like we’re running in circles here, reflecting back on what came before but without any sense of it being as new as the season first suggested. Sure, the theme song changed, but we’re still stuck in the show’s own boxes, self-described storylines that are either sexually evocative or wackily adventurous.
And the show didn’t used to be like this: Silas’ new relationship had me thinking of his past ones, in particular with deaf girlfriend Megan, and those just felt more emotionally resonant. The same goes for Nancy, who ever since U-Turn has been playing a near-passive victim most of the time. The second season seems to have been the last one to really play with our perceptions of these characters, and the last two have devolved into entertaining but shallow plays in which these stock characters take part. And on the heels of news that Weeds has been renewed for TWO more seasons, I have to wonder whether we have another Scrubs on our hands: a show that will never start being horrible, but will never be what it once was either.
- So, I’m expecting an end of season visit for Lisa to the maternity store, further proving the power of Silas’ sperm. It’ll be interesting to see how Hunter Parrish handles what is really his first major role in quite some time (I’m not counting the Mary-Kate Olsen period, as there was no real drama).
- Speaking of which, Julie Bowen is as engaging as always, but curious to see if she gets to play any real comedy in the future – this seems like more of a dramatic role.
- I enjoyed seeing Celia and Doug interact again: I really enjoyed the way the two were when together, and seeing that kind of rapport again does remind me that the show’s characters are strong and, in the right combinations and the right storylines, can persist for extended seasons with no problem.