June 22nd, 2009
Weeds always sits at a perilous crossroads of plot and character development, as the two often aren’t synonymous terms as they relate to the early part of each season. By the end of the season, sure, they usually match up: there’s always a few events that bring everyone together and have the Botwin family and company in a dire situation. But early on, there’s always a sense that the plot takes over, carrying characters off to their future destinations without really stopping and letting it change or affect them in any way.
I’d argue that, based on these concerns, “Su-Su-Sucio” is a fairly effective turn, maintaining a strong comic sensibility and offering a welcome respite from the darkness of the early parts of the season without abandoning it entirely. While it may be too simple a formula to repeat ad nauseum, the introduction of Nancy’s sister Jill has kept that particular plot development from becoming too disconnected from notions of characters, and Andy’s return to the fold has had similar effects in terms of giving Nancy some more levity as it relates to her situation.
The result is an episode that, although smack dab in the middle of the show’s usual march towards a plot of some kind, felt like it was rushing through the storylines it should rush through, and pausing on the ones that deserved a bit more time. The early season pacing is the fastest its been in quite some time (at least in terms of bringing the cast together), and that’ll make for an interesting extension into the rest of the year.
Weeds is always pretty funny, don’t get me wrong, but as of late most of Nancy’s humour has been derived from her humorous awkwardness in tense situations. Here, as the tenseness backs off with dangerous Cesar being replaced with stinky old Sucio, Nancy is able to let loose a little bit more, and the return of Andy helps contribute to a far funnier episode than the first too entries into the season. Andy’s inspiration for the episode’s title, as he suggests that Sucio’s name would fit nicely into the Phil Collins tune, brings the a couple of great comic beats, and Justin Kirk really is a lot of fun as Nancy’s protector and as someone to break some of the show’s tension.
Similarly, the return of Jill and Shane sooner than expected (the show doesn’t even bother showing us Shane blackmailing Jill with the photo of her and Andy having sex in the laundry room, just telling us it happened) was a smart decision, as it keeps Oakland from being a diversion for the series. As opposed to having all these different satellites disconnected from the show’s central tension, it brought everything into one roof. Silas is back from the National Park without a place to grow and with a new plan to sell medical marijuana, Shane is back with blackmail and no real plan, and Jill arrives with tales of Nancy’s childhood, a whole lot of emotional baggage vis a vis Nancy’s abandonment of her during a time of need, and a desire for more of what Andy has to offer her. Bring it all together, and you have a legitimately complicated situation for Nancy that feels both accelerated and like a chance to slow down and investigate these human relationships.
The stuff with Jill was ultimately the best stuff here, as Jennifer Jason Leigh is quite fantastic as this woman who clearly resents her younger sister for having a more exciting life than her own, and having been able to live that life outside of the confines of their family situation. While Andy having sex with Jill is certainly a problematic notion in their relationship, and results in some rather nice taunting from Nancy, their real issues relate back to a younger Nancy running away from a dying Mother, and staying with from a dying Father, and leaving Jill to handle it all. There’s a lot of grey area there, considering that Nancy was younger, but it’s another example of Nancy running away from responsibility, and I like being reminded of how Nancy isn’t exactly all that good at, well, life. Jill, of course, is all sorts of messed up herself, but in her case she’s becoming this way out of jealousy, when as she quickly finds out she has very little to be jealous about.
The storyline just fit nicely into the Weeds universe, as Jill is both funny (her drunken Home Depot line, her general stuffshirt nature) as well as a legitimately human influence in Nancy’s life that we haven’t met before and that, unlike Albert Brooks’ father-in-law, is capable of some affection towards her, deep beyond years of estrangement. Her presence, in scenes like the dinner where they discussed their complicated past with a particular junior high geometry teacher, helps to ease the tension, but at the same time it digs up a lot of emotions and feelings that make Nancy’s predicament even more problematic, just as Andy simultaneously offers quippy comments to Sucio as well as the presence of another male protector figure in Nancy’s life on top of violent Esteban. It’s a good balance for the show to be striking, and I’m curious to see whether we’re getting rid of Jill sooner rather than later, and whether we’ll see her back later in the season.
In the meantime, the rest of the episode was your pretty standard stuff. Silas and Doug starting a business returns the show to its marijuana roots (and continues to demonstrate that Silas is really the show’s only connection to its original premise, as now Doug is back in his role as financial launderer), and while things start off a bit slow and ominously with a cast member from According to Jim involved, I think it’s a better use of Silas’ time than a constant battle with the growers in the National Park (although there’s no way that they don’t come after him looking to threaten him into growing Weed for them). It seemed a bit abrupt at the start of the episode, but I think that it’s the right choice to not spend too much time having Silas fall apart in teenage angst right now.
Celia, meanwhile, is out of Mexico faster than she anticipated, and I think it’s a good thing. I actually thought her interactions with Rodrigo (Kevin Alejandro) were really charming, and the notion of her running his operations and rewriting his ransom letters was actually really funny and could have lasted a few more episodes. However, the show is the Nancy show right now, and Celia was a distraction from that and could have grown into too much of a distraction (Andy’s Army storyline in season three had this problem). Instead, she’s back and on her way to visit Nancy by episode’s end, and while there may have been some potential left on the table I think the episode handled the pacing as best it really could be expected to.
As for the end of episode revelation that it was Captain Roy Till who appears to have been behind Sucio’s trail of blood, that’s still not clear. Either way, it opens the door for Nancy to eventually get out of this situation (with Till realizing that Nancy is still not out of the situation and deciding to try to do something about), but it’s not something I really want to watch on a regular basis. I like this use of the baby and the danger in order to heighten tension while allowing the rest of the series to operate within that framework, as right now it’s resulting in a really sharp pace that’s nicely balancing character and plot work.
- I wrote this entire review with Sususudio on repeat, just to let you know.
- I enjoy that they took the time to explain the barking doorbell in the “Previously on Weeds” segment when it didn’t actually play a prominent role outside of ringing – I guess they were really concerned about people wondering why Cesar would go to the door when the dog barked, and assume it was a Pavlov thing.
- Sucio was pretty fun throughout, but his “You have very nice teeth” to Silas was certainly my favourite non sequitor from our unshowered torturer.
- “I waited until you came” is disturbing on a lot of levels, but I kind of enjoy Nancy’s devil may care attitude towards that situation, and her rather frank interactions with Shane on the subject. It doesn’t quite line up with her trauma over Shane’s loss of innocence last season, but that was a bit more dramatic than it needed to be and the levity was a nice change of pace here.