July 6th, 2009
As a medical drama airing on a network where 12-13 episode seasons are the norm, Nurse Jackie is in a very weird little position. On the one hand, like all medical dramas, there is a sense that its ongoing storyline isn’t necessarily going to change or evolve in each episode, and its procedural setting will result in storylines that only appear for a single week. On the other hand, as a show with a shortened season, there is an expectation that things will move with a bit more purpose, and that “filler” won’t be as necessary.
To an extent, I would argue that “Daffodil” is the most basic episode yet, one that features a couple of new pairings for the show and offers an interesting parallel but doesn’t seem to do anything with it. This is the first time we’ve seen a night shift episode, and yet it didn’t feel like a particularly novel setup, and the show’s balance of comedy and drama is more than a bit out of whack right now.
It was an entertaining half hour, driven by Jackie’s personal dilemma and some well-drafted characters, but it seemed just a bit too random and, ultimately, basic for me to suggest that it did enough to advance things forward or show us something new.
For Jackie, this was all about her daughter, whose anxiety is most definitely reaching new levels (sudden temper tantrums, pencil meltdowns, etc.) and who continues to prove a contentious issue for Jackie’s internal thought process. So much of the show is driven by this notion of Jackie struggling to come to terms with her drug use and her abuse of Eddie’s attraction for her, and yet I personally am almost tired of that side of her character. It’s more interesting to see that person having to accept that part of themselves and consider instead something else about their lives related to but not directly involving those two sides of her personality.
I thought, though, that the show was a bit too saccharine with the young ten-year old caretaker of her Mother, who actually has House’s nemesis Lupus. It’s a story that toys too heavily with the emotions for my taste, presenting a girl the same age as her daughter who balances taking care of her Mother and a spelling test as opposed to her daughter who can’t even handle a broken pencil. It was a bit too spot-on for me, and I think the show could have shown Jackie’s struggles in a more realistic fashion. The story was well-acted, and emotional, and certainly was well done, it just wasn’t the most unique or innovative way to tell these stories, and I think the show (and Falco) are capable of better.
As for the rest of the episode, it was a bit of a failed execution of some solid ideas. I like the idea of pairing up Eddie and Coop, but we didn’t get to see them interacting with each other outside of a few scenes and I didn’t feel like it gave me a better sense of either of their characters. Compare it to, for example, a few weeks’ worth of Dr. O’Hara and Zoey, who remain my favourite pairing on the show. Their dinner together, from Eve Best’s delivery of “Fabulous” following Zoey’s news that her father is in prison for manslaughter to Zoey’s psychoanalysis, it just all really fit in with the show’s oddball sense of humour in a way that felt quite natural, something that I didn’t feel from the Eddie/Coop pairing. Even then, though, they didn’t really follow through on the Zoey/O’Hara story in any meaningful way, so it too was a bit of a loose end in an episode filled with them.
And then we have the absolute worst example of the show’s complete inability to understand the value of a character in Anna Deavere Smith’s taser incident. I get that the hospital administrator is the bad guy in this scenario, but she is so pointless in the grand scheme of things. If she is really just some sort of threat against Jackie’s ability to perform her retribution of sorts while on the job, sneaking pills for the young caretaker or making “Shut the F*** Up” flash cards for a stroke victim, then it’s not really necessary: we know that Jackie is breaking the rules, and don’t we know enough about that side of her persona that we don’t need the good administrator there monitoring their social activities. More than compromising Jackie, it’s compromising the part of the show that’s missing in some ways. I could watch a show where Zoey clotheslines a runaway patient about five times over, and yet this character is out to stop this, a notion that pits her against the show’s quality more than the show’s characters. I’ve complained enough about her at this rate, but I’ll just say this: what was the point of the taser scene? If it was to justify the end scene, where she explained that she’s been around the block and seen everything, then it was completely pointless, as that scene just doesn’t connect with me.
It just seems like there’s a distance here, some sense that the show isn’t quite living up to its potential – I like Falco, I like her internal struggles, but there’s been very little movement with them. I’d like if they spent more time creating new pairings between characters, but here we have a few (MoMo and Thor, Eddie and Coopy, Zoey and O’Hara) that are given either no time or not enough time on screen. I know this is a medical drama at its heart, and it only has thirty minutes to tell stories Grey’s Anatomy would stretch over an entire episode, but I’d like to see some more diversity and balance to the proceedings.
- I kind of blew it off above, but I really did enjoy Stephanie’s cue cards for the spelling bee (which also gave the episode its title) inspired Jackie to make the “Shut the F*** Up” and “Seriously” cue cards. It was clever.
- The final scene of Jackie doing the same thing that she suggests the young caretaker do was supposed to be more powerful than I read it as at first – it just didn’t connect with me because the episode didn’t really evolve into anything particular.
- Seriously, why was there a taser lying around? I was so annoyed.