Weeds – “A Modest Proposal”

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“A Modest Proposal”

July 13th, 2009

Weeds is often a show that tends to drag things out, so I think there were more than a few collective jaw drops at the sight of a “Six Months Later” chyron early in “A Modest Proposal.” It isn’t that last week’s episode, which was quite good in its depiction of Nancy deciding for the tenuous safety of Esteban over Andy’s promise of safety, didn’t lend itself to skipping over the less interesting months of Nancy’s pregnancy, but rather that the show has never made this leap before and to do so seemed quite sudden.

In the end, it’s one of those decisions that allows them to skip ahead to where you could tell the storylines were going rather than having to build there gradually. It’s a narratological shortcut, and for a show that often tends to drag along I’d argue it’s probably a smart idea. I have some concerns over how things don’t appear to have actually changed, and how in some instances the eventuality of storylines were not nearly as interesting as the buildup would have been, but the show is in a better position to be more interesting with the current setting.

It’s added a healthy level of mystery and intrigue to the proceedings at the end of the day, and no one is really going to argue with that development.

When the chyron dropped, I was shocked – I had heard nothing of such a move, and I didn’t think the show had it in it. On the one hand, for the show’s main storyline, it makes sense: to capture Andy’s depression and to capture Nancy’s comfort in her new role, finding them six months later emphasizes both how Nancy’s life has settled since her arrival in her fancy new digs and how much Andy’s money has been wasted on arcade games, collectibles, and the General Lee. There is something both funny (in the case of Andy’s obsession with Ms. Pac-Man as a substitute for Nancy) and quite dramatic about all of this, and the six months aspect of things really does allow the show to amplify those responses right off the bat.

Now, at the same time, the move forward in time also means that the show is able to go back to its old ways. Nancy’s pregnancy is a major story that the show is going to want to address in its finale, which would have been impossible. In many ways, the show is actually allowing itself to be less creative in terms of its season structure by skipping to the more engaging/dramatic/life-changing period of the pregnancy. By placing the baby closer to being born, and as a result Nancy closer to discovering what she means to Esteban, the more that drama becomes the show’s focus. At first I was really thinking this would give the series new life, but in reality it just allows it to operate in the same way it would have before, just without a mandatory nine month time period for the drama to take place.

It does allow them to skip some key sections, like Silas setting up his marijuana shop: there isn’t much drama in construction or choosing suppliers, so it’s not as if we really missed out on anything particularly interesting. We always knew that the less than corrupt policeman would eventually prove obnoxious and problematic, and considering the show’s emphasis on comedy in the supporting storylines it became clear that something was going to happen. Him knocking himself out (I don’t think he’s dead, but it’s still not good) was a bit too sudden, a symptom of the time difference, but I’m glad that they didn’t drag it on for any long period of time.

I’m less convinced that the break helped Shane. While I enjoy the way he has sort of come to terms with Esteban and his role in the family, his escapade with Ignacio felt as if it could have happened before the six month break no problem. There’s a point where some storylines seemed like two weeks had past, like Shane being a bit more comfortable and Celia getting a job at a Foot Locker equivalent (Super Sneakers), while others were more equivalent to an actual six month period. It’s understandable that slighter B stories and C stories are not going to change to the same degree as Nancy’s pregnancy (for obvious reasons), but at the same time it made things a bit more disorienting than they needed to be.

Where it worked best, of course, was in the scene where the six months really felt like it was making an impact, where Andy sits bearded at Ms. Pac-Man ignoring Nancy as she leaves a message on his phone while walking into the house. It’s a scene that’s very dramatic, and also very funny, and was a really well-staged way to emphasize that these two people haven’t seen each other, and that there is something problematic going on here. Nancy is not a saint in this episode: the idea of being married to Esteban drives her to finally seek out Andy directly now sure she made the right decision, and it sends her to Guillermo basically to rub it in his face that he was wrong about her. Both actions are highly selfish, even if she’s right to try to reconnect with Andy, and the episode doesn’t shy away from that fact. Heck, I’m sure her trip to Guillermo is what eventually led to an extremely angry Mexican woman stopping by to ream him out and put a kybosh on their engagement plans.

All in all, I’m still kind of considering the shift, but this may well be the most non-disorienting time shift imaginable. We knew that Andy and Nancy would be driven apart, we knew that Shane would eventually wake up to the trouble with crime, we knew that Silas and Doug would have trouble with their extortionist of a partner, we knew Celia would have to get a job, and we knew that Nancy’s marriage to Esteban would become complicated by his no doubt complicated lifestyle. All the show did was speed things up so that these things could all be happening at the same time as a more complicated stage of her pregnancy, and one that offers a clearer line into the season’s conclusion. There’s nothing particularly ballsy about that, in the end, so I’ll be curious to see if the mystery of those six months is even considered in upcoming episodes.

Cultural Observations

  • Celia’s storyline, where the head of a cosmetics agency befriends her and gives her a new career path, isn’t particularly inspired, but I did enjoy the idea of Celia attempting to maintain her dignity by refusing to wear her sneakers to work as a statement against her capitalist oppressors.
  • Doug’s storyline, meanwhile? I don’t get it. Other than an excuse to give Kevin Nealon an awful spray tan, it was all pointless.
  • On that note, why is Isabelle living with the Botwins and her mother in Ren Mar? That seemed like a bit of an odd decision that was never entirely explained, although that’s just my point of view – I wonder if there was some exposition that got left on the cutting room floor when even the writers realized that no one cares about Isabelle?
  • Only part of the Spanish I got at the end was Gringa, a term used to speak ill towards non-Mexicans. Um, that’s you, Nancy.
  • I thought the fencing scene was pretty contrived as a test of strength and will for Nancy’s heart, but Justin Kirk’s lightsaber noises made me extremely happy – he did some great acting in the more emotional scenes, but his sound effects truly warmed my heart.
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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Weeds – “A Modest Proposal”

  1. Here’s what they’re saying at the end:

    Woman:
    Esteban, what do you think you’re doing, eh? You went too far. don’t you think? one thing is to have an adventure with a fucking gringa, and another, well, to have a baby with her, but to marry? are you crazy? all eyes of mexico are watching you. All my hopes, my strength, my money, my time is placed on you. You should have killed that fucking gringa whore when…

    Esteban:
    Are you trying to say that I have to choose between you (“you” is plural) and nancy?

    Woman:
    No, Esteban, i’m trying to say that yyou have to chose between yourself and the gringa.

  2. I love this utilitarian adaptability of these writers. They ran out of stories in Agrestic so they burnt it to the ground, Nancy gets pregnant and they don’t want to write about her getting huge so they just skip it. It’s great. I’m glad they’re not afraid to change things like this.
    I was really hoping Celia would be so desperate that she’d have to resort to the Botwin family business. That would have been fun. Maybe a bit too contrived though.

  3. also happy to read-read blog
    always successful

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