“Suck ‘n’ Spit”
August 3rd, 2009
What I’ve always found interesting about Weeds is that it has been very careful about limiting the consequences from Nancy Botwin’s actions. Yes, bad things have happened, but they have always seemed to happen to people who are only indirectly related to the Botwin family: sure, her once husband was amongst those who fell victim to being in Nancy’s presence, but for the most part (outside of perhaps Silas’ broken arm and a few minor run-ins) the amount of crossfire that her family and friends have seen as a result of her actions has been limited.
In “Suck ‘n’ Spit,” we have a serious bit of consequence, perhaps the most serious we’ve seen yet. To get to that point, the episode didn’t particularly go anywhere all that interesting, investigating to varying degrees the total loss of normalcy (or, in some instances, the characters’ ability to engage with a new definition of the term) in their lives.
“A Distinctive Horn”
July 27th, 2009
As you’ve no doubt noticed as of late, things have been a touch slow around Cultural Learnings when it comes to summer programming reviews. This is due largely to a combination of extra-special T.V. events (Last week’s Torchwood: Children of Earth blogging, for example) and some personal academic commitments that have been particularly demanding on my time (or, more accurately, my sanity). But in many ways, I think it’s because each summer show (Royal Pains, Burn Notice, Nurse Jackie, etc.) have fallen into a pattern that hasn’t really changed. When an episode is good it’s good, but as fun summer fare as opposed to meaty content worth sinking my teeth into. I’ve shared a few thoughts on Twitter here and there, but it’s been a slow summer when it comes to television to really analyze in a critical framework.
However, what I find really interesting about Showtime’s Weeds is that the reasons I haven’t been blogging about it this year are fundamentally different than last year. Whereas usually Weeds struggles to have something to write about in each individual episode, as its plots tends to be fairly easy to choreograph but almost painfully drawn out, this season the show has the exact opposite problems: due to a newfound unstable temporality that saw the show leap into the future a few weeks back, the show has gone further than I expected them to go all season. I’ve been tentative to write about it simply because I’ve been waiting to see when the pace will slow down, and when things would go back to normal. At this rate, part of me thinks that the kid is going to a toddler by the time we get to the finale.
Ultimately, the end of “A Distinctive Horn” is probably the point where the pace begins to slow, but I figured a “State of the Weeds” address was probably in order.
“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.
“Super Lucky Happy”
June 29th, 2009
Known for its rather glacial pacing (I was reading in Todd’s review from The A.V. Club last week that the show arguably has only taken place over the course of a year or so, which is probably accurate if often ignored by the show itself), Weeds has been operating at a pretty decent clip this year. However, that was bound to change, and we have our first bit of a thematic pause in “Super Lucky Happy.”
Now, let’s be clear: this isn’t a bad thing. Personally speaking, I’m a fan of Weeds episodes that try to capture a mood or a particular point of view, rather than those which feel like they’re being particularly sensationalist. What struck me about this episode, though, was that it arguably wants to have its cake and eat it to. The actual events in the episode are pretty major, but the show’s current milieu means that there really isn’t anything abnormal about Nancy taking people hostage, and so her reaction after the fact seems less like a major event than a necessary moment of reflection.
It has the show in a holding pattern, either way, but it’s ultimately a position that the show can manage thanks to the skill of Mary-Louise Parker and the need to place Nancy’s predicament into a slightly different light.
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.
“Machetes Up Top”
June 15th, 2009
Weeds, perhaps more than any other half-hour “comedy”, follows a particularly serialized structure, where almost all of its characters are on separate and interconnected paths that always take a few episodes to get going. This is especially true early in the season, where everyone sets off on their own path until they slowly begin to return to their place of origin. When that origin was the community of Agrestic, you felt like there was a potential stabilizing force in the universe, the oppressive nature of the suburbs nonetheless offering something of a protection from the world of drugs, or gangs, or anything else you can imagine.
But when the Botwins moved to Ren Mar, the show and more importantly its characters lost that comforting sense of home, and in many ways the fifth season is about where they go to find safety and security in a situation that is quickly spiralling out of control. However, for various reasons, that security if proving difficult to attain, leaving nearly every character in a position to find themselves back in Ren Mar with Nancy waiting to see when the axe is going to fall.
For now, at least through “Machetes Up Top,” I think it works for the show, as the impending doom on one end is tempered by the comedy elsewhere, albeit all tinged with that sense that no one is going to escape the fallout – of course, at the same time, everyone probably is, considering that Nancy is unlikely to stop being alive anytime soon.