TV Talk: Weeds
Starring: Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Romany Malco, Kevin Nealon, Tonye Patano, Justin Kirk, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould, Andy Milder, Martin Donovan
Series Creator: Jenji Kohan
This talk is a couple weeks late, as the second season of Showtime’s Weeds ended at the end of October, but I’m just getting to it now because A) I’ve been very busy with a new house, a new puppy, and an album tournament, and B) I just got around to watching the downloaded final episode last week.
I was a big fan of the first season of this show, a show that at first glance seemed to be yet another cynical look at life in the suburbs, a Desperate Housewives with sex, drugs, and swearing. Luckily, the show quickly became more than that, powered by the fantastic Mary-Louise Parker, bringing television a female-centred show that was as clever and engaging as any male-centred show on tv.
The first season’s 10 episode run gave a fresh idea and series to the television landscape, presenting the life of Nancy Botwin (Parker), a recently-widowed mother of two boys who earns money by dealing marijuana to her suburban neighbours in the suburb of Agrestic. This introduced us to her suppliers from the hood, Heylia James (Tonye Patano) and Conrad Shepard (Romany Malco), Agrestic councilman Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon), her best customer, Nancy’s PTA mother-from-hell friend Celia Hodes (played to bitchy perfection by Elizabeth Perkins), and Celia’s husband and customer of Nancy’s Dean (Andy Milder). While Nancy deals with the trials and pitfalls of her new profession, she also tries to take care of her sons Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould), each still grieving for their recently-deceased father, and deal with her annoying brother-in-law Andy (the hilarious Justin Kirk).
The first season basically introduced us to the characters and Nancy’s world, showing the drug culture underbelly of the McMansion suburban set. It was usually funny, hitting on topics like medical marijuana, money laundering, and tax fronts. At times, it stepped into the darker themes of drug dealing, with Nancy having to deal with intimidation tactics from a rival dealer (leading to a jaw-dropping tactic by Nancy to deal with it) and strong-arming campus cops. It was a lot of fun being introduced to these different worlds, made more so by the comedic talents of Nealon, Perkins, and Kirk.
But, at its core, the show also had a lot of heart. The show kept from devolving into farce by grounding it in the death of Nancy’s husband Judah (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), reminding us that all of Nancy’s actions come from trying to keep her family afloat while being overwhelmed by the loss of the family’s patriarch. Her exceedingly annoying older son (Silas) was made tolerable because the show was good to remind us that his brattiness came from feelings of loss, hammered home by how quickly he took to a father figure in the form of his girlfriend’s father. Her youngest son’s (Shane) weirdness made more sense when you realised that he is having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that his dad died in front of him during a run. Shane acts out in weird ways at school and karate tournaments (introducing Martin Donovan to the series) because he misses his dad terribly and his mom isn’t always available (due to the demands of her job).
Season two didn’t resonate as well with me, mostly because they moved away from this theme far too much. Silas was completely insufferable, to the point where it didn’t matter how distracted a mother Nancy was, I felt no sympathy for him. He could’ve been killed off and I would’ve been fine. Nancy herself was too distracted this season, getting too wrapped up in her new grow op business and its success, becoming a shitty mother and less sympathetic character in the process.
Which is mostly why I didn’t enjoy season two as much as I did season one. A lot of the characters ceased to likable. Celia was less fun this time around, Heylia was a complete kill joy, Martin Donovan’s Peter was a wet blanket, and they didn’t seem to know what to do with Shane a lot of the time. The show was still pretty good, with Nealon being dependable and Kirk being the absolute highlight of the season. One reason why I didn’t get into the second season as much as the first could simply be mechanical: since I don’t get Showtime, and didn’t want to wait a few weeks for Showcase to air the newest episode, I downloaded every episode. This was true of the first season as well, but back then, I downloaded a lot of shows for scheduling purposes. Now that I have a PVR, Weeds is the only show I download (except for emergency purposes, like a broken television), and thus, it was always the last show I got around to watching.
Still, I do think that some of that had to do with a general reduced enthusiasm for the show. Another problem with the season was the season-long storyline of Nancy and Conrad’s grow op business. It made the season thematically stronger than the first, but less energetic. Whereas the first season introduced us to a number of different facets of the marijuana industry, keeping it interesting throughout, the second was mired in one facet, which took away some of the variety from the first season.
That said, the season certainly finished off strong, with one of the biggest season-ending cliffhangers of the year. I’m not sure I love the direction it took with this cliffhanger, upping the ante and stakes to seemingly insurmountable odds, but it’s certainly exciting. I’m worried that this reflects a shift from the more comedic elements of the show that made it work, to a more serious, action-based, Sopranos-lite type show. I’m sure they’ll try to find a funny way out of the situations they left off with, but I’m not sure how they can without losing the impact of the finale. It’ll be interesting to see… in another 9 months.
Questions? Comments? Opinions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.