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Weeds, “Thwack” (6.01 PRE-REVIEW)

“I am sorry for the countless times I have left you holding your dick, I am sorry. But now you have the handbook for what not to do.” – Nancy Botwin

Weeds is a show that has had its ups and downs, struggling to find its balance after departing the weed-vs.-suburbs story of Agrestic. Last season, the show finally embraced its darkness, including the violence at the heart of Nancy and Esteban’s relationship, but it still had its problems balancing light and dark. How does it fare when its sixth season picks up after one hell of a cliffhanger? A pre-review of the episode, written by Jenji Kohan and directed by Scott Ellis, after the jump…

This is probably the show’s most impressive, cohesive and balanced episode in years. Why? For a number of reasons: leaving behind castmembers who long overstayed their welcome, such as Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon) and Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins), whose functions on the show in recent years have largely been to offer the most irritating comic subplots; keeping things to one story rather than splintering it into 3-4, allowing Kohan to focus on the Botwin family; and finally finding the way to balance comedy and darkness in a satisfying way.

Absent its splintered narrative and overwrought cast, the show is able to tell one story quite well, and here it tackles the immediate aftermath of last season’s finale. It goes straight on from the moment Shane kills Pilar right to the end of the episode, always pushing forward and not losing momentum, which is deeply appreciated. It also begins to expand on the bits and hints of Nancy’s inner issues that began to rise to the surface last season, and the effects her absent parenthood has had on her children. Mary-Louise Parker does, as usual, fantastic work showing a woman falling apart, trying to save the family she constantly puts in danger.

One great aspect of the show that began to take shape last season is how Silas (Hunter Parrish) has shifted from a character anchoring boring subplots to a key character, the only one in the entire cast who sees and cares about how Nancy is affecting their lives. The issues he had last season with Adelita (as well as witnessing Shane’s response to being shot) form the backbone of his stepping up now, becoming the closest of any of the group to an admirable person.

The entire appearing cast are on their game, in fact. Parker, Parrish, Alexander Gould (Shane), and Justin Kirk (Andy) all do great work here, as do guest stars Alanis Morissette (Audra), Matt Peters (Gayle) and Renee Victor (Lupita). Every scene works, and the humour comes out of the darkness naturally, rather than by contrasting dark with bizarre. These characters, dealing with this situation, are funny because they are so out of their depth, because we know they will do what we know they will do, because they always do, and we sympathise with them.

We want Andy to get out of Nancy’s whirlwind and fight for Audra. We want Nancy to sober up and accept the consequences of her actions. They won’t. And we want Silas to escape this family that has been dragging him down for years, but he can’t, because Shane is now pretty much permanently tied to their mother – or jail. And as for Shane, what more can be done to damage him?

I also want to commend director Scott Ellis, as the episode is just uniformly excellent in this department. Ellis seems to have mostly been a regular presence on the show in the past year, directing some of last year’s most effective episodes (including last season’s finale), and he’s on fine form here. He coaxes an excellent comedic performance out of Matt Peters, whose Gayle has appeared in the past but never been so funny, and generally leads the entire cast to up their game. The episode has an excellent flow, moving gracefully from one scene to another, which is a very welcome sight when it comes to Weeds.

I know that the show may well fall back on bad habits in the episodes to come, but I can’t help but have faith that the show is done with its days of getting so close to what it wants to be but falling short. I’m excited for this season. It’s going to be a great ride.

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  1. […] Few shows can reinvent themselves six seasons in, or even redeem themselves. Weeds has suffered for years because of its frangmentation within its cast and stories, and its increasing disparity between the original premise of the show and that of its later seasons. Season five told stronger stories, and funnier stories, but it still seemed wildly far away from the beginning of this story. It’s only with the season six opener that everything begins to feel like one big story: not ‘suburban mother begins to deal pot’, but the story of the slow self-destruction of Nancy Botwin, and the consequences of living a life constantly in survival mode. This episode is a great culmination of that. I reviewed the episode in greater depth here. […]



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