Weeds, “Game-Played” (7.03)

Nancy, in a horrifying and garish dress.

A review of the new season’s third episode, written by Victoria Morrow and directed by Scott Ellis, after the jump…

“I know you.” – Silas Botwin

“Game-Played” made one thing clear to me that sheds light on my apathy towards this delightfully-random season: Nancy Botwin, though a fantastically well-drawn character, is no longer interesting as a lone player. Watching her scheme her way across New York from a halfway house has been the least interesting part of the season’s first trio of episodes. Because though some of the tricks are new, the emotional note of desperation and survival are gone.

But throw Nancy in a room with any of her family, and you get brilliance. In this episode alone, we have her taking control of Shane’s future, not noticing Andy’s realisation that she’s not worth the pedestal he puts her one… and  we have the final scene with Silas.

Up until now, I’ve had a hard time getting a grasp of what the central pillar of this season is. In season five, for example, that pillar was Andy, whose four years as surrogate father to Nancy’s children finally started rubbing him wrong. In season six, that pillar was Shane, and how he reflected the multitude of mistakes Nancy made with her youngest child.

And it seems, from this episode’s wonderfully tense final scene, that the key relationship to this season will be Nancy’s relationship with her ever-forgotten older son Silas. Silas, who stayed with her on the run because of Shane. Silas, who gave up on college because Nancy gave up on him. Last season, I thought everything with Silas had boiled to a head, but I was wrong: everything there, from his struggle to follow her to his time in college to Lars Guinard was merely prelude to what seems to be the eventual war between the Botwins.

Hunter Parrish spent a long time being one of the show’s more disposable members. To be honest, for much of the show’s time through seasons three and four, most of its regular cast felt disposable. But last season, Parrish was given ample opportunity to step up his game, and he delivered in spades. Every moment Weeds has given him to shine, he has sold. And now, after six years or Silas reluctantly following Nancy, we got The Scene. The scene in which Nancy can no longer play the mother card to earn his sympathies. The scene in which all his anger has hardened to disdain and distrust for the woman who destroyed his life more than anyone could ever imagine. Parrish veers from vulnerable to cold, angry to over it, all in the course of one scene without one moment or transition feeling anything less than inevitable. I could watch that scene over and over. In fact, I have.

So, in a season that has so far felt aimless, the end of this episode reminded me that the show knows exactly what its doing. And it’s given us a Nancy stripped of her power, looking exactly like every other inmate at her halfway house, where even those who once followed her now know her tricks. Even Andy, who was once nearly afraid of the power she held over him, looks at her with something approaching pity. And her youngest son, who saved her and threw her into danger, is now in the hands of her mortal enemy: her sister, who has made a career of fixing what Nancy left behind. And she’s locked in an arrangement with her son that could help them reconnect… or, like it has in the past, bring him step and step closer to destroying her altogether.

Victoria Morrow has a strong history with the show. Since writing her first episode, “Roy Till Called” (3.10), she’s been responsible for Nancy looking in the tunnel, Nancy’s depression-fueled danger trip in 5.02’s “Machetes Up Top”, and one of my personal favourite episodes of the series, last season’s “Felling and Swamping” (6.02), which landed on my ‘Honourable Mentions’ list last year – and, in hindsight, ranked a hell of a lot higher. That episode featured Nancy’s “whatever sporting good you desire” monologue, the moment where Silas had to choose between leaving and staying, and their goodbye to the Botwin family. Though this episode spends a lot of time on Nancy wandering New York doing her business and in the halfway house, every scene between she and the rest of the regular cast is gold. I hope, like last season, Morrow gets another episode by end of season. She’s got my attention.


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