“God Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise” S8 / E11
- B Community Grade
As Nancy realizes that Silas has come to Conrad’s wedding with Megan, the girl he impregnated back in the show’s first season and who he intends to bring back to Connecticut with them, she overcomes her shock and says, “That’s perfect… somehow.”
It’s an observation that defines the entirety of Weeds’ eighth season, which reaches its climax in the series 100th episode, “God Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise.” The episode, up until its conclusion, is the “perfect” scenario the season has been trying to build to, bringing Nancy, Andy, and Silas back to Agrestic—now Regrestic, once Majestic—to discover that in order to move forward they all need to go back to where it all began. Just as Silas rediscovered his love for Megan, Nancy regained her sway over Conrad and Guillermo, successfully wrapping both of them up in her plan to start a legit operation. With the return of “Little Boxes” and the not-so-subtle mentions of Judah clearly positioning the show to bring its characters full circle, this episode fulfills that promise.
However, it fulfills it in one fell swoop, with little regard for anything that happened since the beginning of the season. The season was built around getting from Point A to Point B, moving from Nancy’s shooting to her eventual return to her old stomping grounds to reunite with old friends and make a new play into an emerging market for legal marijuana. However, now that we’ve officially reached Point B, the revelations it offers the characters would have had the same meaning if they had happened in the second episode of the season as they do when they happen in the second-to-last. Rather than introduce new developments that would complicate or add nuance to the show’s characters, the writers mostly chose to run in place, stringing out predictable developments knowing that they had to wait until the end to really take these characters anywhere; in other words, they had to slog through the “somehow” before they could reach “perfection.”
I imagine this to be a frustrating task, and the resulting season can’t help but cast a shadow on what is an enjoyable and meaningful penultimate episode for the series. “God Willing And the Creek Don’t Rise” is not above shameless nostalgia, and the return of the original opening credits is expanded on through the aforementioned returning characters and even some gratuitous appearances by Pam and Lupita for good measure. However, gratuitous as those appearances may be, they brought a smile to my face, and made this one of the more “fun” episodes of the show in recent memory—up until its final scenes. After being unceremoniously cut from the series’ narrative, it was nice for Romany Malco to return to the character of Conrad, and for the show to get more mileage out of his chemistry with Mary-Louise Parker. The same goes for Guillermo, another scene partner with whom Parker had memorable moments over the show’s run.
Of course, that everything would come together so conveniently makes the entire episode a bit of a stretch, but that’s par for the course with narrative nostalgia. For example: The notion that Silas and Megan would randomly meet in Agrestic, have a deep conversation about their respective lives, and then suddenly realize they’re still in love with each other is a romantic fantasy. However, it’s a romantic fantasy that Hunter Parrish and Shoshannah Stern knock out of the park, and a positive development for a character that has been cast adrift by the season as a whole.
I do have to ask, though: If we really break down their conversation, is any of it relevant to this season? Silas, after having nothing to do with romance this season despite the would-be love interest—his co-worker’s girlfriend—dangled in front of him at one point, suddenly realizes that he’s never really loved someone since Megan. It’s a meaningful revelation for Silas as it relates to his overall arc in the series, but it completely ignores anything that’s happened to Silas all season. Or, to put it another way, it completely rewrites everything that’s happened to Silas all season as a random series of events that conspired to bring him back to this place and into that art gallery to reunite with Megan. As much as I appreciate Silas finally getting someone to talk to, and a storyline that actually moves the character forward, one can’t help but look back and wonder why we couldn’t have seen more material like this throughout the season.
To the episode’s credit, its efforts to retroactively redefine the season were more successful for Andy. While Nancy uses her wiles to persuade Conrad to get back in the game and save her from a vengeful Guillermo, Andy has the opposite experience. Last week’s episode built up this big revelation about Yael, one of many such revelations Andy has had over the course of his life, but then she doesn’t even remember him when he shows at her office. It’s an indignity, one that Andy doesn’t handle well. Although the rambling at the top of the rabbinical school was fairly generic, Andy and Nancy’s scene at the spot of Judah’s death was the culmination of their relationship over the course of the entire series, with Andy determining that it was Nancy’s unwillingness to let him go that has led him down the self-destructive path of the season (through Jill, through the naked roller-derby coach, through Joanna).
I could make the same argument I made above, noting that this revelation could have just as easily come at the start of the season (or the end of last season), but Andy’s bitterness here feels more earned given the crap he’s had to deal with. Justin Kirk is tremendous as a broken and angry Andy, drunk and abusive as he informs Nancy he’s done hanging onto her, prompting Nancy to use her standby strategy to try to convince him otherwise. Pleading with him not to leave her, Nancy gives him what she presumes he always wanted, and what the episode earlier reminds us he never got. However, while some viewers may have wished for a romantic union between the two characters, Andy and Nancy’s sex is difficult to watch, shrouded in frustration and desperation. Nancy brings Andy to that spot thinking it will allow them to reflect on how far they’ve come, but she discovers what Agrestic’s new name already foretold: while some progress, others regress, and there’s a fine line between wistful nostalgia and bitter regret when you return to your past.
For the most part, “God Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise” balances itself on that fine line, beginning as a welcome return to the show’s roots before deconstructing that nostalgic glow through a dark and meaningful conclusion. For the first time this season, despite the fact that the season started with someone getting shot in the head, the narrative has real stakes, and feels as though it is being driven by characters and their actions as opposed to the machinations of the season’s structure. Returning to the Californian suburbs breathes new life into characters that have struggled all season, gives the final episodes the sense of closure the season has lacked to this point, and delivers what is easily the season’s best episode.
The only question, really, is “Why they didn’t make this trip sooner?”
- The penultimate “Little Boxes,” and potentially the final cover if we go back to the Malvina Reynolds recording for next week’s finale, comes from Aimee Mann.
- To Stephen Falk’s credit, this episode did the best job so far in terms of trying to tie Shane and Doug’s storyline into a central theme, with Shane noting that he loves being a cop more than he’s ever loved any person and Doug’s religious epiphany being pitched as his own “perfection.” However, none of this changes the fact that both characters’ storylines have been complete narrative dead ends (which explains why neither were invited on the trip to California). They’ve got an hour left to try to rescue anything of substance: I wish them the best of luck.
- I’m not entirely sure I buy Yael not remembering Andy at all, but I like the subversion of typical television logic. It’s nice to have a reminder that, despite Andy being a lead character in the narrative, he isn’t a lead character in her narrative.
- Mary-Louise Parker and Justin Kirk have a strong Emmy submission should the Academy bestow legacy attention to the series next year.
- Answering some of the chatter from previous weeks about the fantasy of television child care, Stevie is attending soccer camp during the day and being neglected by Doug at night. Sounds healthy!
- As of this moment, it appears Showtime won’t be making the finale available in advance, so next week’s—final—review will be a bit later than usual as a result.
- Speaking of the finale: What are everyone’s expectations? Any lingering questions? Cameos we still haven’t seen? I remain curious to know if they have any plans to return to Celia: Pam mentioned her tonight, suggesting the show hasn’t entirely erased her from existence. Was that foreshadowing, or a token mention?