We're at the three-quarter mark of this season now, about to head into the homestretch, and can I just take a moment to kvetch? I've never covered a full season of a TV series before, and this is just one of those premium channel twelve-episode dealies, whereas the people covering stuff on the networks have to buckle in for what must feel like the weekly-viewing equivalent of a twelve-hour plane flight. All I've ever hoped for in my modest egomania is that when the time comes for someone to chisel my tombstone, he can invoke a line first used by my hero, the great press critic, boxing reporter, war correspondent, and serious eater A. J. Liebling: He could write faster than anyone who could write better, and write better than anyone who could write faster. This has been a king hell test of that goal, with results that haven't always been catnip for my self-image.
I don't even remember my exact attitude towards this assignment back in late March, but I'm pretty sure that I underestimated just how much coming back to the same show week after week and monitoring its latest episode for signs of meaningful narrative progress can come to feel like a chore. I guess part of what I'm trying to say is that, to everyone else at this site who was digging ditches when I got here, my hat's off to you: I'm only now appreciating how hard y'all work. I also want to acknowledge that, as a longtime fan of Nurse Jackie, I've come to feel that this season has often been fun in spots but that, overall, it's twiddled its thumbs more than I'd like, and I honestly am not sure whether this is because this season really has suffered from less forward propulsion than the previous ones or if I just notice the longueurs and pointless trips down side roads (Aunt Tunie, we hardly knew ye, and we like it that way) more when I'm keeping a journal.
Two main plot threads open up tonight, each of them good for a chuckle. In the let's-all-laugh-at-the-silly-ass division, Coop is permitted to speak the first line he's ever had that grants him a degree of self-knowledge—"I want to be more than the guy with the tics whose moms got divorced. Not a lot to ask"—while in the course of behaving with more impassioned cluelessness than ever, reconnecting with an old high school girlfriend on Facebook with an eye towards matrimony. ("There's a hole in my life, and when I step back, it's in the shape of a wife.") He had a very winning scene with a pert blonde from out of town who listened to him rhapsodize about his fantasy engagement while he was stitching up her forehead; the look on her face when she grasped the full ramifications of what he was saying ("Oh my God, I just let you sew up my face!") was a beautiful comic distillation of how our most romantic master plans actually sound to sane people.
In the main body of the episode, Jackie was reduced to getting through the day without any narcotic buffers worthy of the name, which meant that Edie Falco was frequently seen chugging aspirin and buying cough syrup and NoDoz in bulk. At one point, it looked as if she was going to treat herself to a shot of adrenaline, but it turned out she wanted it to give to a vicious bully so he'd have a heart scare that would keep him in the hospital overnight and cause him to miss an appointment with his parole officer. That was one subplot I could have happily done without; I think we were supposed to enjoy seeing her stick it to the mean old guy, but when a character is coming apart at the seams for reasons of her own making, a propensity for playing God might not seem like her most charming quality.
Providing subtext to this meltdown was the mysterious Kelly Slater, who a few weeks back was entrusted with a package of Fentanyl patches, which he foolishly passed off to Jackie, who peeled off 10 of them for herself, a plot development that has finally begun to bear fruit. Kelly's big exchange with Administration over this, in which he made a big show of taking the heat off Eddie by claiming that only he was to blame for the mix-up, while demonstrating an uncanny mastery of the protections against dismissal built into his job and insisting, unconvincingly, that he did not know who could have made off with the patches, promised character revelations and fireworks to come, as did the shots of him silently loitering in the background of shots, sizing up Jackie like a store detective observing a kleptomaniac. At least, I hope that's what I heard being promised.
It's being reported today that Nurse Jackie has been picked up for a fourth season, even as Showtime, the network that sometimes seems to never cancel anything, is pulling the plug on United States of Tara, which has also logged three seasons since 2009. So whatever happens from here on in, I guess we won.
- "Paying for an engagement ring with money you made from fantasy football: It doesn't get more straight than that."
- "I think she's inspiring." "She is. But sometimes, she inspires fear."
- "She's not a hoarder; she's an enthusiast!"