Weeds: "A Hole In Her Niqab"
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Weeds: "A Hole In Her Niqab"

While Showtime would love to position their content as edgy and groundbreaking, in truth Weeds seems pretty tame based on premium cable standards, especially in the years since its premiere. While there may have been a moment in time where the show’s storylines could be seen as groundbreaking, I don’t think the show has ever really engaged in any content that would position the show in that fashion.

However, I would argue that Weeds continues to try to break ground in the area of genre, embracing the dichotomous notion of “dramedy” perhaps more than any other show under that umbrella. Instead of developing a show that is somewhere between a comedy and a drama, Weeds wants to be both a broad comedy and a subtle drama at the same time. I’ve taken to calling the show an “extreme dramedy,” more interest in contrast than any sort of middle ground.

It’s a high-risk proposition responsible for some of the show’s best and worst moments over the course of its run, and it’s also responsible for my somewhat conflicted reaction to “A Hole in Her Niqab.” While many parts of the episode successfully built on larger issues that color Nancy’s relationship with the men in her life, other parts of the episode indulged in comic elements that were a bit too broad for my tastes. Of course, for those who are watching more for the comedy and less for the drama, it’s very possible that you saw the episode the other way around.

On the dramatic side, there’s a question here about restitution, and whether or not the show’s male characters owe anything to Nancy. As she angles for a convenient job as Doug’s assistant, Nancy points out that she’s been dragging Doug around for a long time without getting much in return, while Silas argues to Shane early in the episode that he doesn’t owe Nancy four years of college or anything else. As the show deals with Nancy’s post-prison existence, and as questions regarding her commitment to being a parent are raised, it delves into some interesting questions regarding how Nancy’s previous behavior influences her relationships with the people she loves.

The show comes to logical conclusions: Doug is a parasite that owes Nancy at least a menial job as a secretary, but her relationships with Silas and Shane are obviously different. Shane is still a child in some ways, smart enough to figure out how to scam the student loan system (as people predicted in the comments last week) but innocent enough to use that money to recreate Nancy’s Agrestic bedroom in a return to a less-hallucinatory version “Living in the Past” Shane. It’s Shane’s way of trying to say thank you for going to jail for him, but in truth it’s also an attempt on his part to return to a simpler time where she was a mother with a Queen-sized bed instead of a drug dealer.

Silas, meanwhile, thinks Shane should be spending his money on hot tubs. Hunter Parrish continues to impress as this newly independent Silas, especially this week as that independence starts to break down. On the one hand, it frustrates me that Nancy keeps getting her way, able to coerce Silas into selling the weed quickly despite his attempts to remain in control of the situation. However, on the other hand, I think it has Silas reframing the question at hand: While he might not owe Nancy anything, perhaps he actually wants to help her. Now that he’s actually an adult, and can make his own decisions, is it not possible that he feels some sort of empathy for his mother and her situation (which does, after all, involve his other half-brother)? Silas isn’t a rebellious teenager anymore, so the idea of “dealing for Nancy” has a different impact that I think continues a nice shift in agency for the character.

I do sort of wonder, though, if we might be moving too far away from Nancy’s incarceration. While I understand that the show doesn’t want to be hamstrung by Nancy’s situation, and she would be allowed time to work outside of the house, I have questions about how much freedom she would have and whether it would allow her the kind of mobility we’ve seen to this point. With only a few web chats at the Halfway House in the episode, and with no appearance by any sort of authority figures, it made it a bit too easy to forget that Nancy isn’t actually “free” in the traditional sense. As much as her flyer stunt felt like “vintage” Nancy, it lost the more complicated investigation of her character’s post-prison readjustment when she so easily slid into the usual pattern (which, of course, includes flirtations with the company’s CEO, played by Aidan Quinn).

Nancy’s storyline also reveals the kind of comic elements I mentioned earlier, and I’ll admit that I had a bit of trouble with it. As much as Jill has been grating on me, using her twins felt way too much like a comic device, an excuse to avoid paying for Jennifer Jason Leigh in a guest star-heavy episode. However, most of my problems stem from the scene that gives the episode its name, which used an adulterous Afghani grower being blown up by his angry wife as a sort of butterfly effect moment that ruins Nancy’s best laid plans. The scene is cheap dramatically, using a coincidence to delay an ongoing storyline, but it’s also cheap comically in a way that didn’t sit right with me. I know what the writers were going for, pushing the show’s humor into the realm of suicide bombings, but that’s just not the kind of humor I’m looking for in the show.

Perhaps I’m alone in this, but it ends up making the series’ comic elements feel inorganic, driven by situation rather than by character. The show has always had the basic DNA of a sitcom, like any half-hour comedy really, but “A Hole in Her Niqab” seemed particularly broad. Part of this is that it rushes into fully formed scenarios too quickly, without time for them to develop naturally. This is especially the case with Andy, who wakes up in a wacky artist apartment to discover that he’s dating a polyamorous woman (Lindsay Sloane’s Maxine) whose elderly husband is dying from cancer and who just wants her to be happy. Instead of seeming balanced, the storyline oscillates between moments of emotional honesty (the husband telling Andy the truth about his condition) and broad comedy (the idea that Andy would be pleasuring her with a popsicle while the husband is in bed with them), with not enough time to make either of them connect properly.

As always, these broader storylines offer some strong one-liners (some of which are listed below), but I find that comedy far less effective when you can so readily see the show angling into it. Andy’s storyline seems tailor-made for Andy, complete with weird sex stuff, but that removes the agency of the other characters involved, characters that remain very thinly drawn even when they’re given cancer. Something about just about every storyline felt artificial, even more than the false settings in Season 6 — Doug’s office seemed almost more hastily thrown together than the hotel, for example.

I have come to terms with the show’s desire to engage in broad comedy, but “A Hole in Her Niqab” seemed like the wrong place to engage with it on this scale. By using the comedy so prominently in an episode where so many seasonal conceits were introduced, Weeds risks being defined by those elements for the remainder of the season. I’m fine with an occasional indulgence, but when the balance gets thrown off I find myself less confident in the show’s future direction, and I got that vibe from this episode.  

Stray Observations

  • I didn’t mention Martin Short’s lawyer character above, mostly because it’s really not much of a role at this point. I thought the prison fetish angle was simple but effectively played by Short, and I’m hoping the role gets a bit more substantial in the weeks ahead (which it should, given that the legal battle seems like it will be continuing given Nancy’s inability to pay for Waldorf).
  • I have similarly little to say about Nancy’s relationship with Aidan Quinn — very reminiscent of almost every other relationship she has had with authority figures, with none of the spark of Esteban. I like Quinn well enough, but we know too little to say much more.
  • As much as parts of the episode didn’t work for me, Nancy’s strategy for opening up territory for Silas was very smart — Nancy shows good instincts for this business, which is why she would have probably survived if not for her hubris. If she were to just get a small territory, use it to supplement actual income, and then just move on with her life, she could actually be pretty successful. Of course, instead she’s borrowing money from her 18-year old son’s student loan to fund her business, so we know how that’s going to go.
  • Nice return to a bit more location shooting, albeit just an establishing shot with Mary-Louise Parker in the financial district — simple, but effective.
  • Now that Doug has finished serving his narrative purpose, he’s busy taking steroids and measuring his rapidly shrinking penis. It’s not exactly riveting television, although Nealon’s doing some fun (if slight) work.
  • The list of special guest stars in this episode was out of control: Short, Clennon, Sloane, Quinn and Schreiber all got the credit, which seems a bit much really.
  • “Mom told us why you went to jail. For killing a Mexican: a defenseless woman Mexican.”
  • “You guys fuck — I’ll make eggs.”
  • “I don’t want to know what that means…I do…I don’t…I do…never actually tell me.”
  • “Good — now stab me in the ass.”
  • “On the upside, I’ve lost about an inch on my dick, so now it’s straight.”
  • “And obviously you’re not my sexual rival, what with your penis being a soft void filled with sonnets while mine is full of proud Smurfs banging tiny blue hammers against my balls.”
  • “Last time you said that I got a macaroni necklace…um, no, a terrorist video.”

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