I said a couple of weeks ago that I thought the producers of Weeds were more cynical about the Nancy/Andy pairing than Andy seemed to be, but the show seems to be proving me wrong in last week’s “Van Nuys” and this week’s “A Modest Proposal.” They seem to be really rooting for this to happen for some reason, and it also seems like they’re pushing full speed ahead on making the two feel regret that they’re not together and doubt that the situation they’re in is optimal. I can buy, sort of, that Andy feels this way, but the way the show is trying to make me feel like this is a coupling that should happen is rubbing me the wrong way. Fortunately, we’re at the halfway point of this season, which means that it’s time for Nancy to turn into a complete asshole. Which she does!
After last week’s ending, where Nancy and Shane moved in with Esteban, the show jumps forward six months, which isn’t a bad move, all things considered. One of the things that often hurts Weeds is how claustrophobic its storytelling can be, how trapped it can become by the fact that the stories unfold over just a few weeks or even days in the course of a season. Sometimes, it feels like a month has passed since the start of the series (and while I intellectually know that’s not true, the series often feels that compressed), so letting us know, definitively, that time has passed is probably a good move. It also skips us over what would have been a lot of boring plot development.
But it doesn’t quite get us all the way there. “A Modest Proposal” spends most of its time just letting us know where everyone is in relation to where they were six months ago. This is the classic way to deal with a time jump, and only a few series have done it well (usually by introducing some giant conflict into the middle of things as quickly as possible). Weeds is just content to show us that Doug and Silas’ medical marijuana dispensary is having trouble dealing with the long arm of the security cop, Nancy and Esteban are getting engaged, Celia has gotten a job at a Foot Locker-esque store and Andy has grown a beard and bought a bunch of classic arcade machines. And the General Lee. From Dukes of Hazzard.
I’d be OK with this, I guess, if it didn’t have so much of happy Nancy. Happy Nancy becomes Insufferable Nancy all too often because she starts rubbing her happiness in everyone else’s face. Is there any good reason for her to go over to her old house where Andy’s living and force Andy to confront the fact that she’s getting married to Esteban while he’s playing Ms. Pac-Man? I get that this is part of Nancy’s character (that she can be kind of snooty), but the show’s tone never makes it terribly obvious how we’re supposed to feel about this. I’m fine with this kind of ambiguity when I feel like the show is aware that the things its characters are doing are hateful, but I never get the sense that Weeds has any idea the things Nancy does are terrible. It seems, instead, kind of impressed by her pluck and proud of itself for making her so borderline loathsome.
It’s here that Weeds falls apart, season after season, usually at the halfway mark. It’s not as though Nancy does any one thing that makes her hard to endure. She does a whole bunch of small things, underscored by that wacky music Weeds leans too heavily on when it wants to let us know that the things its characters are doing are awful but not so awful that we shouldn’t be laughing at them, and those small things add up to one big ball of loathsome. When the show acknowledges that it knows Nancy isn’t the goofy heroine it too often wants her to be, it’s automatically arresting television (it did this in the season four finale, and it immediately enhanced almost that entire misbegotten season). Too often, though, the show seems too proud of itself for even attempting the ambiguity.
So, for lack of anything better to do, “A Modest Proposal” again just tosses the bulk of its story to Andy and hopes for the best. And he’s funny here (when making light saber noises while holding the sword or dueling with Esteban) but also unexpectedly moving. When he gives Nancy his blessing and tells her that she should look him up again when Esteban dies, it’s more poignant than the relationship deserves, and that’s almost entirely due to Justin Kirk being such a fine actor. I doubt I’ll become a Nancy/Andy shipper or anything, but Kirk’s surprisingly great at playing romantic longing. Here’s hoping he gets to show more of it (since I’m still not exactly sure how a Nancy and Andy relationship would actually, y’know, WORK).
Everything else tried too hard to be wacky to keep things rolling along until the climax when the story got started up again. Watching Doug have Isabelle spray tan him so he could be more like George Hamilton (thanks to an autobiography he found “in the shitter”) was moderately amusing, as was seeing he and Silas come up against that overweight security guard, who was leeching too much of their product (and seeing Doug try to tip him out of that giant chair-hammock-thing was also amusing). I’m not sure that having Celia join the Weeds universe’s version of Avon is the best plot development for her, but at least it’s a plot development for her and one that doesn’t completely strain to keep her involved with the show. Plus, seeing Elizabeth Perkins in that referee shirt was a funny enough sight gag. Or, y’know, you could watch Ignacio beat a guy with a golf club in front of Shane while the music chirped along on the soundtrack. Because you should never be concerned that things aren’t CRAZY and ZANY and GOOFY. Thanks, Weeds!
So, OK, Esteban’s wife came back, and she somehow managed to keep the marriage between Esteban and Nancy from going forward, just as we probably all could have predicted she would. And now Nancy’s again cornered and we might get some interesting television. But after a pretty strong start to the season, Weeds has sputtered to the halfway point, and it’s seriously trying my general affection for what came before. Pick it up, Weeds! Half-assing it until the season finale won’t work this year! We’ve got our eyes on you.
- Thanks to Claire Zulkey for taking over last week’s recap. I was worried no one else in the world was watching this show, and there she was. And she did a damn good job too!
- The long succession of ugly, ugly rings Esteban gave Nancy was a nice enough sight gag. I seem to be saying that word a lot. “Enough.” Implies, I guess, that this show is content with just coasting, with just making sure it stays slightly ahead of things, rather than trying anything new.
- I kind of miss the bank teller that Andy had to seduce while pretending to be Judah. She was my favorite thing about last week’s episode. Bring her back!