Weeds: “Do Her/Don't Do Her”
C-

Weeds: “Do Her/Don't Do Her”

Showtime hasn’t officially picked up Weeds for an eighth season, but during summer press tour the network suggested that the conclusion of the seventh season created definite potential for the future.

As I reviewed the seventh season of the series after that particular announcement, which came in the middle of the season, I couldn’t help put try to put the pieces together. In recent weeks, it looked like the show was branching Silas off into his own business, splitting the family apart and creating a new business dynamic alongside a new personal dynamic, and I was more or less on board. That’s the kind of show that I could watch, an extension of the show’s universe that allows Silas a degree of agency in charting his own path. Given how strong Hunter Parrish has been this season, I firmly believe that could have been a good show.

However, from the moment that “Do Her/Don’t Do Her” began, I knew that something was wrong. Silas was capitulating before the episode could even get off the ground, his guilt over potentially costing Nancy custody of Stevie extending beyond the act itself to all of his previous — and entirely justified — “insubordination.” Foster Klein’s drunken rantings had the potential to sink the silly Vehement storyline forever, but the SEC swoops in to save the day. Andy is finally in a position to put the season into perspective, even discovering that his ex-girlfriend Maxine is pregnant with his child, but he ends up being confined to serving as a voice of sage uncle wisdom. Emma and Dimitri, two characters whose actions set this whole scenario into motion and who could have played valuable roles in an eighth season, end up instead conveniently erased from the narrative. And then, instead of Nancy’s house of cards crashing down around her, Jenji Kohan builds a new house of cards in which Silas is back in the fold, Jill and her insufferable daughters are a full-time part of the show, and the most interesting new storyline rests on the shoulders of the actor who has proven the least competent over the course of the past season.

It is possible that there are Weeds viewers out there who were excited at the prospect of the whole family being back together, but I am not among those viewers. In fact, watching that final sequence makes me wonder whether I have been watching the same show that the producers think they’ve been making. Yes, there’s a quasi-cliffhanger to be found in whether or not the gunshot we hear is the sniper actually pulling the trigger (which would be the likely answer if the show were to be canceled) or whether it was simply a sound effect designed to capture the danger she is in (which would be more likely if the show were renewed). In either case, though, something tells me that I wasn’t supposed to be rooting for the sniper to pull the trigger, but that’s where the epilogue put me. Turned off by the silliness of the laser pointer gag and the all too convenient way the characters were brought together under one roof, that sniper was the only thing in the finale that gave me any hope that the show would end the season in a better place than where it began.

The entire finale made me wonder if this was really what the season was building to. The show all but forgot about Stevie for much of the season, only dragging Jill out of the woodwork for the final episode. Meanwhile, major narratives that were present throughout the season (like everything to do with Silas) were poorly served here, shoved under the rug because more important machinations needed to be contrived into being. What could have been a final farewell for Dimitri, for example, became a broad and insufferable rendezvous with his imbecilic soldiers (which sadly gives the episode its title). Instead, we get an episode largely structured around Jill and Nancy working out decades of sibling tension whilst trafficking marijuana, a dynamic that was insufferable earlier in the season and which was only marginally improved in the hands of Kohan (who seems to have a better eye for Jill, in particular).

The only storyline that managed to feel like anything close to a proper conclusion is Shane’s relationship with Detective Ouelette, which is unfortunate given that Alexander Gould really isn’t capable of carrying this storyline. Michael Harney, who I didn’t even recognize from Deadwood (where he played the drunkard Steve), has really impressed me as the storyline has gone on, and his breakdown as he realizes Shane’s deception was some of the most effective resolution that the finale offered. And, speaking theoretically, I like the idea of Shane going to police academy in secret to prove his loyalty to Ouelette and informing on, if not his mother, then certainly some of her compatriots in the drug game. The problem is that Gould has been ineffective all season, failing to give Shane any sort of personality: Harney did his best, but the relationship between the two was largely one-sided, and while the surrogate father angle works in theory it hasn’t been interesting in practice, and I’m not convinced it could be more interesting in future seasons.

And yet, at the same time, I would hate for the show to go out on this note. Despite the fact that this finale has convinced me that the show will never fully embrace the unlikability of its protagonist and give Nancy the ending she deserves, I don’t want to think that it ended with the bullshit ending that capped off the seventh season. It reminds me of Gilmore Girls’ sixth season, actually: Although the seventh season of that show was a mess without Amy-Sherman Palladino at the helm, and the events of that deflating sixth season finale led to narrative problems in the season that followed, the show’s legacy was better off for being able to go out on the solid series finale (even if it was only meant as a season finale). Similarly, it’s possible that a reductive and pointless eighth season might be worth it if it means that Nancy Botwin’s journey from weed-dealing single mother to weed-dealing matriarch will reach a conclusion befitting the show’s stronger moments.

For a show that has gained a reputation for being willing to dramatically reset its storylines, it’s disappointing that “Do Her/Don’t Do Her” backed away from the vast majority of the season’s storylines without imparting any long-term character development. It was satisfying neither as a conclusion to the seventh season nor as a launching pad into an eighth, which makes me wonder just what it was trying to accomplish. Was I supposed to be engrossed in the mystery of who wants Nancy dead, even though I already know that the answer is “me?”

In truth, I’m the antithesis of engrossed, as I don’t even know if I have the energy to say anything more. After a season of expressing frustration over storylines that were both slow (which can work) and dull (which never works), and after standing up for the show at the end of last season, I’m just deflated at this point. I could go into more detail on how Silas’ character was particularly neutered here, or how Heylia’s return did nothing to add complexity to a narrow character, but I’m having trouble justifying the time spent. I hope that writing about the show has been of some value to you as viewers and readers, but while I defended the value of episodic analysis at the start of the season I’m discovering in hindsight that all it did was make me more frustrated more often. In fact, the only real sense of conclusion that “Do Her/Don’t Do Her” offered for me was that it might be the end of my time caring enough about the show to write about it (or, for that matter, watch it). The highlight of the season was undone by the events in tonight’s finale, the cliffhanger is built around a status quo I don’t care about, and it appears that Showtime is willing to run the show into the ground regardless of any of these concerns.

I don’t want to call for Weeds’ cancelation: It means suggesting a lot of people lose their jobs, and there a few hundred thousand people who probably like the show just the way it is or who saw this finale as a return to form. However, if you were to ask me to argue that the show could continue, I honestly don’t think I could give you a single reason after this finale.

And that’s about the point at which I step away for good.

Episode Grade: C-

Season Grade: C

Stray observations

  • I hate that I need to open with a nitpick, but Nancy’s U-Turn tattoo has magically returned after disappearing last season—we should have seen it when she was banging Zack Morris, but it was absent. Obviously, this episode provides continuity with the earlier seasons, but how did no one pick up on that last season?
  • There’s a compelling emotional core to Andy’s speech to Silas early in the episode about how we fuck up the most within our families, and it’s picked up by the notions of family playing at Charles’ funeral, but it’s predicated on believing that Silas should feel as guilty as he does. It’s one of a number of scenes that work provided you see the show and its characters the same way as Kohan, which I personally do not.
  • I know the show doesn’t actually shoot in New York, but that fake Subway car definitely didn’t sell any sense of space with that green screen (although the gorilla conveniently covered up much of it in the later sequence).
  • Dimitri’s “boys” were kind of horrifying, but Jennifer Jason Leigh had a lot of fun whoring herself out to them. So that was nice.
  • I really like both Leigh and Parker in the climactic subway scene. I hate everything about the scene’s resolution, and that cut to the racially diverse group of men is silly, but the performances are rock solid.
  • To be clear, if Nancy actually is dead, I’m totally on board. I just really, really doubt it.
  • “You lumber. And you’re an ass.”
  • “My mama’s a Francophile, bitch.”
  • “Oh no, I lost the rape contest.”
  • “Death, yes. I get it.”
  • “And he had a mini fridge right by the bed. Man was a visionary… or a possible diabetic. I choose to believe visionary.” (Andy had a lot of great lines in that sequence, but they connect to so little in the season that I still think Justin Kirk was almost entirely wasted).
  • “Barry, get the nunchucks.”
  • “Good to know, but that’s not where this is going.”
  • “May we not kill one another?”
  • The season’s final musical selection: Brent Amaker And The Rodeo’s “Doomed.” (Link will go to Spotify — can’t find it on YouTube, sadly.)
  • It’s been a small contingent, and I expect that many people simply fell behind as the show slipped into the fall, but thanks for sticking around — this may have been a frustrating experience, but I was glad to see a space for discussion, so thanks for being along for the bumpy ride.
Filed Under: TV, Deadwood, Weeds

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