If you had to sum up the premise of Weeds after almost six and a half seasons, what would you say?
Obviously, it used to be the story of a suburban mother who turns to dealing drugs as a way to support her family. At a certain point, I would have suggested it was a story about a reckless woman whose lust for danger overwhelms even her base instincts. However, as the show continues on, a new premise seems to be emerging: Weeds, at least for me, has become a show about a woman who keeps running into the very thing she’s running away from.
Sometimes this is by choice: Given a chance at a new start in the halfway house, a chance to run away from the life of crime that put her behind bars (albeit indirectly, given she was jailed for a crime Shane committed to protect her), Nancy instead jumps right into the marijuana business all over again. Sometimes, however, it’s a cosmic act: As she’s running away from the past in the sixth season, forging new identities, she ends up running back to Michigan where her running seems to have begun.
Both of these instances are examples of Nancy running away from her past just to run into it all over again. While I think the show made a mistake dragging Doug and Celia along to Ren Mar, I liked the idea that there were parts of Nancy’s life that no amount of running would be able to escape. While her past is occasionally an angry husband who plans to kill her, there are other instances where Nancy simply falls into old habits.
The show has always had an interest in the way our pasts influence our lives, whether it’s the way that Judah’s death lingers in Shane’s psyche (both in his early season hallucinations and, more recently, in last week’s reconstruction of the Agrestic bedroom) or the way that Nancy’s fresh start in Ren Mar begins with her suffocating her grandmother-in-law with a pillow. In “Fingers Only Meat Banquet,” however, Weeds indicates it is equally interested in its own past, calling attention to its seriality by forcing Silas to reflect back on his Mother’s influence on his life and then visiting an old friend in California.
On the former point, the season continues to be a strong one for Hunter Parrish, as Silas is brought along to serve as Nancy’s character witness at a hearing regarding custody of young Stevie. At first, the decision seemed a bit odd: Silas resents his mother, whereas Shane wants to do everything he can to impress her in order to make up for the fact that she went to prison because of something he did. However, when Silas eventually talked his way into the judge’s office, Nancy’s decision made more sense. Silas remembers the days when Nancy wasn’t a drug dealer, when she was a mother who loved her kids and would do anything for them. His story about Nancy going trick or treating as Austin Powers is a pure memory, something that Shane (being younger at the time) would be less likely to have. This season seems very interested in how a more mature Silas confronts his relationship with his mother, and that scene really sold me on Silas starting to put his own past into perspective.
The whole trip to California was a bit of a logic stretch, once again flitting around the issue of Nancy’s incarceration with Martin Short waving a magic wand and allowing for the trip to go forward (albeit with a legal basis). Similarly, Silas getting in with the judge was a bit on the convenient side, a quibble I make only because the show seems to be taking a lot of similar shortcuts this season. I also felt that the show’s inability to get, or unwillingness to pay for, Jennifer Jason Leigh to appear in the flesh has really done the character no favors. Nancy’s side of the trip, storming off to confront Jill, ended up feeling way too broad mostly because of the silliness coming out of that speaker. The actual interactions with Scott had a subtle nuance to them, sure, but they still portrayed Jill as too much of a villain. After a premiere that called attention to Nancy’s self-destructive and selfish behavior, the past few episodes have conspired to make us sympathize with her, and I prefer the more complex emotional consideration of Silas to the “Evil Bitch Sister Stole My Son” angle.
This is why I fully support the return of Heylia James, despite the fact that I continue to find the character kind of problematically broad. There were brief moments where it seemed like the show wanted Heylia to be a more substantial character in the second season, but more often than not she fell back into Mammy stereotypes that had a premium cable filter placed over them. It didn’t help that the third season marginalized the character almost entirely, undoing the work done in the previous two seasons, and it certainly didn’t help that she disappeared without a trace at the start of the fourth season. After a brief mention while Dean and Andy are being interviewed by the police, Heylia and Conrad were actually never mentioned again, erased from the show’s past.
While I was never a huge fan of Tonye Patano’s performance, I do like the idea that Nancy is about to deal with someone completely willing to call her on her shit. I have my logic questions about how they’d get the weed they intend to buy to New York, and how Nancy tracked her down, and how Nancy was able to get free time to roam the state of California while still technically incarcerated, but Heylia is an interesting card to play at this stage in the season. On one level it’s just a nice little surprise, especially for long time fans, although I’ll admit that any surprise was taken away when I caught Potano’s name in the credits. More importantly, though, it reframes the judge’s advice quite nicely: While Nancy lost the person who grounded her back during the time Silas discussed (Judah), she does have a friend from another time in her life who might be able to help her. She’s doing exactly what the judge wanted, except she’s returning to a different point in her history than he intended, and I quite like what that says about Nancy.
Back in New York, meanwhile, the show continues to kind of meander its way through its secondary storylines. I don’t think this is always a bad thing, and I’ve got to admit to really liking Doug’s storyline here. No, it wasn’t particularly complex, but it actually sort of connects into the theme about the past that I discuss above. Doug used to be an accountant, a crooked one at that, so to see him falling into old patterns is actually an interesting development. He’s looking for a fresh start on many levels, a second chance that he perhaps never thought he would have, and so to see old issues rear their head suggests that he’s wary of heading down the same path (or, more likely, being made a patsy).
I continue to be disappointed, though, with Andy’s storyline with Maxine, which apparently reached something of a conclusion in tonight’s episode. I don’t really know what we’re supposed to take away from this: I appreciated the Bubbie callback, and understood where Andy was coming from, but is this meant to indicate that he has matured and will no longer sacrifice his comfort for sex? Was it meant to reflect on his own mortality? Or was it just meant to kill time? The truncated courtship meant that we never spent time with Andy and Maxine on their own, never allowing any real chemistry to develop even though their final scene showed there was great potential there, so I left tonight’s episode wondering what this arc was supposed to do, exactly.
I ask this quite often with Weeds, but this season has done a good job of giving the broader storyline a fair deal of pathos. It hasn’t simply rested on the ongoing plot developments, but has used those developments to tie into long-term character relationships that drive Silas and Nancy’s journey to California. And while it’s fine for Shane’s enrolment in a Criminal Justice class to remain a short scene that will develop in upcoming weeks, Andy’s storyline with Maxine was given considerably more time and yet never felt essential, effective, or even funny in its ineffectiveness.
This season hasn’t been exciting, perhaps, but I’ve been pleased with the thematic framework being constructed, and “Fingers Only Meat Banquet” continues that trend. Heylia’s arrival feels like the jumpstart that the season needed in terms of “excitement,” but it also ties into the themes being presented, and season seven has thus far followed the lead of season six when it comes to moving aimlessly but maintaining a sense of overall momentum based on our attachment to these characters and their struggles.
If that attachment is gone, I can see where some might continue to be frustrated, but I think the show remains on solid ground to this point in the season.
- After finishing this review I watched next week’s episode, and to the show’s credit they do explain how precisely Nancy got to Heylia’s — it’s a retcon, but one that makes a lot of sense, so I don’t feel the logic of it all is something to really stand in the way.
- Martin Short continues to put in a quiet, subtle performance: It’s not a standout role, but he hasn’t been hamming it up, which has made him seem a credible lawyer with a slightly off-kilter personality. That’s the kind of character that works well on the show, and something I’d like to see them do more often with guest stars.
- I know that there’s still scandal on Wall Street, but that storyline feels like a late stab at topicality to me.
- Enjoyed the extended Everybody Loves Raymond run on the plane — nothing too fancy, but interesting to see the show evoke a traditional sitcom as an effort to create contrast.
- Some odd timeline work in editing, as Nancy seems to get to Jill’s in two seconds with almost no time having passed when we return to Silas. There’s some really weird editing next week too, as some storylines feel like they take place naturally while others flit back and forth at a totally different pace.
- Continuing the odd trend of Nancy fitting into Silas’ clothes, how tall was Silas when he was 10 that Nancy could fit into his costume?
- “And you’ve titled chapter three of my book.”
- “I’m not asking you to perjure yourself…unless you want to.”
- “I would have been a better character witness: I’m a great liar.
- “Do you remember this voice? But quieter?”
- “I’m going to have to touch your ass, ma’am.”
- “I’m going to gag her and stuff her into my trunk right now…no? Okay.”
- “Dicks are out, but asses are covered.”
- “I can’t be polyamorous with Bubbie.”
- “Hell. No.”