When you’re just watching along at home, twists in a serial television show can be exciting. The rug being pulled out from under you offers a quick thrill, reinforcing that all-too-rare sense that a show is still capable of surprising you. However, when you’re effectively watching the show in public, sharing your thoughts on each storyline as it’s evolving, twists can occasionally make you feel more exasperated than exhilarated.
Case in point: The reveal in “Five Miles From Yetzer Hara” that Jill isn’t pregnant. One of our savvy commenters (props to Nickysix) caught the potential hormonal-trickery option two weeks ago, so it’s not like it wasn’t on the table given Jill’s age. However, I found myself almost angry about the decision, an anger that allowed me to come to a realization: At this point in Weeds’ run, I’m not sure I want to be surprised. And I’m fairly certain this makes me an enormous hypocrite.
I will admit my anger partly stems from the fact that I look like a fool for doubting that theory two weeks ago, and for not being more skeptical of the storyline in the past. However, putting aside that petty business, I’ve reached a point with the show that I want a clear sense of where things are headed to be able to gauge my expectations accordingly. This isn’t to say I want the show to be predictable, exactly, but my relationship with the show is tenuous enough after last season that to have the narrative completely overturned like this is more likely to elicit concern than excitement.
It’s hypocritical, of course, given that I’ve spent the entire season expressing my lack of interest in Andy and Jill as a couple, and should be excited about Andy moving on. However, “Five Miles From Yetzer Hara” did a poor job of convincing me that time was worthwhile, especially as it pivots away from the implications for Andy—who disappears from the episode after realizing he wants to have kids of his own and breaks it off with Jill—and focuses instead on the implications for Jill. While I expect Andy will grow from this experience, that this he’s ignored in favor of Jill getting her groove back by helping Nancy swindle her new bosses and deal ADHD drugs at college parties rings false to me. The idea of exploring Nancy’s relationship with Jill is interesting, but for Nancy’s full-on return to drug dealing to be played as a bonding experience for the sisters celebrates what I’d call regressive behavior. The celebratory tone at episode’s end is clearly a choice, one that reflects Nancy and Jill’s state of mind more than the show’s, but the reveling felt unearned. The characters’ intense conversation has moments of honesty, and is well-acted and well-written, but it felt too clean to resolve such a complicated relationship so quickly. It was simply asked to do too much with too little, as far as the season’s storylines have evolved (or not evolved).
It reflects the season’s larger problem, which is a focus on the ends rather than the means. I liked what the episode was going for with Shane and Silas in the episode, starting with Silas’ excitement for his job and Shane’s dejection at being unable to be a real cop before turning the tables over the course of the episode (bookended by their attitude-shift morning routines). But the actual story material in between just isn’t sharp enough: Silas’ on-the-job toking is a trifle and Shane’s gradual discovery of the corruption of the impound lot is way too slow. I like where the storyline leaves them: Silas has discovered making drugs to be turned into pills doesn’t have the same thrill of being able to sell to real customers (which is handled in a nice montage), while Shane finds an outlet for criminality within the law itself. It’s a strong thematic statement, but it doesn’t make either of the new workplace scenarios any more compelling in their own right.
Thematic statements are something I like to see from the show, but they’re better when they can be reintegrated back into the storylines to enrich them; this season has moved so quickly that there’s no chance for the second step in the process, making it difficult to evaluate ongoing storylines because the show isn’t making an effort to develop them. This is not to say that the plot hasn’t moved forward—it feels like forever ago that Nancy was in the hospital, and then hunting down her attempted killer, and then trying to manage her drug business, and then ending her drug business. The problem is that somewhere along the way the show stopped caring about narrative memory, with those previous events reduced to footnotes as the characters put one foot in front of the other without taking more than a casual look back. It’s propulsive without feeling meaningful, action-packed amnesia that isn’t delivering enough standalone comedy or drama to overcome the weightlessness of it all. While the sixth season was similarly forward-looking, it did so within a clear, all-encompassing thematic framework that returned to and reflected on the events of previous seasons. This year, that reflection feels isolated within certain characters and operating in opposition to the bulk of the plot being introduced, which has looks like a whole lot of nothing when you step back.
“Five Miles From Yetzer Hara” is not terrible or unwatchable, but Weeds is reaching the point where the baseline is shifting from an acceptable way to spend a half-hour to something that reinvigorates the season with only five episodes remaining. It’s possible that Jill and Nancy’s teamwork offers this for some people, but it’s another storyline idea that works in the abstract but fails to build on what has happened thus far this season or in seasons past. We are far from the point where the season is a complete waste of time, but we may be at the point where the bizarre lack of cumulative meaning is catching up with Weeds as it closes in on the finish line.
- This week’s “Little Boxes” comes from The Thermals, while the episode closes with Regina Spektor’s very, very catchy “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas).”
- I am well aware that Mary-Louise Parker is extremely attractive and Jennifer Jason Leigh remains alluring, but Nancy and Jill partying it up with college kids (some of whom are in their underwear for unknown reasons) borders on a “How Menopausal Jill Got Her Groove Back” dream sequence.
- I feel bad for Stevie, who is here revealed to be kind of dumb mostly so Nancy has a reason to be apprehensive about her new promotion and refocus her attention on teaching him state capitals. Poor kid’s had a rough life—it’s not his fault he thinks the capital of New York is Bagels.
- Nancy sleeping with the rabbi continues the season’s reliance on Judaism for thematic material, and on the rabbi’s continued prominence despite a rather matter-of-fact introduction—I like the idea of both, but would like to understand the rabbi more as a character and less as a theme generator. The choice to have sex with Nancy is a step in the right direction, but he still feels like an object to either reflect on Nancy’s position in life or her continued power over the men in her life, which seems reductive.
- I am not even going to talk about Doug’s storyline. I just can’t bring myself to do it.