Based on some not unsubstantial enthusiasm from the commentariat, Weeds has officially returned to the TV Club rotation — a space to discuss this series was requested, and I’m extremely pleased that The A.V. Club is offering that space.
However, at the same time, I am open to arguments that watching and evaluating Weeds on a week-to-week basis is a bit of a fool’s errand. As much as I think it is important for viewers to have a space to consider the season’s trajectory, or to respond to particular storylines, or just to react to funny lines or new characters, the notion of grading the show as a critic becomes problematic when done on a weekly basis.
There are a number of reasons for this, and I expect we’ll be discussing many of them in the weeks ahead, but the main one that comes to mind during “From Trauma Cometh Something” is the way the show is paced. With only 25 minutes (and often less) to tell each week’s story, there’s often the sense that not much happens in an episode of Weeds, or that what happens seems trivial given the big picture. Storylines develop so gradually at times that judging the show based on a single episode is nearly impossible: All I can do, really, is make an educated guess regarding where they’re headed and consider the potential of that hypothetical direction.
“From Trauma Cometh Something” is sort of caught in one of the show’s pacing conundrums, in that it’s arriving before most of the show’s storylines have really kicked into gear. The season is still laying the groundwork for future storylines, and at times these episodes can seem a bit belabored. Indeed, while the grade above suggests I thought this episode was quite solid, there were a few moments where the pacing seemed at odds with itself. Some storylines are moving improbably fast, while others are barely moving at all, and there have been some points in the series’ run where moments like this have fallen flat.
I would argue that Nancy’s storyline remains strong, even if I did think that parts of this episode seemed a bit more meandering that they might have otherwise. I actually think this is a problem with production, as opposed to writing: Something about the various sets built for the episode seemed incredibly cheap, and there was never any sense of scale to Nancy’s journey. It’s clear that they don’t have the budget for any further location shooting in New York, and it unfortunately took some of the impact out of Nancy’s journey with her explosive suitcase. There was no sense of how far she had to travel, or where her various journeys may have taken her, or how much danger she was ever actually in. I understand that there are budget cuts necessary by the time a show reaches a seventh season, as it becomes more expensive to keep your actors, but there was a cheapness to Nancy’s storyline in particular. It was reminiscent of the early season four episode where Nancy thought she was driving back over the border with drugs in her car, but all of the fun staging of that storyline was replaced with…not much of anything.
It’s unfortunate because I think the storyline continues to work, providing some valuable insight into Nancy’s behavior. I can’t say that I’m too surprised that Nancy’s plans for the guns and ammunition involves getting rid of them as soon as possible for something she’s more familiar - and more comfortable - with, but the shift back to marijuana is given meaning beyond returning the show to its original premise. What I love about Nancy’s plan for the weed is that it isn’t really a plan at all: While she may know what she wants to do with it, she doesn’t entirely understand why she’s doing it. She isn’t angling to get back into selling weed to support her family, or even to help her get out of her current living situation (which involves listening to late night phone sex involving blenders). Instead, selling (and, in this episode, consuming) weed has become purely psychological, threatening everything other than Nancy’s state of mind. Drugs have finally evolved (or devolved) into Nancy’s own personal drug, a fantasy world in which she can escape her custody woes and family conflicts to feel like the drug kingpin who doesn’t have to pick up the pieces of her left-behind life.
Yes, there are some funny moments in Nancy’s storyline (like Mary-Louise Parker getting a chance to play high with Shane and Andy at episode’s end), but that brief moment of clarity as she chats with her cellmate Zoya’s brother (who is played by Nicky Sobotka himself, Pablo Schreiber) emphasizes the darker sides of this story. As Andy notes, fleeing is a family flaw, but Nancy is fleeing from her family in order to endanger her limited freedom by getting back into the business that put her in this position to begin with. It’s self-destruction without any sense of purpose or reason, and without the usual crutch of family to justify Nancy’s behavior. It’s also a smart bit of writing in terms of addressing the show’s pacing issues, as the breakneck speed of Nancy’s return to the drug business would be somewhat specious were it not being treated as a warning sign.
The rest of the episode can be divided into three parts, with all showing potential that may or may not be delivered on in the weeks ahead. Andy and Shane snooping around the halfway house serves two purposes: It helps sketch out the halfway house as a location (which appears to be a microcosm of the show’s penchant for both legitimate danger and slight caricatures), and it establishes that Andy and Shane are the two characters who can’t move on without Nancy. They’re the two who need to find out more, who can’t start their new lives in New York City until they see the woman who their life revolves around. The lightness of Andy’s reconnaissance means that we don’t exactly explore this territory, but it’s definitely there to be had.
Things are a bit more clearly laid out for Silas and Doug, although their storylines only get a single scene each. And while I remain skeptical of the decision to keep Doug around, the idea of rediscovering the life he left behind all those years ago with an old college friend isn’t a terrible one. In a season about the idea of rehabilitation, it seems fitting that Doug would be thinking along the same lines. Silas, meanwhile, is in a bit more thematically rich space given the advice to “come back five years ago” from the modeling agent. What if Silas had lived a normal childhood and moved to New York to become a model at 19? Counterfactuals are something the show can use to its benefit given both the three-year time gap and the continued reflection on the direction Nancy took her family after Judah’s death, and I think Parrish did a fine job tapping into Silas’ complicated relationship with his mother both early in the episode (as he tries to chase her down in the alley) and during his interview (where his story pities the agent into keeping him on file).
Of course, I have no idea if these storylines are going to amount to anything: I know about some upcoming guest stars, and so I have some understanding of what the show is looking to put together, but with Weeds it is often about execution. Although parts of “From Trauma Cometh Something” come off a bit cheap, and I have a few logic questions for the Stray Observations, the show’s interest in Nancy’s behavior remains a strong starting point for this season. Although we end on yet another cliffhanger with Nancy being busted for smoking weed via a not-so-random drug test, that manufactured momentum is paired with some subtle but not insignificant work reinforcing the show’s perspective heading into its seventh season. While the new storylines are still in a nascent stage, faced with delays and roadblocks designed to stretch them out over the course of the season, the push and pull between the show’s pacing and its characters felt like it had a purpose in this episode, and that it could become a thematic weight to the season as opposed to a narrative burden.
With an emphasis on could.
- Don’t worry about Nancy, folks: This is all a stealth Nurse Jackie crossover, and Akalitis will show up to throw Nancy’s drug test in the trash to artificially avoid any real consequence for the protagonist’s self-destructive behavior.
- The brief establishing shots of New York were oddly punctuated with music that sounded like something out of a 90s sitcom, which makes me wonder how different Weeds would be with a laugh track. Apparently, no one has made a YouTube video pitching Weeds as a 90s sitcom, so if someone wants to get on that I would be most appreciative.
- I thought the prison video was a bit too on-the-nose in terms of laying out the season’s themes, even if I think those themes are working nicely.
- Okay, let’s discuss the logic of Nancy’s journey. Why precisely does she carry the suitcase around everywhere she goes? Now, I understand the logic behind the order of events: I presume she stored it near the halfway house, and that she had to bring it with her to the interview because it was in Midtown and she wouldn’t have time to get back to Washington Heights before going to Queens and still meet her curfew. However, why didn’t she just take a single grenade? If she was going to lie and say it was far away, why not just pack the single grenade in her purse and avoid the danger of it all? It seemed a bit too writerly, like an excuse for a “Bomb under the Table” suspense that didn’t quite come across thanks to the cheapness of it all.
- While we may be kicking into coverage at the moment, I will warn you that this coverage is sort of in the same position as Nancy: it’s being given a chance for now, but there is some skepticism over whether last week’s enthusiasm will last. So, let’s prove that rehabilitation can work and keep things lively around these parts.