I was not surprised to see a few rumblings in the comments regarding the fact that “nothing happened” in last week’s episode. Weeds, like many premium cable dramedies, is sort of trapped between the sitcom and the serial: While some episodes feel distinctly episodic, telling stories based around the show’s situation, others are clearly tied into larger narratives unfolding as the season goes along.
“Game-Played” is likely to raise some of the same complaints, although I have to admit that it’s too early in the season for me to be concerned about the current pacing. Right now, the writers seem to be following a pattern of slowly laying out the framework for the season while providing a few major scenes that deliver on larger serialized notes, and I don’t think we should necessarily be concerned about this. I like that they are taking their time, allowing the newly arrived characters to get settled before introducing any major source of antagonism.
At the same time, though, I wish the foundation wasn’t quite so dull. See, I think there’s a difference between “nothing happened” and “what happened wasn’t very interesting.” I think “Game-Played” meets my personal threshold for eventfulness: Nancy completes her business deal with Dimitri (and then consummates her sexual tension with Dimitri immediately thereafter), Shane gets steered down onto the college path in the game of Life, Andy meets his new love interest (Lindsay Sloane, making her first appearance), Doug gets a new job, and Silas finally confronts his mother.
The problem is that there is very little weight to any of this but the final scene between Silas and Nancy. That scene feels like the show ticking off an important box, allowing the son who was deceived to confront the Mother who arguably ruined his life. Silas was young enough to be subject to Nancy’s behavior but old enough to understand that it was happening, but it was only last season that the show really evolved Silas to the point where he could reflect back on that with any sense of emotional maturity. While the fourth season positioned his relationship with Julie Bowen as an Oedipal complex, and perhaps rightfully so, his relationship with his Mother has successfully evolved into an adult male who resents who his mother raised him to be even as he accepts that it is the fate before him. Nancy can force Shane to go to college, but Silas is past the point where the damage can be undone.
When he tells Nancy that he will be selling the weed out from under her, there’s really nothing that Nancy can say about it: More than Shane, Silas is truly independent, and the show is smart to spend time sketching out his new dynamic with his mother. Hunter Parrish is doing strong work this season, and there’s a sense of disdain that feels believable as opposed to feeling put-on, so I’m invested in where they take this relationship in the remainder of the season.
While I wasn’t in love with Nancy’s storyline this week, Mary-Louise Parker continues to do some strong work. It’s no shock that Jill is fighting for custody of Stevie, and I’m tiring of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s neuroses (which were dialed up in that video chat), but Mary Louise Parker sold her concern quite nicely. Similarly, her first sitdown with Debra Mooney’s Shelby has her continuing to decompress from Esteban’s death (really reflecting on it for the first time that we’ve seen), and there’s a certain manic nature to her conversation with Andy midway through the episode. “Try Again, Fail Better” is absurd and dangerous, but Parker is selling it well enough that I don’t think it is yet a concern. I like that Nancy is sort of trapped between a free-spirited version of herself (which acts on impulse), the sense of responsibility she thought she might leave behind (giving up on being a mother, as Andy puts it), and the unique situation that her current confinement offers. I can understand how some of you are really turned off by her behavior, but I think the show has given us enough reasons for Nancy to act in this reckless fashion.
However, I sort of wish that the show were as reckless as Nancy. Everything else about the episode just sort of sat there, waiting to become more interesting. I don’t necessarily think the show is heading in any necessarily terrible directions: Everything that has happened so far this season has been innocuous at worst, and I withhold judgment on the narrative writ large until we see precisely where they intend to take each storyline. However, while I might not know whether Shane will get into City College or whether Lindsay Sloane will prove yet another neurotic love interest for Andy, I do know that none of it was particularly funny, dramatic, or entertaining in “Game-Played.” I like Lindsay Sloane, for example, but her character here makes absolutely no impression, and I didn’t feel much of a connection between her near-homicidal art installation and Sloane’s performance (which seems, dare I say, almost normal). Say what you will about Morissette’s performance, but Audra showed Andy seeking a mature adult relationship, and the show spent last season focusing on a complex and quite serious affection for Nancy. Maxine feels like a step back: Sure, it’s just a first impression, but those matter with new recurring characters.
I was going to say that giving Shane and Doug their own storylines is only good in theory, but then I realized that it’s also not a very good idea in theory. In practice, there’s just nothing there: Doug gets a dream job as another crooked accountant who is oddly beloved for his prowess in college softball, but the storyline is almost devoid of humor - or much of anything - outside of a ridiculous (and quite funny) orange suit jacket. Similarly, while I know many who can relate with the double-edged sword of being an International Student (in that you are both highly desired and milked for as much money as schools can manage), there were no stakes in Shane’s attempt to get into college, and while his trip to various different banks was seemingly meant to be something I couldn’t tell you what that might be.
The thing is that I actually liked some of the subtler character moments in these storylines. I liked Andy’s posture towards Nancy, feeling as though she is rushing into her new life without really giving him the time of day, and I liked Shane’s child-like excitement over telling his Mother about his ex-girlfriend and their puppet shows. The idea of all of this isn’t terrible, which is why I’m not yet wholly pessimistic about where the season goes from here: The way these characters have been arranged remains compelling, and the three-year hiatus has created enough interpersonal tension to largely sustain my interest given the strength of the performers.
However, the execution of the newly introduced storylines just seemed so dull that I’m not excited about it in the way that I think the show wants me to be. There is nothing for me to latch onto but isolated moments, and “Game-Played” had too few to capture my imagination (even if it more or less had my attention).
- Would Mary-Louise Parker really fit into Hunter Parrish’s jeans? I don’t see either one of them joining the Sisterhood, so I am somewhat skeptical.
- Someone was mentioning in the comments last week about an incongruity between Jill’s video testimony last season and her video chats, as she mentioned getting divorced last season and yet appeared to be married when chatting to Nancy. Whoever that was, the show was listening to you, as Jill regrets the decision to take him back here.
- As far as visual metaphors go, I think the wardrobe department got a wee bit carried away with Nancy ripped the word “Free” down the middle as she stole Silas’ clothes.
- I like Debra Mooney (who I remember best from Everwood), but it’s a bit weird to see Councilor Ed so quickly replaced as an authority figure (and so absent from this episode). A bit of a bizarre about face, even if Ed’s rhymes might have gotten tired sooner rather than later.
- Speaking of guest stars, I will perhaps always associate Regan Burns (who played the admissions officer) with his Spike TV game show Oblivious, but I quite enjoyed his more recent turn playing the loud-whispering producer when Robin auditioned to be the lotto girl on How I Met Your Mother. It’s stuck with me for a long time, for reasons I can’t entirely explain.
- Would you guys like me to start doing a list of quotes? To be honest, I don’t necessarily watch the show for its quippiness, but if they’re something that y’all are interested in seeing collected than I could jot some down in the future.