Weeds: "Machetes Up Top"
B

Weeds: "Machetes Up Top"

B

Weeds

"Machetes Up Top"

Season 5, Episode 2

If ever there were an actress made for the quirky, off-center rhythms of Weeds, it’s probably the quirky, off-center Jennifer Jason Leigh, an actress who, like series star Mary-Louise Parker, seems perpetually underrated despite turning in great performance after great performance. Leigh can occasionally become too grating, but once you get into her rhythms, she’s always fascinating to watch. Here, she’s been cast as Nancy’s sister, Jill, an underappreciated soccer mom, who almost seems to offer us a glimpse into who Nancy was before the death of her husband (though from all accounts, Nancy and her husband’s relationship was far better than the marriage depicted here). This kind of ersatz time travel is always more interesting than straight flashbacks, and tossing Justin Kirk and Leigh into scenes together was a good creative decision.

Leigh’s Jill is the mother to two pink-clad twins and the wife to a bike-obsessed husband who seems to only be a flitting presence in her life. Every scene set in her house was a winner here, especially an early scene when both twins chose “HAM!” for breakfast, and a later scene depicting Jill and Andy slowly falling into each other’s arms while drinking through woozily disorienting jump cuts. (“No, that’s just your face!”) The jump cuts were almost imperceptible the first few times they happened, as if someone just made a mistake in the editing room at finding matching frames to cut between, but as the scene went on and you got into the rhythm (or lack thereof) of them, it all made for such a good way to look at a woman whose wheels are slowly coming off.

Granted, Weeds has been to this well many, many, many times before in its first four seasons, but something about the combination of the sharp performance by Leigh and inserting Andy into the mix of the seemingly perfect suburban family made them pay off better than they probably should have. The story’s conclusion – wherein Andy got his Nancy lust ya-yas out by having sex with a Jill just looking to have someone appreciate her – was a little rote and not nearly as funny as anything that came before (underscored as it was by that irritating, “Isn’t this wacky?!” music that seems to plague this show and all others even vaguely like it), but in general, I’m in favor of Leigh joining this cast for whatever number of episodes she signed on for.

The main story tonight involved Nancy slowly realizing that the baby in her womb is not quite the get-out-of-death-free card she had hoped it would be in last week’s episode. Once Guillermo points out to her from behind bars that women in her predicament usually end up as dead bodies in a landfill, she goes on a self-destructive tear, eating sushi, smoking a cigarette AND drinking whiskey in one scene, clearly just looking for a way out of the predicament she finds herself in. Even if Esteban lets her carry the baby to term, she’s got a nine-month window in which to figure out a way to keep herself from being killed. Esteban’s goon, who is in her house at episode’s beginning, is fairly easy to lose (in an almost too-goofy scene where little fish nibble at the dead skin cells on his feet), but this won’t always be the case.

There’s an intriguing element of self-loathing to Nancy’s character that the show seems to finally be outright embracing and in a way that makes it seem as though it will be the thing that creatively rejuvenates the whole enterprise. When the episode ends with Esteban forcing Nancy into a round of pretty angry sex (though, let’s face it, Nancy’s totally down with it), Parker’s eyes become cunning blanks, a smile almost creeping across her face but not quite. There’s something she likes about being hurt for everything she’s done, just so long as she gets to keep her life, but she’s also going to tread closer and closer to the line, even though she has a pretty good idea of where the line is.

Celia’s still stuck in Mexico, and while the storyline isn’t going anywhere, it’s still a pretty good showcase for Elizabeth Perkins’ talents, particularly as she turns the gangsters’ hideaway where she finds herself trapped into her latest organizational coup, rearranging their weapons by things like caliber of bullet and length of machete as though she were just reliving her old life in Agrestic all over again, carefully categorizing and buttonholing everything she can get her hands on to keep from realizing just how deeply, deeply messed up her life has become. The show has clearly struggled with what to do with Celia for a good long while. Really, her natural role in the story came to an end with season three, but Perkins’ performance is such an asset to the show that it keeps figuring out ways to force her back into the action. Still, if the show wants to add something else to its season five to-do list, giving Celia more of a storyline that has an actual effect on everything that’s going on wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.

Meanwhile, Silas and Doug wandered around in the borderland wilderness and came across some thieves who were going to steal Silas’ crop. I don’t want to say this storyline was uninvolving, but it took me a few times through the screener before I could even bring myself to figure out why it was in there. Silas, obviously, has been paralleled to his mother a number of times through the series’ run, their self-destructive streaks especially running alongside each other. That Nancy is in similar trouble to her son is supposed to be the point, but Silas’ operation still feels so small-time that dropping in on it is, well, boring.

That said, this was the first episode of Weeds I laughed out loud at in quite a while. Something about the delivery of everything Leigh said tickled me to such a point that I’m intrigued to see where they’re going with this. So far, this is a show that’s not quite back to what made it memorable in the first place, but it’s a show that is picking its way back in that general direction.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

  • I know that it doesn’t really fit with what the show has become since season three, but I do really miss the title sequence, which was always one of my favorites, even when they turned it over to that endlessly rotating cavalcade of music superstars.
  • “Alight upon me. Alight upon me! Fucker!”