When Heylia James walked out of that house at the end of last week’s episode of Weeds, I was kind of excited.
I was surprised by this reaction, given that I had found the character kind of problematic when I rewatched parts of the first three seasons on Netflix recently. However, I could see the utility of the character at this stage in the season: Even though I think the way the show created the need for a new supplier was incredibly cheap (and problematic in its own right), bringing back Heylia offers another chance to reflect on Nancy’s decisions to this point, a strong thematic line that has been quite successful this season.
When Dean Hoades walked out of the house after her at the start of "Object Impermanence," meanwhile, I was just sort of sad.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that I’ve never found Dean a particularly enjoyable character, and I had no interest in seeing him return. It’s not as if Dean had unfinished business like Heylia, who was summarily erased from the show at the start of the third season. Dean was similarly dropped, sure, but he was then resurrected for the fifth season, returning to make even less impact than he did in earlier seasons. There’s no real ‘story’ to Dean’s return outside of the story it creates with Heylia, which isn’t enough to justify dealing with his idiot stoner act.
However, more importantly, I was sad because it highlighted how contrived the situation was. There’s an element of contrivance in the idea of returning to Heylia, but there is also a thematic purpose; with Dean, no such thematic purpose exists, and his casting is just a bit of cleverness. The show provides a decent reason for Dean to be present, and the notion that he and Heylia are in a relationship becomes part of the episode’s conclusion, but I couldn’t get past the idea that two of the show’s supporting characters who to this point had rarely interacted with one another happened to be in the same place at the same time that Nancy came to visit.
I had a very strong negative reaction to the episode when I first watched it, although on reflection I think the stuff with Heylia was ultimately successful. The booby-trapped weed field gave Nancy and Silas a chance to finally chat about Lars in a scene that once again confirmed this is the season of Hunter Parrish, Heylia’s hard bargain gives Silas a reason to stick around, and the whole experience does allow Nancy to reflect back on the people who were once a part of her life and what her role in their life might be. All of this ostensibly worked, and there was a certain charm in seeing the show return to its roots.
However, the episode as a whole felt far too functional, with nothing seeming as though it wasn’t planned for just this purpose. I think my main objection to the episode actually had nothing to do with the California business, as the stuff in New York was just obnoxious. There were no attempts to hide the wheels turning in that storyline, with Shane’s criminal justice class introducing the idea of a front business (which, for the record, the show has already done twice) just as Andy suddenly decides to sell his Copenhagen Wheel in order to make something of himself. It’s never good when storylines feel like an excuse to give a character something to do, and none of what we saw in Andy’s storyline seemed to have any purpose beyond putting the front business into place for Nancy’s return.
It makes “Object Impermanence” incredibly difficult to write about because there’s almost nothing below the surface. There’s nothing motivating Andy’s new venture other than a thinly drawn connection to his breakup, there’s no subtlety to Shane learning about the law just so he can learn how to break it for his mother, and Silas and Nancy have an honest and frank conversation instead of tiptoeing around their situation and leaving room for analysis of that which was unsaid. Just look at the episode’s use of the cloying episode-ending montage, complete with overbearing thematic voiceover that lays out the lessons Nancy learned in the episode; everything about the episode resists the kind of thematic analysis that the show would ideally aim for during these mid-season episodes where the ‘plot’ is largely on hold.
Part of the problem, I would argue, is that they have to spend so much time talking around the most interesting elements of the Heylia storyline. Although the show provides a good explanation for why Conrad is gone, they never quite get past the fact that it would be far more interesting to see Nancy reunited with Conrad than with Heylia. There’s a certain pleasure in seeing Nancy get called on her shit again, but Nancy and Heylia’s relationship had all but disappeared as a major story element by the third season, with Nancy interacting almost exclusively with Conrad. As a result, the episode has to dance around his absence (given that Romany Malco has suggested he isn’t planning on returning to the show), retconning some Facebook conversations into the three-year gap and losing access to pathos that would have helped the episode a great deal. Told indirectly, Conrad’s decision to leave the business with Heylia loses any deeper meaning and becomes a convenient detail that justifies leaving Silas behind instead of something the show really gets to explore.
“Object Impermanence” ends on Nancy standing in the middle of the solar system, having just stolen a quick moment with Stevie. There’s something in that image of Nancy as the center of the universe, a point that Heylia makes early in the episode when she notes that her family immediately flocked to her side following her release from prison. It’s something that the episode demonstrates more than it explores, however, using Shane and Andy as tools to give Nancy a drug infrastructure without the kind of thematic resonance necessary to elevate the material. While these kinds of transition episodes are not uncommon at this point in a season, something about this one seemed particularly unsatisfying, tapping into the show’s past without really having all that much to show for it outside of some convenient setup for the show’s future.
- As noted, Hunter Parrish and Mary-Louise Parker did some fine work in the big moment in the episode as the two character finally discuss Lars. The details we learn aren’t surprising (Nancy never told Judah, even though she expected he knew), and it’s no shock that it only strains their relationship further, but both actors played the scene and its aftermath quite nicely.
- “Nothing gets lost…it just shows up in a different form.” Heylia was talking about MILF here, but on a meta level she’s also talking about herself. My problem, I guess, is that Heylia actually hasn’t changed much at all in the five years since we’ve seen her, so it really isn’t a different form at all.
- Also, on a related note, am I crazy or did Tonye Patano look younger here than in earlier seasons? Maybe it was just the lighting, but it still struck me.
- I thought Andy’s overreaction to Shane refusing to give him any of his college loan money was very odd — not sure where the shift in the character came from, but I didn’t like it very much.
- Again, I found myself quite charmed by Martin Short in his brief cameo at the end of the episode: Even when he’s part of an annoying voiceover-filled montage, the character is subtle while remaining quite funny.
- Anyone else find the “Magical Secret Garden” musical cue when Nancy and Heylia arrived at the crops particularly on the nose?
- “Interloping Nightmare Bitches from the Past.”
- “Involuntary dumbassery? First degree stepping in shit you can’t handle?”
- “I’m obsessed with your black ass.”
- “Have you seen The Wire?” (On this note, have we reached the point where references to The Wire no longer hold the same value they once did? Or, more specifically, can any reference to The Wire possibly live up to the genius of slipping one into an episode of iCarly?)