Weeds: “Qualitative Spatial Reasoning”
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Weeds: “Qualitative Spatial Reasoning”

Last week, I proposed that the momentum gained toward the end of the seventh season of Weeds is more inertia than any sort of narrative development; the storylines that started the season (Nancy’s incarceration, Nancy’s quest to regain custody of Stevie, etc.) didn’t evolve so much as they conveniently disappeared while other storylines (Nancy and Silas as partners, Doug vs. The SEC, Shane the Shadow Cop) took over. I liked some elements of these new storylines, don’t get me wrong, but the season as a whole is damaged when there are no clear story threads to follow from beginning to end. However, as the show marches toward next week’s finale, the show is inevitably adjusting expectations vis-à-vis the season’s narrative and is reframing past events in order to escalate things in the most dramatic way possible.

“Qualitative Spatial Reasoning” is one of the stronger episodes of the season, largely because it necessitates a level of dramatic storytelling that elevates the rest of the show. The characters are still allowed moments of humor, but the actual storylines that surround them have real stakes instead of feeling like brief asides to kill time before driving toward the finale. In fact, you could actually argue that this episode is that much better—or at least seems that much better, relatively speaking—because these storylines were left dormant for so long. While I would still argue that there is greater pleasure in seeing the narrative evolve over time, I think this penultimate episode makes a case for the value of having various abandoned elements converge unexpectedly just in time for the finale.

Mind you, I don’t necessarily think it helps the season as a whole, at least not in terms of the characters whose storylines have proven unsuccessful to this point. Andy, for example, is caught between Silas and Nancy as they start to fight their battle, but there’s no real role for his character to play. He eventually bows out of the battle based on an automated phone call from Charles indicating that he has passed away, leading Andy to realize that life is too short to fight this kind of war, but that isn’t really a seasonal arc coming to a conclusion, nor does it really justify the time spent with Lindsay Sloane’s character early in the season.

However, it’s the only connection that feels as though it contributes to neither plot nor character, as everything else comes together quite successfully. No, it wasn’t always particularly organic in how it returned: For instance, it’s a terrible idea to use lazy exposition to reintroduce Stevie into existence, but it’s an even worse idea to give that exposition to Alexander Gould, who is not particularly adept at delivering it. That being said, it makes sense that Nancy would be turning her attention to Stevie (now that things are looking up on the business side of things), so the logic of return outweighs the awkwardness of the show having to acknowledge Stevie’s existence after putting it on the backburner for so long.

Emphasized by the split-screen device that opens and closes the episode, “Qualitative Spatial Reasoning” relies on a confluence of factors that end up placing various elements from the season into a particular alignment. Some of these factors offer a clear sense of agency, like Dimitri’s willingness to take care of his own business with the help of his buddies on the base. This has been teased for a while now, as Dimitri has taken over from his sister as an unpredictable force within the narrative, and that potential finally becomes reality when Nancy and Silas’ battle spills over into his jurisdiction. Other factors are more happenstance than this, like Heylia and Dean’s decision to endanger their own lives by trafficking marijuana across the country, but their involvement substantially increases the stakes of Dimitri’s insurrection.

None of this is as natural as it would be had these storylines been dovetailing gradually throughout the season, but there’s an element of excitement in realizing that Heylia and Dean are arriving into a volatile situation unknowingly or that Nancy is about to get custody of Stevie just as Jill arrives into town and Emma shows her hand to the police. Although the convergence is somewhat inorganic, it is still effective when paired with the uncertainty regarding how the season will end. We could spend time wondering why Heylia and Dean would abandon the farm—to whom?—in order to drive themselves, but we’re so close to the end of the season that our minds rush more quickly to what happens next instead of dwelling on what’s happening now.

Although I’m not convinced that it connects to the rest of the season, I quite enjoy the central theme of both Silas and Nancy struggling to truly fight the war that they set up to fight. The episode lets Silas, and we as the audience, believe that Nancy would be willing to order the hit on the weed shipment, but in truth she’s not willing to fight on those terms. She may not feel guilty about cutting him out, about purchasing a home for just her and Stevie (which even cuts Shane out of the equation, let’s notice), but she still feels guilty about what Dimitri’s men perpetrated. Silas, meanwhile, pussyfoots around the issue up until that point, finally deciding to do something about it by flying Jill to New York. And yet, just as Dimitri went one step further than Nancy had intended in an effort to give her a “present,” Emma goes to Ouelette in order to help Silas (now, I guess, her boyfriend?) without his knowledge. Silas just wants to make Nancy suffer without her son, cruel but not necessarily life-ending; Emma, meanwhile, wants to ruin her. It’s a compelling mediation on the way family ties reframe these kinds of conflicts, and even if they’re rushing the family feud side of things, it does springboard into what is potentially a very intriguing finale.

And that is, perhaps, the most important criteria for a penultimate episode. For the most part, “Qualitative Spatial Reasoning” makes only token attempts at rescuing the season as a whole, largely eliding earlier storylines except for brief mentions (Charles’ phone call) or convenient returns sold as surprises and yet ruined through the “Previously On” segment or the guest star credits (Charles, Heylia and Dean, Jill). However, the convergence of these various elements has created a situation where the finale has the potential to be an “event,” a situation where there are real stakes and real consequences. While Doug was still playing around in a worthless storyline with the SEC employee and I still don’t care about Ouelette and his stepson and there remains plenty of evidence to suggest that the season has not worked as a whole, all of that was subsumed by the momentum created by finally putting at least some of the pieces together.

We’ll see what kind of picture they make next week.

Stray observations:

  • I'd apologize that this is later than usual, but most of you don't even watch the show until tomorrow, so it's as though I subconsciously knew it wouldn't be a big deal to screw up the back-end side of things. Still: my bad.
  • I think Mary-Louise Parker has actually been given very little to work with this season, as Nancy has almost sleepwalked through parts of the season, but I liked the sort of playfulness she brought to her pitch to Vehement alongside her more emotional notes as she takes in the gravity of her situation with Silas or ponders finally having her son back in her arms. The weight of those three years in prison kind of got lost by how quickly Nancy transitioned back into normalcy, and I think this was the first time the character almost had my sympathy this season. I still think she should rot in jail, more or less, but it’s a start.
  • Not entirely sure if Nancy’s plan makes sense: Cornering the upscale market is logical and something we saw work last week, but the delivery method sounds like a whole lot of attention and a whole lot of capital expenditure. Also, frankly, it sounds a lot like Turtle’s limousine service on Entourage with marijuana added to it. And yes, I’m ashamed I am able to make that connection.
  • So what do we think Silas plans on using Jill for? I mean, it’s obviously something to do with Stevie (which he seems awfully guilty about as he sits there pondering his decision to fly her out), but it could also just be to annoy her given how obnoxious the character was earlier in the season (and as obnoxious as she was here).
  • “Your whole clan is mega fucked.”
  • “I kind of want to touch his bicep like once. Why is that?”
  • “I would totally fuck your sister is what I’m saying… let me start over.”
  • “Oh my god, we’re getting mugged by Sarah Palin.”
  • “Please don’t tell America.”
  • “You can’t go to war halfway.”
  • This week’s musical selection: “Gangsta” by tUnE-YarDs.
Filed Under: TV, Weeds

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