As “Synthetics” comes to a conclusion, Nancy is certainly in a difficult position. She brings her date—who is also her boss—back to the loft where Silas has news of their illicit drug activity that just can’t wait, and then Dimitri shows up with a fresh shipment of product, and then the newly-released Zoya shows up unannounced to reveal herself to the rest of the family and make out with Nancy in front of them while forcing herself into the business.
Oh, and, of course, Nancy is actually wearing a wire the entire time, so the SEC hears every word of it.
The takeaway from the scene is that Nancy has once again gotten herself in over her head: She might know who she is, as she tells Shelby when she leaves the halfway house, but she still hasn’t learned her own limitations. With Zoya’s return, Nancy finds herself having sex with a pair of siblings—one of whom has vengeance issues—while being courted by her boss whom she’s secretly trying to expose to the SEC while her son runs the family business out of her brother-in-law’s bike shop. It’s a situation that is pretty messed up on a psychological level (what with the bed-hopping between siblings), but it’s the most solid the show has been on a plot level for a while.
Admittedly, I still have my reservations about the way this situation has been developed. The idea of Nancy being in over her head isn’t exactly a new one, but I think it’s something Weeds can repeat if it develops the right kind of characters to populate it. The end of the show’s second season is perhaps the apex of this kind of narrative move, with U-Turn and the Armenians both laying claim to Nancy and Conrad’s stash, only to discover that Silas has stolen it out from under him just as Celia arrives with the police to arrest him for theft and vandalism. It was a case of every storyline bubbling to the surface at the wrong moment, with various characters (Silas, Heylia, Celia) acting in ways that complicated an already volatile situation (given that U-Turn always intended on stealing the weed at gunpoint instead of buying it).
The conclusion here feels a bit more wacky, right down to the double take in the surveillance van that ends the scene, the classical music, and the various goofy looks from Pablo Schreiber. I’ll admit that the tone of the scene kind of surprised me. Obviously, the other characters aren’t aware of the wire, but it still seems weird that everyone’s so light-hearted about everything. However, I will say that it makes sense that our regular characters are as open to discussing things as they are: Andy is trying to get something off his chest (his growing desire to split from the weed business entirely), while Silas has pressing news about the family's competition (based on his earlier altercation with Denny).
I’m not so sure about everyone else, though. Sure, Dimitri does ask if Foster can be trusted, but that he so quickly decides to just keep on discussing the product feels like a bit of a cheat. Similarly, it’s not wholly clear why Foster is still there, beyond adding yet one more complicated element to the scene. It’s not even entirely clear why Dimitri is at the apartment at all, given that he has never been there before and given that holding product in the loft seems silly when they have the space at the back of the bike shop.
This sounds like nitpicking, but I think it’s one of those scenarios where a small problem is indicative of a larger one. That we don’t know Dimitri and Foster’s motivations for being in or remaining in the loft is something that’s easy to overlook within this scene, but I think it reveals the degree to which we know nothing about these characters. We’ve seen plenty of Pablo Schreiber’s shirtless torso, but we don’t know anything more about him other than the fact that he’s Zoya’s brother and a drug supplier. We got a few more details about Foster during his date with Nancy, but it’s all trapped up in her efforts to gain insight into the Ponzi scheme. While Zoya being batshit crazy is enough to explain her decision to stalk Nancy’s home and show up unannounced, even that’s a thin characterization at best. We’re learning more about Shane’s washed-up detective mentor than we are about Dimitri and Foster at this point, which isn’t helping the show escape the feeling that these new characters are just replacements for similar characters from past seasons.
What the show needs to avoid is the sense that the tension within the season is “How is Nancy going to get out of this one?” It’s a question the show has asked too many times and a question that I am personally no longer interested in. I’m far more interested in how and why Nancy got into this situation, which the show seems less interested in considering. The SEC situation just sort of falls into her lap, Zoya’s release from prison conveniently amps up the tension that much further, and by the end, it feels like this is something happening to Nancy, instead of something she created.
You could technically say that this is all because she chose a life of crime, but the show isn’t focusing on that like it did last season, where the past was such an important part of the central character study. Shelby hits it on the nose when she talks to Nancy, and Nancy suggests she isn’t lying to herself about who she is, but that reads more like denial than self-reflection, and the episode limits Nancy’s agency from that point forward. As a result, the theme feels less prominent, and it makes episodes like this one feel isolated within this season and its situation that is likely to be resolved and tossed aside by the time the show returns next year.
If characters like Dimitri and Foster were being developed in more detail, perhaps I might not feel this way, but the show isn’t showing me anything that feels like building a new ensemble. It’s possible that Michelle Trachtenberg could finally bring the show’s number of female characters to two, but her introduction here is enormously dull—Silas falling for a rival drug dealer who just happens to recognize him from a stopover in Copenhagen just falls into too many clichés, and any storyline that at least moderately hearkens back to Mary-Kate Olsen’s stint on the show seems like it could use some help. Similarly, it’s possible that Shane’s detective mentor could stick around, but a drunk cop struggling to connect with his stepson is hardly original. It’s possible it will become an outlet for Shane’s daddy issues, but Alexander Gould isn’t a strong enough actor to carry a storyline on his own, and even with something approaching character development, I don’t think I’m able to care about this storyline.
“Synethetics” feels like an improvement over the past few episodes simply based on its momentum: Things happen in the episode that change the dynamics of the season, to the point where the ending really does put a whole collection of possible results on the table. However, in the end, I think I’m intrigued more than invested; I may be curious to know what direction they plan on taking this, but the show hasn’t done enough to develop its guest stars this season for me to feel anything beyond that. I’ve resisted it for this long, but the episode’s title really is too good to pass up in this instance. While I’ve talked about how the season’s narrative has been too transparent, we can apply the same principle to the show’s characters: If they end up feeling "synthetic," pins that the season will knock down with time (as was the case with Lindsay Sloane, for example), the show risks feeling like it is just going through the motions as it has in the past.
That doesn’t mean that the show still can’t create a cliffhanger that leaves us guessing, but it does mean that we might not be terribly excited to learn the answer. “Synthetics” has successfully jolted the season to life for a week, but I’m not convinced, at least not yet, that it’s showing real vital signs.
- This is unimportant, but how did Zoya get up to the apartment if the elevator door wasn’t closed as Silas suggested was necessary? And yes, now I’m definitely nitpicking.
- So, where do we stand on the Copenhagen wheel as a legitimate product? Is it even possible that it would randomly find traction with a “Style” section?
- As far as creepy images go, Dimitri watching Zoya strip Nancy? Pretty high up there. There’s a real energy between the characters that worked in that early scene, which is why the wackiness of the conclusion felt a bit off.
- Zoya suggests that she was released because she is also able to make deals—who wants to bet that she made a deal to sell out Nancy?
- “Did you just call her a donkey?”
- “That last part I’m not so sure about, but the stuff before was very good.”
- “Christ, where the fuck are you from kid?” “The suburbs.”