Weeds fans likely felt a little apprehensive as last season's finale drew to a close with the town of Agrestic–a cookie-cutter community whose non-personality was a formative element of the show–destroyed by a wildfire and suburban dealer/MILF Nancy Botwin packing up her family and heading out for places unknown. While the idea of Nancy moving on to a high-risk trafficking lifestyle under the tutelage of thuggy Guillermo might be appealing for those of us who grew weary of the third season's wheel-spinning, the thought of leaving behind Celia, Doug, Conrad, Heylia, and the rest of Nancy's supporting circle is a little alarming.
Judging by the fourth season's premiere, though, we might all be able to downgrade the threat level to orange. While Heylia and Conrad have indeed been bumped down to guest stars, it seems like, for now at least, Nancy's left plenty of damage in her wake for the Agrestic contingent to deal with, and promotional materials confirm that Doug, Celia, and the rest will definitely continue to play a part in Nancy's life as the season progresses. Just not in Agrestic. But not-Agrestic could be a good thing–especially since Albert Brooks hangs out there.
But let's back up. The episode, titled "Mother Thinks The Birds Are After Her," opens with Celia being hauled in for questioning after the authorities discover Nancy's grow operation, which happens to be in the house Celia extorted from Sullivan last season. She of course calls out Nancy, but the Botwin clan is already at a highway rest stop far away from Agrestic. The boys–Andy, Silas, and Shane–seem confused but complacent, while Nancy, reeking of gasoline, proceeds to have yet another internal breakdown. Thankfully, unlike last season's interminable U-Turn debacle, she pulls it together pretty quick, coming clean to the boys and setting out for Ren Mar with a kinda-plan in pocket. And thus begins Weeds, version 2.0.
Upon arriving in Ren Mar, Nancy and crew retreat to the beachside home of Nancy's grandmother-in-law (Andy's Bubbee), where they discover the goy-hating old sourpuss is in the midst of a drawn-out, machine-aided death rattle, presided over by Andy and Judah's shlubby father (played by the always-welcome Brooks), who has never really taken to Nancy and her half-breed children either. In need of a temporary home base sans a traceable paper trail, Nancy forces an uneasy truce so she can gather her wits and take a shower. Meanwhile, back in the land of little (tinder) boxes, the ever-spiteful Doug and Dean conspire against Celia, citing her as the local drug czar. The episode ends with a panicky Celia in jail and Nancy meeting with Guillermo at the border to discuss her newest venture.
I'll admit, I almost bailed on Weeds last season, due mainly to the fact that I hated where Nancy's character was going–increasingly distracted, lacking in lovable spunk, and, well, kinda slutty. Series creator Jenji Kohan says last season's theme was "growth," but it seemed more like "desperation" to me. Kohan says this season is all about "change," and that seems a lot more promising, especially after this premiere. As much as I loved the dichotomy the Agrestic setting provided, it became clear last season that it couldn't offer much more in the way of conflict without resorting to outside forces (U-Turn, et al) and squirrelly subplots (the Majestic community). With all the key players still in place, I'm hopeful that Weeds can maintain its skewed take on the drug trade in this new, seemingly livelier setting.
The fact that Nancy seems to be diving headlong into the much-scarier world of trafficking also bodes well for a return to her role as a scrappy newcomer that was so endearing the first couple of seasons. This perception is based more on next week's episode, which I've watched a screener copy of, than this one, but you can see shades of it in this episode during her conversation with Guillermo. However, I never much cared for Guillermo last season; here's hoping he'll become more of a mentor/casual adversary along the lines of Heylia rather than a U-Turn-like figure. I'm reserving judgment on their relationship, and hoping that Kohan's hints about Nancy's love life this season ("Who do you date when you're a drug dealer? The pool is rather limited…") don't foreshadow a romance there.
Another one of my big fears brought on by last season, that Andy had become an ultimately useless caricature, was assuaged a bit tonight. Sure, he's still a basically useless human being, but his strained relationship with his father Len (Brooks) could make for some fun antagonism, and his role as Nancy's dubious support structure might be amped up as she struggles in this new world. There's potential here, I can feel it. Sadly, Brooks is only a temporary addition–he was easily my favorite part of tonight's episode from the minute he shlumped in the door, berating Nancy for "sitting in my mother's living room eating German food and smelling like gas. She was in Auschwitz for Christ's sake, what kind of a monster are you?" However, there are plenty of other new elements to keep Nancy and crew up to their necks for quite a while. Hopefully she can make it without too much floundering.
Welcome to the border, folks.
–I'm still not sure how Doug is going to factor into Nancy's new life, but I hope it's substantially. Almost everything out of his mouth was gold tonight.
–It was a little hard to tell here, but it looks like the shock of the new setting might have snapped Shane out of whatever creepy alternate universe he wandered into last season.
–Nancy's assertion that she would not bring heroin over the border was certainly in character, but it got me wondering: What about cocaine? And prescription drugs? And probably a litany of other drugs I've never even heard of? Guillermo says she'll only bring "lots and lots of mota," but I imagine he might be interested in obtaining some other, um, products. Where does Nancy stand on those? What's her line, and will it even matter? I know, the show is called Weeds, but is marijuana really the biggest earner here? (I'm asking honestly, I have no idea about such things.)
–How do we feel about Celia's fate? Sure, she's far from innocent, and certainly has quite a bit of karma stacked against her, but does she deserve to take the fall alone? Chances are good she won't, but could Doug and Dean be taking their Celia-hate a bit far here?
–Say goodbye to the "Little Boxes" intro, 'cause after this episode, it's gone, to be replaced by… something. I'm hoping for a new intro sequence, but I have a feeling it's just gonna be a title card, which would be lame.