STUDIO: Lion’s Gate
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 360 minutes
* Commentary with writer Jenji Kohan, cast, and crew
* “History of Weed” Featurette
* “Yes We Cannabis” Featurette
* “Crazy Love: A Guide to the Dysfunctional Relationships of WEEDS” Featurette
* Gag Reel
* “Little Titles by Jenji Kohan”
* “University of Andy Webisodes”
* “Really Backstage with Kevin Nealon” Featurette
The wacky tobaccy exploits of the world’s worst mother and her entourage of marginally lovable fuckups.
Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Nealon, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould
Created by Jenji Kohan
Quoth the inane packaging: “Pot-selling soccer mom Nancy Botwin is back, and more intoxicating than ever. [pun! yes!] Now that Nancy’s operating her homegrown business south of the border [not true actually], she’s got a whole new crop of crazy problems [more puns!] – she’s pregnant with the child of a powerful politician turned dangerous drug lord – or is she? [she is; not sure why they implied there was a mystery] Catch the buzz [OMG they’re insatiable with the puns!] in these irresistible adventures…” [fart noise]
Weeds is a weird show. I picked up Season Uno after the series had been on for several years and already reaped a lot of critical praise and awards, and I was quite surprised by it. Surprised by what a goofy fluff piece it actually is. Whereas Breaking Bad, that other award winning show about a regular suburban parent who takes to drug dealing to provide for their family, plays the stakes hard (going for tension and big emotional moments), Weeds is often gleefully juvenile (going for easy and downright dumb jokes). Despite the dark storylines, Weeds has all of the dramatic impact of Malcolm in the Middle. In a way I find the show awful. Though, in another bigger way I find the show totally entertaining. It’s too well done to qualify as a guilty pleasure, so let’s just round up and say Weeds is a good show. A good show with issues.
Last we saw the Great-Mother-FAIL, Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker), she had just revealed to her Mexican drug lord boyfriend that she was preggers with his baby as he was gearing up to shoot her in the face (I like to assume that’s where he would’ve shot her). Season 5 picks up where that scene left off, with Nancy unshockingly being spared by her new babydaddy. That’s the crux of the season: Nancy and Drug Lord’s baby, and the ramifications said baby causes for both of them.
Fans often bitch when a show changes key elements over time – killing a main character, shifting locations or concepts – but shows are like people, they inevitably grow and evolve. The best shows mature as the seasons roll on, getting richer and more interesting with age (Supernatural, The Wire). Of course, some people grow up to be dipshits, abandoning all the opportunities they’d once had, and so do some shows (Lost, Alias). Not a Lost-like clusterfuck, Weeds has nonetheless been moving farther and farther away from the show I’d previously liked enough to watch for five seasons.
Moving the show out of the suburbs after Season 3 was intriguing at first, but ceased being a positive change around the same time Albert Brooks ceased being a character. Structurally it’s a similar problem Buffy The Vampire Slayer had; once the characters stopped attending school, the show lost a key component of its basic conceit. Though at least Buffy never stopped being the Slayer. While Season 4 of Weeds found Nancy Botwin no longer a suburban pot-dealer, Season 5 completely drops the pot-dealing altogether. In fact, pot no longer figures into Nancy’s plotline whatsoever. One could argue that the show is actually about Nancy trying to provide for her kids, sure okay, but Season 5 doesn’t even have much of that, as Nancy’s storyline is completely devoured by her tumultuous relationship with the Drug Lord. A storyline that didn’t really grab my interest much.
A big problem when you shift locales or premises in your show is now finding uses for and justifying the existence of peripheral characters who really have no business being there anymore. Doug (Kevin Nealon) and Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) were my two favorite characters back in Season 1, but at this point they both feel forced – Celia in particular. Frankly it amazes me that Celia is still being precariously shoehorned into the show, yet the series so easily gave up on Conrad and Heylia (Nancy’s savvier pot-dealing cohorts from Seasons 1-3, fabulous characters both). The beginning of the season finds Celia kidnapped in Mexico by her estranged eldest daughter, Quinn (a character I literally had forgotten ever existed). This subplot goes absolutely nowhere, has essentially no ramifications, and isn’t even funny. Doug at least is always interacting with our main characters, which helps him feel more relevant. Season 5 finds him mooching onto and fucking up Silas’s (Hunter Parrish) medicinal marijuana business. But compared with the comedy mined from his city council shenanigans from earlier seasons, he feels sadly superfluous currently.
Shane Botwin (Alexander Gould) continues to be essentially the only character whose personal progression engages me on any emotional level. The walking-talking evidence of Nancy’s trainwreck parenting, Shane has progressively become more and more fucked up by the events of the series. Previous seasons had found him jerking off to pictures of his mother and losing her virginity in a threeway. Season 5 finds him getting an STD, murdering his teacher’s pet bird and becoming a teenage alcoholic after getting shot by a Mexican gangster. Of course, as is Weeds’ style, all of this is played for throwaway laughs. Ha ha, Shane’s drunk again.
The show’s most successful character is still Andy, due as always to the flawless performance of Justin Kirk. In Season 5 Andy comes to the realization that he’s in love with Nancy, but is rebuffed by Queen Disaster, who chooses El Drug Lordo instead. This leaves Andy open to begin a cute romance with Nancy’s doctor, played by the shockingly excellent Alanis Morissette (if I didn’t know better I’d never guess she wasn’t a professional actor; seriously, she’s good).
Nancy, Nancy, Nancy. Nancy Botwin is a great character with a lot of really sharp dialogue, but ultimately she wears on me. I am a fan of flawed, often downright criminal protagonists (Sopranos, Rome, Mad Men), but these characters are generally found in serious hour-long dramas, not half-hour goofball comedies. I just don’t know how to react to Nancy in the context of Weeds. Up until this season I was even starting to suspect that the show’s writers had no idea that Nancy was such an unlikable, colossal disaster of a person. But I was put at ease when this exchange occurred…
NANCY: Why is fucking Armageddon always coming down on me?
ANDY: You do it. You do know that? You have to know that it’s all you?
It was nice to finally see Nancy’s pathological shittiness openly addressed on the show. But, even so, it’s hard for me to root for her when she’s constantly making retarded and selfish decisions at every turn, completely ignoring the needs of her children one second and then suddenly being overbearing and unreasonable towards them the next, and then immediatley ignoring them again. Self-absorption isn’t a great reason for a hero to make poor choices (my personal favorite is rage, a la Seth on Deadwood). I’m hard pressed to remember a hero I’ve wanted to slap in the face more regularly than Nancy Botwin. Parker is undeniably great at the character though.
Not to harp on the show’s change of location, but I do think removing Weeds from the suburbs destroyed a crucial element of the series, which was the simple yet fantastic idea of this suburban soccer mom secretly dealing drugs in her white bread community. Nancy’s ill-conceived attempts to expand her pot business made some amount of relatable sense when it was happening organically, one step at a time, but her continued climb into the more dangerous areas of the drug biz stopped making sense to me after she’d removed herself from her previous situation. It was here that her decisions started to become too much for me, at least for a doofy comedy. She went from being a single mom making some dumb decisions for her family’s sake to a single mom making truly appauling decisions for personal reasons. Wacka wacka!
I understand that the writers probably felt like they’d done all they could do with the community of Agrestic, but the fact remains that the show hasn’t been anywhere near as good since. And I really don’t understand why this location shift necessitated dropping “Little Boxes” as the show’s intro. Thumbs down to the move. I miss the song.
Despite all this negative chatter, fans of the series will continue to enjoy this season. It still offers the same goofy, pleasant laughs as always. Plus Jennifer Jason Leigh shows up as Nancy’s sister! Woot?
The packaging is quite nice, with an easily manageable case that holds the discs securely. And bonus for you Earth conscious folk – the packaging is made from recycled marterial! Weeds Season 5 is green, in more than one way! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaa… ahhhh… mm. Sorry. There are a shitload of features here. None are amazing, but the “University of Andy Webisodes” are fairly funny and the “Really Backstage with Kevin Nealon” is a rare behind-the-scenes doc that actually gives viewers a realistic perception of what it’s like to hang around on a shoot all day. Kinda boring.