Wednesday 2 September 2009

Just a couple of quick thoughts on the Weeds season finale

Spoilers, naturally.

I like "Weeds" because it's uncanny. It goes from hilariously funny to that horrible point of awkward silence within seconds. You laugh and then someone dies. Grown-ups act randomly irresponsibly (that is the whole plot) and while the show might have started out telling the tale of a woman who takes unusual action to keep her family going after the death of her husband, it has meanwhile become something else entirely - the tale of one woman (Nancy Botwin, played by Mary-Louise Parker, who justifies the show single-handedly although she doesn't have to) who always makes odd choices and, due to some inherent inability, fails to identify what might eventually lead to the normal, happy life she so desperately desires for her sons and herself.
The fifth season was a rollercoaster of "oh, this is so horrible I really don't know how to continue watching" and "hey, it seems to be getting better". Nancy got pregnant from her macho bully boyfriend, the power hungry Mayor Esteban, who considers her his personal property and basically inprisoned her in order to ensure that his kid would be around. Nancy, certainly not a feminist role model, decided to flee, at first, from that horrible monster of a man, and then continued to marry him and live with him in his luxurious home, instead of going for the more reasonable choice, lovelorn Andy who would basically take a bullet for the wife of his dead brother and recently and due to a sham has come into some money (also, was willing to put his name on the birth certificate of Esteban's child which took more balls on his part than any viewer would have suspected ihm to have).
The basic cast of "Weeds" offers two type of women: the irresponsible one that seems to be willing to do anything for her family, yet always fails to make the right choice (Nancy) and the selfish bitch who is seemingly always punished by fate because she is a selfish bitch, instead of always kind of getting away like Nancy does (Nancy's former best friend, Celia, played by an equally genius Elizabeth Perkins). Nancy is an upsetting character: she gets raped by Esteban, yets decides to marry him because she loves him and has, for some reason, accepted that nothing good will ever happen to her. Celia is an upsetting character: she bullies her daughter Isabelle (Allie Grant) who has meanwhile grown into a cynic teenager and easily one of the most likeable characters of the show, yet almost equally as vicious as her mom, although way smarter, and never does anything for anybody else. The choice her is weird: Nancy is the single mother we would, in any other scenario, feel sorry for, but in this particular setting despise for her decisions. Celia has overcome cancer and an unfaithful husband barely able to tie his own shoes, yet we despise her for her... well, she's just unlikeable in this over-the-top-Nellie-Olsen-kinda way. Now, as the fifth year ends, Celia is about to change her own family into a negative of Nancy's in season one, although possibly a heartbreakingly incompetent one (except for Isabelle, the "brain", but one teenage girl can only do so much).
Andy (Justin Kirk) is the likeable character and finally has something good coming his way, after sacrificing his own luck for so long to pursue a seemingly hopeless crush - in the shape of a doctor (played by Alanis Morrissette with a totally surprising sober likeability that stands out in this show, also because who knew, she can actually do more than play a childish god prefering handstands over human conversation). The two sons, Silas and Shane (Hunter Parrish and Alexander Gould), try to grow up in the absence of any kind of security or parental guidance, and it seems like Shane might just be more successful after a grow spurt and an onset of existentialism (also, alcoholism), coupled with the menacing brutality of a kid that isn't afraid of pain and death anymore, the creation of his mom - fittingly, the final scene in his entirely, as he steps up to become exactly the kind of man Nancy needs in her life (yes, by becoming a murderer of all things).
While I never tooks "Weeds" seriously during the past four years, with its summer runs and less than 30 minute episodes, this season made me feel uncomfortable so often (because it forces the viewer to identify with a very unlikeable character, played by a very likeable actress), in fact to a degree that was previously only reached by "Dexter" (and even the psychopathic killer has a sound moral code, kind of, that is missing here). "Weeds" is like the ultimate show for an era that has absorbed the ideals of neo-liberalism: what happens when everyone is left to themselves to make their own luck, and end up mostly relying on the most despicable character traits in order to succeed. I wonder where this show is going.

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