On TV: Weeds
If you are a fan or even a casual viewer of Weeds, then you can probably surmise what is coming in Season 5 of Showtime's best female-fronted series. There will be a heaping helping of drugs, a sprinkle of sexual taboos, and a side of bad parenting. Consider what has already been covered in the first four seasons: suburban drug dealing, border crossing, human trafficking, gun running, rabbinical school, masturbating to naked pics of your mom, legally-convenient marriages, Snoop Dogg, fetish porn, teenage abortions, vandalism, Christianity, arson, blackmail, money-laundering, cancer, threesomes, auto-erotic asphyxiation, mercy killing, et al. I'm not sure what is left on the wall of the Weeds writing room, but Jenji Kohan and her crew will dredge up something for what could be the darkest season yet.
Tonight's season premiere finds Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) unable to sell, sex or squeal her way out of a tight spot. She is pregnant with the love child of corrupt Tijuana mayor Esteban (smoldering Demián Bichir), who just learned that Nancy ratted out his all-purpose trafficking tunnel to the FBI. Upon hearing Nancy's intuition that the unborn baby "feels like a boy," Esteban lets her live -- for now. Nancy spends much of the episode contemplating what to do next, staring blankly with those big brown eyes that beg for sympathy while she puts her family in grave danger. Even the viewer is given a moment to join Nancy in deep thought, as an unmotivated moment of magically realistic fun at the mall gives everyone pause.
While Nancy deals with the lion's share of worrying, Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) is held for an unlikely ransom by her angsty older daughter, Quinn (Haley Hudson). Among the friends unconcerned with Celia's disappearance are Andy (Justin Kirk) and Doug (Kevin Nealon), whose relationship has become the funniest and most anticipated aspect of the show. Last season they partnered in a semi-successful coyote venture and now they might start a growing operation with Nancy's eldest, Silas (Hunter Parrish). There's too many strange moments to pass on here, but after 50 episodes the dialogue has lost none of its frankness. Over butter cookies and bong rips, Andy asks Doug: "What are those marks on your neck?" Doug replies "Jerked off with a noose."
This matter-of-factness about criminal activities and assorted perversions is what makes the comedy in Weeds work. But when the characters state honest feelings with that somewhat glib tone, opportunities are missed. Andy briefly confesses his love for Nancy, but the moment is wrong for his sentiments and for the way they are conveyed. Luckily, there is more in store for this pair as the season progresses, which indicates that, if nothing else, the producers know which side of their bread (pot cookie?) is buttered. The Nancy-Andy relationship helps make Weeds subversive and emotional; subscriber cable as opposed to basic.
While tonight's episode is darker than most, it has all of the elements that makes this show addictive: understated acting, tightly rolled plotting, and a final hit that keeps us buzzed into next week. It's not as fresh or light as it used to be, but I'm always on the lookout for new ways to get high. Rating (out of 10): 8.