REVIEW: Is Weeds Running on Fumes?
Showtime's most fatale femme Nancy Botwin returns tonight for the sixth season of Weeds, though it's an iteration that even most fans will gently admit is past its prime. Maybe this once-sharp series should have ended somewhere around the time when Nancy ratted out her lover -- who also happened to be the drug and gun-smuggling Mayor of Tijuana -- to the DEA. Or maybe it should have ended when Silas started sleeping with a 30-year-old cheese shop owner in Ren-Mar. Or maybe it could have concluded at any point between the time when Shane started masturbating to photos of his mother and the time when he lost his virginity in a goth threesome?
Still, the ideal end date is neither here nor there; somehow, Nancy Botwin has survived all that and is back to take her newly enlarged brood on its most unrealistic adventure yet. Tonight's premiere picks up right where last summer's finale left off, with Nancy reacting to her son's brutal poolside murder of Pilar, Esteban's devious political adviser who, just moments before, had alluded to killing Nancy's eldest children. Thanks to one solid whack of Shane's croquet mallet, Pilar is now dead and Nancy does what any mother whose son just offed a Mexican V.I.P. mid-party does: She hides the evidence, jumps in the back of her chauffeured limo, and starts drinking vodka.
The rest of the episode follows Nancy as she rounds up her family (while intoxicated, natch) and fights off an abortion vigilante who has inconveniently taken hostage Andy's girlfriend (played superbly by Alanis Morissette), who happens to be holding the keys to the getaway van. I am ashamed to say the scene ends with a vase being broken over the vigilante's head, a difficult denouement to sit through for anyone who remembers the more delicately written Weeds scenes of old that managed to fit big, game-changing surprises (like the sonogram photo in the season four finale) into neat little boxes.
Though strong, there's only so much the supporting cast can do with these new storylines. Hunter Parrish and Alexander Gould do their best to play Nancy's sons, who unrealistically refuse to abandon the woman who's so screwed them up, though Justin Kirk -- usually the golden lining of these post-expiration date installments -- is less than ideal now that he's been relegated to the role of yet another Botwin male who will obediently follow the lead of the family's morally blind matriarch. (Yes, premium cable is all about smart females, but would it kill the network to get some men on Weeds with some residual intelligence?) Meanwhile, Elizabeth Perkins, who played the deliciously evil Celia Hodes, has left the series, and Kevin Nealon, the Dumber to Justin Kirk's Dumb, is curiously absent.
All that said, I still hope that Weeds can right itself and reclaim its position as one of the best dark comedies on television. Maybe the Botwins will re-discover their groove while they're on the run? Or maybe, like Laura Linney suggested at last month's TCA Press Tour, Nancy Botwin will open her door to find Laura Linney's Big C character waiting on her porch. Now, that -- a sum that would definitely be greater than either of its parts on television tonight -- would be worth watching.