At the beginning of Breaking Bad’s second season, I was able to interview Vince Gilligan. I mentioned Weeds to him, which he said he’d never seen, and told him I thought the show started to fall apart narratively when everyone found out about Nancy Botwin’s career as a pot dealer. I asked him how he planned on keeping Walt’s side business a secret, considering how smart, inquisitive and tenacious Skyler is, and he told me that it was a question the writers grappled with, but that they wouldn’t be grappling for long because he didn’t see the show having a long shelf life. I respected the answer, and felt like I was in good hands with Breaking Bad, and indeed the third season is one of the best seasons of television I’ve had the pleasure of watching. I was a little disheartened, though, after reading Gilligan’s interview with Alan Sepinwall, where his answer about ending the show suddenly became whole lot more non-committal. The cruelly long hiatus between Breaking Bad seasons would be a good time for him to finally dig into Weeds, because it serves as proof that when a show has a premise as self-limiting as an everyman with a hidden criminal life, the worst thing you can do is let it drag on until it’s a sad, dried husk.
The departure of Elizabeth Perkins has turned Weeds from a once great show in decline into a full-blown philosophical inquiry. How many basic elements can be stripped from a television show before it’s irreparable? The loss of Conrad and Heylia was unfortunate, and the exodus from Agrestic perhaps a little capricious, but removing Celia from the mix not only robs the show of one of its foundational relationships and its most skilled comedic actress (no offense, MLP), but it exposes a flaw that undermines the believability of the entire show. First Nancy sets her house ablaze and flees to Ren Mar, leaving behind Conrad and Heylia. Fair enough, but the question then was, why would Celia have any earthly reason to follow? Or Doug, or for that matter, even Silas, who has to be in his early-20s by now, and has for several seasons resented his mother’s reluctance to let him strike out on his own, which he seems more than capable of doing. Writing Celia out of the show using the rationale that it doesn’t make sense for her to be following Nancy around is problematic in that it reveals how much of the non-Botwin Agrestic characters had to be hollowed out in order to keep them in the show, but also because it reveals how, at this point, it doesn’t make much sense for anyone to be following Nancy around.
Having watched these characters over five seasons, I feel like what should have happened, somewhere around season four, is that Celia and the Hodes family disappear, as does Doug, and Silas, who probably lets Shane tag along with him. Weeds at this point should really be Nancy, Esteban, their new baby, and possibly Andy, depending on how deep his gluttony for punishment runs. But apparently, writing off any of the Botwin clan is too far a step even for a show that seems to revel in asking the question “What if we eliminated this seemingly crucial element?” then answering it in depressing ways. So we arrive at “Thwack,” in which Nancy and Co. deal with the immediate aftermath of Shane’s murder of Pilar with a croquet mallet – call it a “stick” at your peril. I will credit Weeds for knowing its way around a season-finale cliffhanger. Even though I know the answer will never be promising, there is a little part of me that hopes for the best when the show executes one of its left-field final scenes. But like every season finale since the third, the death of Pilar paints the show into…well, a little box.
At this point Shane is probably the most compelling character, and the one whose progression makes the most sense. He’s always been a disturbed kid, which the show has suggested is a product of his father’s death but seems like something that would have been a factor had Judah stuck around. Added to this, he’s grown up in an environment where there has been no respect for social norms or the rules of polite society. Nancy’s parental strategy has always been to carry on as if everything is fine, and when she’s informed otherwise, as when Silas is intentionally impregnating his girlfriend or young Shane is making terrorist beheading videos, to approach the issue with resignation and exasperation. Running a sham maternity store that’s really a front for a big-ass tunnel to Mexico isn’t easy, okay? The least Silas and Shane can do is fly right so she doesn’t have one more thing to deal with. For Shane to murder Pilar makes perfect sense, and Nancy and Silas’s shock around it seems slightly misplaced, considering the direct threat she posed to them.
The one bright spot of this housekeeping episode was Audra’s confrontation with Nancy. It didn’t seem like Audra was fully aware of the reason for Andy’s blind loyalty to Nancy, but she certainly knew there was something deeply inappropriate and co-dependent about their relationship, and she didn’t mince words in her diagnosis. I practically cheered for Audra when she called Nancy a “crazy fucking bitch,” because, well, she kind of is one, and the more time I spend with Nancy, the less I like her. That’s the reason (to say nothing of the limited readership) why there will be no ongoing coverage of this season of Weeds, though there’s a strong possibility I’ll pop in for the season finale. It’s hard to say at this point, because Showtime, which usually sends critics four or so episodes, only sent this inert premiere. I don’t know where the Botwins are going to go anymore than they do, and while I’ll probably stick around a few more episodes to find out, my Spidey sense is telling me it’s nowhere promising.
- Not to belabor the point, but considering how many times now Silas has had to pack up and leave everything behind because of Nancy’s terrible choices, it seems like her insistence that he leave his stuff behind would have been the final straw.
- “Don’t play the whole ‘I’m a killer now’ card. That is unacceptable.”
- “You’re a godless baby murderer! …but I’m willing to work with you, because I love you!”
- Crossbows are rad.