June 29, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “Nurse Jackie”


“That’s not moving on, that’s moving in a circle,” said returning Dr. O’Hara (Eve Best) in tonight’s finale of NURSE JACKIE, and of course the statement applied to most of the 7 seasons of the series as well.  Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), a born nurse, was always sociopathically lying her way out of being caught for the prescription drug addict she was, or else temporarily on the wagon, again and again.  It was an accurate depiction of life for some addicts, and Falco never failed to bring its cyclical turns to life, but as a viewing experience, Nurse Jackie went on longer than its underpinnings could really support.

Tonight’s series finale, written by showrunner Clyde Phillips and Executive Producer Tom Straw (from a story by fellow EP Liz Flahive) and directed by Abe Sylvia, resisted the chance to provide a certain outcome.  Its last few moments played out like another season finale.  Jackie was overcome with melancholy over the closing of her hospital and separation from fiancee Eddie (Paul Schulze), who had chosen prison over betraying her for their sales to a pill mill; from her unforgiving but always respected boss Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith); and from her surrogate daughter and protege Zoey (Meritt Wever), who had chosen to go off on her own rather than come with Jackie to a new job at Bellevue.  As the ER’s closing party went on around her, Jackie snorted the heroin that a previous patient (one whose feet she had bathed in a scene weirdly shot as a religious allusion) had left behind, and we departed from her on the floor of the ward, OD’ing but conscious, her fate left open.

There are other shows for which such an open ending would have seemed unsatisfying (Falco was involved with one of them), but an indeterminate climax felt right for Jackie Peyton, who was always looking toward her next scam or fix.  It would have been unduly judgmental to kill her off, instead of merely giving her another crisis she’d have to survive.

This was one of Nurse Jackie‘s better seasons, in all.  The continuing story of the hospital closing provided a strong throughline (although Jackie’s deal with the hospital’s buyer–a duplicitous one, as usual–never had the payoff that seemed to be coming), and there were strong arcs for Smith and Schulze.  Having Tony Shalhoub around as the chief guest star for the second half of the season (after the early departure of series regular Peter Facinelli) was a particular boon, a reminder of what a fine actor Shalhoub is without Monk’s tics, able to bring charm, strength and heartbreak to any given episode.

Nurse Jackie, though, was mostly about its stars.  Falco was outstanding in her range and ability to mix warmth, humor and often despicable behavior without overstating any of them, and Wever took a role that was initially little more than comedy relief and oversaw its transformation into a believable rock of feeling and principle, really the heroine of the entire series.

As good as Nurse Jackie could be, there wasn’t any sadness in seeing it depart.  Jackie could only climb on and fall off that wagon so many times, and the limit had been reached.  Falco, who’s spent 13 years working on 2 TV series, will be at the top of every casting director’s list until she decides what she chooses to do next, and her fellow performers, like their characters, will scatter to other workplaces.  It was time for this particular circle to be broken, and it was accomplished in a way that fit what had come before.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."