June 30, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Nurse Jackie”


In its 6th season, NURSE JACKIE went all the way back to square one.  There were cosmetic differences, of course–Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) is now divorced, and increasingly alienated from her daughters Grace (Ruby Jerins) and Fiona (Mackenzie Aladjem).  But for the most part, the season was Jackie redux, as she cunningly (and sometimes ruthlessly) managed to stay one step ahead of anyone on the trail of her pill popping, all the while performing her nursing duties almost flawlessly.

It is, of course, a fact of life that addicts fall off the wagon and relapse, repeating the bad behavior that had beset them in the first place.  Also, Nurse Jackie has the narrative problem that if its protagonist isn’t taking illicit drugs, what is the show about?  But as drama, much of Season 6 felt like a rerun.  There were points early in the season where it seemed like Jackie might explore her relationship with Grace (who’s been experimenting with drugs herself) or with her new AA sponsor Antoinette (the always-welcome Julie White), but Jackie avoided Grace’s issues and managed to dump Antoinette into rehab, in a particularly nasty bit of manipulation.  Jackie’s boyfriend for most of the season, nice-guy cop Frank Verelli (Adam Ferrara) was never a match for her.

Season 7 will, at least, be somewhat different.  In the season finale, written by Executive Producers Clyde Phillips and Tom Straw (from a story by Producer Abe Sylvia) and directed by Jesse Peretz, Jackie’s chickens came home to roost once again.  Her mistake with a diabetic patient’s dosage was an unusual fumble that returned to haunt her, and although she might have survived that issue by throwing Dr. Carrie Roman (Betty Gilpin) under the bus, her maneuver of having a dying nun lie on her behalf, pretending to have stolen Carrie’s DEA prescription number, finally lost Jackie her best friend and biggest fan, Zoey (Meritt Wever), who reported her to Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith).  Even then, Jackie’s instinct for finding the one sucker who’ll bail her out almost saved her, throwing her into bed once again with one-time lover and hospital pharmacist Eddie (Paul Schulze), who obligingly bought her plane tickets and presented her with a suitcase full of unauthorized prescription meds.  But Jackie’s instinct to help someone in a roadside accident on the way to the airport, and then the dumb luck of crashing into an ambulance, had her under arrest at the season’s end, seemingly likely to lose her nursing license at least for some period of time.  The question is whether the series will really dare to move its main storyline away from its hospital home (the guess here is no).

Nurse Jackie has been suffering from the limitations of its premise, because after 6 years, as brilliantly as Edie Falco plays Jackie’s mixture of compassion, recklessness, and near-sociopathic calculation, we’ve seen just about all of her moves.  The ratings are stable but unexciting, and the cast mostly repeats what they’ve been doing for years.  The one major subplot this season was the recurring romance between Carrie and Coop (Peter Facinelli), which–assuming Carrie wasn’t lying–resulted her in becoming pregnant in time for the finale, but the show has made both characters nicer and more well-adjusted, and they’ve lost a fair amount of their spark.  An initially promising storyline about Akalitis becoming a poker shark went nowhere.  Zoey’s romance with Dr. Prentiss (Morris Chestnut) ended midway through the season, giving the wonderful Wever not much to play.

Unlike Californication, Nurse Jackie feels like it could have one last great season left in it, if the producers knew they could finally put everything on the table.  Before the series goes completely stale, Showtime should give it that opportunity.

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."