July 2, 2012



WEEDS:  Sunday 10PM on Showtime


WHERE WE WERE:  After a season largely concerned with a battle for supremacy in the New York drug trade, both within and outside the family, there seemed to be a moment of comparative serenity for Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) and her clan at the upstate enclave she’d moved them into.  Older son Silas (Hunter Parrish) would work with her and grow his own cannibis crop, younger son Shane (Alexander Gould) had secretly joined the Police Academy, brother-in-law (and possessor of an ever-unrequited love for Nancy) Andy (Justin Kirk) was involved with Nancy’s sister Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh), with whom Nancy had worked out some shared custody of Nancy’s youngest son (the one fathered by a Mexican druglord), and old stoner pal Doug (Kevin Nealon) had a rewarding job making money for unscrupulous Wall Streeters.  And then, as they say, a shot rang out.

WHERE WE ARE:  Exactly where we left off, with confirmation that yes, Nancy was hit, and in the head.  After some moments of near-delirium in the ambulance, she spent most of WEEDS’ 8th (and final) season premiere, written by series creator Jenji Kohan and directed by Michael Trim, in a medically-induced coma, while the doctors waited to see if the swelling would go down around her brain.  At the end of the episode, her shooter was identified for viewers (SPOILER ALERT:  he’s the son of Martin Donovan’s character, a DEA agent who was briefly Nancy’s husband), but as previous scenes in the episode had made clear, there were so many people over the 7 seasons of the show with some motive to kill Nancy that it could have been one of dozens, and naming the particular assailant among them didn’t provide any great thrill.  (More like “Really?  Him?”)

The episode focused instead on Nancy’s family members, and aside from the high drama of Nancy’s condition (which doesn’t generate a tremendous amount of suspense, since it’s unlikely Nancy will spend the show’s final season either dead, in a coma, or with serious brain damage), it was all a little tepid.  Silas found out that Shane is a prospective cop, Andy had sex again with Jill and then a lengthy conversation about the existence of God with the hospital’s Jewish chaplain, Doug tried to feel up Nancy’s comatose body.  Not much by the usual standards of Weeds.

Weeds tends to be uneven, but no show on television has taken more regular risks or transformed itself more dramatically from its original roots.  Years before Breaking Bad was on the air, Weeds was telling the story of an ordinary suburbanite whose money problems led her into drug-dealing–and who found out that she liked it.  As this season’s opening credit sequence recounts, every season of Weeds has been different, shifting locations and tones on a yearly basis.  What started out as a parody about suburbia and its hypocritical proprieties became a violent urban drug melodrama with gags.

The show’s central anchor has always been Parker, unfailingly charismatic, sexy and morally ambiguous through all Nancy’s turns of fate.  The fact that the season premiere required her to be either babbling or unconscious through the episode meant that the show was temporarily absent its most important ingredient, as none of the other characters have ever had anywhere near her dramatic heft or substance.  This will presumably change quickly as the season progresses.

Any time a series announces its final season in advance, a sense of expectation is created:  how will it all end?  Few shows have had a wider spectrum of possibilities than Weeds, which considering its range of settings and genres over the years, can plausibly go just about anywhere.  There’s about a 50/50 chance that Kohan will figure out a way to make it all come together over the course of this last summer, but however that works out, Weeds, thanks in large part to Parker, has certainly been one hell of a trip.

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."