September 17, 2012



A suburbanite with money troubles gets into the drug business, gradually becoming corrupt, paranoid and power-hungry, increasingly alienated from family and former life… Not to take anything away from Breaking Bad, which is one of TV’s great shows–but WEEDS was there first.

For 8 seasons, Jenji Kohan’s dramedy about the pot trade has been consistently daring both thematically and conceptually, sparked throughout by a spectacular starring turn by Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin (she had to do practically everything Bryan Cranston does on Breaking–plus be unbearably sexy), and it put Showtime on the map as a genuine competitor to HBO in the realm of buzz-worthy television.  So there’s no joy in saying that its final effort, tonight’s 1-hour series finale, was pretty thoroughly a bummer.

Weeds was known for its radical yearly resets of time and place, and the finale, written by Kohan and directed by Michael Trim,  took one more leap.  We moved ahead around 10 years from the last episode, to the time of Stevie’s bar-mitzvah.  (Science-fictiony only in the sense that iPhones were thinner than ever and now had virtual keyboards.)   This set-up required an avalanche of exposition that took up most of the episode.

Pot has become legal in the interim–except, apparently, in the South–and Nancy and her partners have cleaned up, to the extent that Starbucks wants to buy their entire operation for an unspecified but clearly huge amount of money.  Nancy is a widow once again, having married Rabbi Bloom from this past season, who recently died in a car accident.  Older son Silas (Hunter Parrish) is her chief grower, but his now-wife Megan (Shoshannah Stern) despises Nancy and keeps Silas and their daughter as far away from grandma as possible.  Shane (Alexander Gould) has become a mini-version of his cop mentor Mitch Ouellette (Michael Harney), a wreck complete with drinking problem and 70s porn ‘stache.  Stevie himself is rebellious, especially when Guillermo (Guilleremo Diaz) tells him what he’s somehow never learned, that his late biological father was a drug trafficker for the cartels. Meanwhile, Doug (Kevin Nealon), following through on hints in the previous episode, has actually becoming a fabulously successful guru, with girls to share his bed and fetch him watermelon juice.  In the course of the finale, he finally makes peace with his gay son, a plot thread that no one really cared about.  Other minor details we catch up on are the fates of Sanjay (Maulik Pancholy), U-Turn (Page Kennedy), and the unseen Isabelle, who we learn from her dad Dean (Andy Milder) is now a transsexual.

And Andy (Justin Kirk), who we last saw having his long-awaited sexual bout with Nancy on a Regrestic sidewalk (the site, in fact, of Judah’s death) and then fleeing the scene?  The only suspense of the finale is whether he’ll show up for the bar-mitzvah, since he’s no longer in communication with Nancy and only speaks occasionally to Silas.  He does finally arrive halfway through the episode, and we learn that he’s moved to his (late) father’s house back west and opened a restaurant as he’d always wanted.  He also has a child (named Leni, one of the finale’s few humorous notes) with a waitress with whom he amicably shares custody.  Nancy desperately proposes that they get back together, on either her coast or his, but he rejects her, enjoying the calmer life he lives without her.

And that dull decision is the keystone for the episode.  Nothing terribly dramatic happens during the hour, either good or bad, just an overall feel of rootlessness, alienation and mildly nagging depression.  None of her sons particularly want Nancy involved in their lives, Andy prefers to be 3000 miles away, and Nancy herself has no idea what to do next.  It doesn’t seem to be a question of moral judgment on Nancy for her actions–she gets a sweet final scene of tentative reconciliation at the very end, surrounded by her men as they all share a joint–just a vague emptiness.  It’s an inconclusive and unsatisfying end for a show that was rarely at a loss for melodrama.

All this anomie made the final hour feel overlong (we were dragged through a pre-bar mitzvah reception, the ceremony itself, then the post-services party, and it all felt as long as my own bar-mitzvah weekend), and gave Parker disappointingly few notes to play in a role that’s always let her run the gamut of emotions; she spent the episode mostly looking sad and regretful or peeved,  often with shiny near-tearful eyes.

Weeds deserved a less anticlimactic finish, one as decisive and crazy as Nancy herself had been for most of these 8 seasons.  Series finales, we’re reminded once again, are the hardest things on television to pull off.  But then again, maybe it all played better if you were high.

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."