The Weeds Finale Is Sentimental, Sweet, Meandering And Fitting
By Alex Cranz
Maybe it’s hard to believe. Maybe we are now too distant from that moment. Eight years have passed and television has entered a golden age full of antiheroes and wise cracking wise beyond their years teens. But when Weeds first premiered back in 2005 the landscape was a little different and Weeds wasn’t safe and frivolous tv. It was a comedy, certainly, but there was a razor-sharp edge to the jokes and a sense of satire in every action of the characters on-screen.
Coming on the heels of The Sopranos and preceding Showtime’s embracing of the half hour dramedy and AMC’s rise as the home of the morally conflicted bastard Weeds was a show about a woman up against the ropes after the death of her husband. With nowhere to go–with the promises of her youth shattered by reality she turned to crime as a way to maintain her family’s lifestyle.
Nancy Botwin was caught between the baby boomers and Generation X: old enough to understand the promise of “a good man cures all” but young enough too to know better. Her stories meandered over the years. That zeitgeist of 2005 lost its impact–diluted by ill-advised storylines and a wealth of pretenders and successors to the throne that Weeds built.
But somehow last night it managed to circle back around. Maybe it wasn’t quite the show it once was. The subtlety in the satire was gone and the jokes were almost entirely absent, but the show managed to find honest emotions in there amongst all the wonky plots and narrative forks in the road.
Because it went back to the very beginning. Before Nancy was a drug lord. Before she managed a criminal empire. Before all that she was just an aimless and grieving widow. Sure she was concerned about her kids, but primarily she didn’t know what to do with herself. It took the whole course of the show for her to come back to that fundamental question she seemed terrified to ponder–let alone answer.
When the lover is gone. When the kids are grown. When you’re finally ready to retire and maybe, hopefully, you don’t have the burden of financial woes bringing you down where do you go?
Who do you become when you’re finally free?
This episode was about Nancy cutting ties with her past and finally growing up. Becoming the adult she’d postponed being her entire life. That’s why the best scenes in the episode weren’t any to do with Doug (dude why do you exist) or the crazy things that had happened in the interim between this and last week’s episode or even everything to do with Stevie (though the kid playing Stevie was actually really good).
It was when show creator Jenji Kohan finally stopped screwing around and addressed that question. First by dismantling the woman Nancy is. By taking away the crutch of motherhood and the odd little torch she still carried for her brother-in-law. Mary Louise Parker often did her best work on the show opposite Justin Kirk and between last week and this weeks’ relatively brief scenes she and Kirk did some of their best work ever and making a wildly uneven season shine in the homestretch.
And Hunter Parrish! The guy has been toying with brilliance for the last three seasons and in this episode he’s the one actor to really sell the ten-year time jump. Parrish is twenty-five but he plays a thirtysomething with absolute conviction and nailed the end of Silas’s arc. Where Nancy’s arc has been quite cyclical over the last eight seasons Silas’s was genuinely parabolic. Both characters were dynamic. They changed. But Nancy often regressed while Silas always grew. So that boy who poked holes in the condom to keep his girlfriend out of college could become the businessman and dad who can calmly tell his mom he loves her but has outgrown her all while getting his portrait done.
It’s fitting how the show ends. If you’d asked me last week how it would have ended I’d have laid odds on Nancy dying. I suppose that always seemed to be the case. Antiheroes don’t live. They aren’t given the chance to grow beyond their darkness and become human beings who might be good. Their endings are bleak, depressing or entirely nebulous.
Nancy sits out on the porch and you see the last few days running clearly through her head. You see Stevie grown up and good and Shane finally confronting demons that will take him years to purge and Silas casually telling his mother she isn’t his everything any more. You see the melancholia of a single mom with no one left to mother and no spouse to find comfort in.
For just a moment you think it’s not unreasonable for her to die just then. Her life’s work is complete. Her story has been told. Perhaps that bullet in her brain will shift or some undiagnosed heart problem will take hold or a forgotten enemy will appear to do her in.
But then her family joins her on the steps. The family she pulled together out of desperation and crafted into a genuinely loving group.
Because Nancy isn’t alone. She’s not dead or forgotten or hated. She’s just a widow and a mom who made a family, lost and found it and now finally, is free.