I have never been quiet about how disappointed I’ve been with the last several seasons of Showtime’s Weeds. In fact, I named it one of the most disappointing television shows of 2011, a real shame considering it was one of my favorite shows throughout its first three seasons. I grew to loathe Mary-Louise Parker’s Nancy Botwin which make me loathe the show just a little bit more as Mary-Louise has long been one of my favorite actresses. The show’s writers took Nancy from a misguided but ultimately kindhearted woman to something far different. She was no longer the likable misfit Mom doing whatever she could do for her kids to a detestable, thrill seeking woman doing whatever she could to keep her life from getting boring despite her kids. Somewhere around the end of season seven, I had enough. I’d stuck with the show through season after season of ridiculousness only to realize I just didn’t care anymore. I tuned in for season eight for one reason – I heard it would be the show’s last. I was there in the beginning and I decided I wanted to be there for the end. I suppose I just wanted to see if they could let the show die with the little bit of dignity it had left. I’m glad I did.
At the conclusion of season seven, viewers were treated to one of Weeds‘ trademark cliffhangers – something I always felt the show did beautifully. They just had a way of making you want to tune in again no matter how bored you’d been through the rest of the season. In the cliffhanger, we see each member of the Botwin clan through the scope of a rifle. We hear a gunshot. Fade to black. I wondered if the show had finally done what I’d been hoping it would do since at least season five – kill off Nancy Botwin. Fast forward to the season eight opener where we learn that it was in fact Nancy who was shot and it wasn’t looking good for her survival. From there, the season only got better. We were treated to the first bits of character development we’d gotten in seasons. Nancy woke up from her coma wanting to change. While that was ultimately short lived, it was nice to see Nancy behaving at least somewhat close to the Nancy she’d been when we fell in love with her. She was concerned for her kids. She was trying to do better.
Silas has long been my favorite character on Weeds and not just because Hunter Parrish is dreamy. He might not necessarily be the most law abiding citizen on television, what with his passion for growing pot, but he’s always seemed just a little more mature than everyone else on the show. He’s always been willing to call Nancy on her bull but at the end of the say, he’s always still proven that he’s just a guy that loves his Mama, even with her many, many faults. While Shane (the brilliant Alexander Gould) has always been a little unbalanced, to say the least, Silas has always been more easy to relate to. Sure he poked holes in condoms to get his girlfriend pregnant so she wouldn’t leave, but unlike many of the characters on the show, he’s really grown and developed. While a show like Weeds doesn’t necessarily have a moral center, Silas was at least the voice of reason. He wants to live a normal life. He wants to grow up. He wants to get rid of the drama that constantly hangs over him and the entire Botwin family. I suppose that’s what I liked most about this final season. Silas really got what he’s always wanted and deserved – a normal life.
The question I had going into Weeds season eight was simple. What could they possibly do to make up for the last several seasons of mediocrity after such a promising start? The answer? Go back to where they started. Nancy was less adrenaline hungry and seemed more focused on putting her family first, especially young Stevie. While there were tons of ups and downs, for the first time in years, it seemed like Nancy’s heart was finally in the right place. More than that though, I liked the idea that they didn’t completely change her character. This turn for the better was a struggle for Nancy, and not an entirely successful one. There were lots of roadblocks and she barreled headlong into a lot of them but she at least recognized that she needed to do something different and she tried. The fact that she went back to shilling weed in the end actually felt kind of good. It was a far cry from what she was doing when the series stated but come on, did anyone really think the Botwin family would ever really be out of the weed business?
While it’s tempting to say Weeds redeemed itself by bringing Nancy back to earth, that isn’t entirely true. There needed to be a dramatic turn around in the show itself, not just in Nancy. We’d gotten so far from where we’d started and that was a problem. I believe the show underestimated one very important fact – the supporting cast outside of the Botwin family was just as important to the show as the core cast. The eighth season finally recognized that and rewarded our patience by bringing back some of our favorite characters from the first few seasons. How delightful was it to see Conrad (Romany Malco) again? How happy did it make me to hear Guillermo (Guillermo Diaz) call Nancy ‘Blanca’ again? I love those characters (and the actors that portray them) so much. They were welcomed back with open arms. These nods to the past brought the show full circle. We were back to where we started but the journey was not forgotten. All was not forgiven when Nancy visited Regrestic and that’s the way it needed to be. I loved the idea that the series finale started with Nancy at a PTA meeting arguing her point as two people watching whispered about her – a huge nod to how we met Nancy eight seasons ago. I thought it was a small, but brilliant touch that let us know that while some things had changed, some things had stayed the same.
Of course there were things about the eighth season of Weeds that didn’t work. While bringing back some of the old characters worked (Romany and Guillermo, of course, but also Shoshannah Stern as Megan, Renee Victor as Lupita and Andy Milder as much missed Dean Hodes to name just a few), some old characters just didn’t seem to have a purpose. Kevin Nealon is hilarious and I adore Doug but was there even really a reason he was around this season? He seemed to be on a completely different show than the rest of the characters. He was off having his own adventures which, although entertaining, did nothing at all to contribute to the story. Each time his character appeared, I felt like I’d turned the channel. And Doug started a religion? And made up with his son? I call shenanigans on that entire plot line. Granted I was beyond ecstatic to see Justin Chatwin on the show again (one of my favorite young actors by a mile) but maybe there was a less ridiculous way to bring him back. His scenes with Nancy though? Well worth Doug’s somewhat tacked on story line.
Let’s take a moment to talk about Andy Botwin. First, Justin Kirk is magnificent and should be cast in everything. He did such a beautiful job with this character over the years. It seems like so long ago that Andy first appeared, waking everyone in the house as he cooked breakfast in the kitchen. What a brilliant way to bring him back in the season finale. Even though we only last saw Andy in episode eleven, he had been gone from Nancy’s life for ten years in the Weeds timeline and you could really feel that absence when Nancy walked into the kitchen and saw him there. There is so much love between these two characters, it was heartbreaking to know that he really had done as he promised and walked away from her and from her life. As a viewer, it was clear it was the best thing for him, but it still stung in a pretty big way. Over the course of this one season, we’ve seen Andy grow and mature so much. That was never more evident than it was in the finale.
Perhaps what worked best about the eighth season of Weeds was that producers didn’t give Nancy Botwin a shiny, happy ending. She’s heartbroken, lonely and now has to sow the seeds she’s planted. Now twice widowed with no kids left in the nest, she has to face the fact that she is really alone and there is no one to blame for that but herself. She’s fought a war for nothing and now has to stand back and survey the casualties. She’s lost Andy – a man who really, genuinely loved her. Shane is a mess. Stevie is running off to boarding school and Silas has started a new life that leaves him little time for his mother. Weeds didn’t cop out. It didn’t give us a pretty picture to end with. It gave us a pretty realistic view of what would happen if someone lived their life the way Nancy Botwin lived hers. The scene between Nancy and Andy in the hallway in the finale? Probably my favorite Weeds moment of all time. It was real and it was honest. It broke my heart and finally I realized I actually cared about these characters again. When did that happen?