Created by Jenji Kohan
Starring Mary Louise Parker, Justin Kirk, Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 2, 2009
Last year at about this time, when I reviewed Season Three of Showtime’s Weeds for this very website, I complained about how the DVD case trotted out that it was made from 100% recycled materials. I wondered who they could possibly market that fact to. People who hadn’t seen the show who felt they HAD to buy it because, well, those seasons of Six Feet Under wouldn’t allow them to be better people by having ITS packaging made from recycled shit? People who like the show and were gonna buy it anyway, even if the packaging were made from poodle ass and baby seal hymen? The point eluded me then and it eludes me now. I’m not saying you can’t make your stuff out of other folks’ leftovers, but quit being a dick about it.
Sure enough, another year, another packaging issue. Not with the packaging itself, I don’t give a fuck about that anymore, and yet I am mystified by the pull-quote from The Miami Herald that they put on the back of the box:
“Smart… Smug… And habit-forming.”
“Smug?” That’s what you’re saying to pull folks in? They… They know what that word means, right? I’m not necessarily saying the show isn’t smug (as mentioned, the show actively markets that its DVD sets are recycled), but there’s some shit you just don’t share with the rest of the class.
But enough of that. On to the review proper. When a show runs for as long as Weeds has, change is inevitable. Sometimes these changes are good: The Wire never stayed in one place for more than a season and Angel moving from a hotel to heading Wolfram and Hart improbably worked out well.
So too is the case with pot-dealing soccer mom Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker). The last time we saw The Widow Botwin, she was uprooting her family from their gated community after it caught fire. Somewhere in this move though, aliens must have abducted poor Nancy and replaced her brain with wet cotton balls. One of the most complex and intelligent characters on TV today spends most of these thirteen episodes getting beaten mercilessly with the Idiot Stick. Sorry, folks, but Season Four of Weeds, at the level of its writing, sucks on ice.
So after burning her own house down, Nancy picks up the rest of the Botwin Brood: brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) and two sons Silas and Shane (Hunter Parrish and Alexander Gould), and moves to Ren Mar, down by the beach. This is where the grandmother of Nancy’s late huband lives, shepherded in her comatose state by Nancy’s irascible father-in-law Lenny, played by Albert Brooks. This is where I break down and admit that this is actually enjoyable. That anything can be improved by adding Albert Brooks isn’t an opinion, it’s a law of physics.
But alas, Brooks is only in four episodes, and we have to put up with Nancy acting wildly out of character. She’s moved on up from dealing to trafficking marijuana, being set up as a front in an outlet mall maternity store. There’s a tunnel in the back room that leads across the border into Mexico, where the pot (among other things) comes through. Naturally Nancy, who up until this point in the series was at least as cautious as she reasonably could be for a mother doing illegal shit to feed her family, dumbly decides to go down into the tunnel, not knowing what the hell is on the other side. Why does she do this?
Because the plot requires her to, of course.
On the other side is the charismatic Esteban (Demian Bichir, the dime-store Antonio Banderas). He’s the head of the operation and, in spite of doing things she doesn’t approve of, she falls in love with him, even though associating with him is an extraordinarily dangerous proposition.
Because he’s soooooooooooo handsome.
At the very least, though, the acting still holds up. Parker is still the best actress on television and I’ve seen precious few in that trade, male or female, that can portray a conflict of two very different emotions using only her face. Given the that writers can’t fucking make up their minds this season as to who Nancy Botwin IS, this happens more than is warranted.
Also of note are Kirk and co-star Kevin Nealon, who never fail to bring the funny. But the writers have also failed the character of Celia Hodes, Nancy’s best friend, previously brought to life with gusto by Elizabeth Perkins. The most fascinating thing about that character is her arcs of both redemption and repulsion. She started nasty, tried to get better, only to sell out her friends and generally be a miserable excuse for a human being. This happened once or twice every season, so we were always on our toes as to how this character would behave in a given situation. Lazy writing in this fourth season, however, has just made her the butt of some foul-ass jokes. She’s now just the butt-monkey that bad shit happens to, leaving a gifted actress like Perkins high and dry. For shame.
Now comes the part where I say whether or not I recommend Season Four of Weeds. I don’t, to be quite honest, but this is where the double-edged sword portion comes in. I’ve already seen the first three episodes of Season Five on Showtime and there is a much marked improvement from where they were at this time is Season Four, and it takes great pains to, if not adequately explained, then at least gestures towards a reason why Nancy has been acting the way she’s been acting.
So should you forsake a good show because of one bad season? I don’t think so. Much like Season Six of Buffy or Season Two of Lost, Season Four of Weeds is just one of those things we’re just gonna have to grit our teeth through.