'Weeds' season finale makes a splash
I have a really, really, really stupid question regarding "Weeds": Where has the majority of this season taken place? Have we been in random corners of Mexico? Ren-Mar? Some new SoCal beach community? Cleveland? Have all of the characters been in roughly the same place for most of the time or have they been separated completely, only occasionally coming together by accident?
"Weeds," a show once so confident in both its voice and its sense of place, has been geographically and totally adrift for two seasons now. As diffuse as Season Four was, it was positively single-minded compared to the schizophrenic fifth season that scattered strong, dark comedy in amongst episodes that cheated time and character motivation with near-alienating abandon. I enjoyed broad swaths of the season, but only after I realized that the episode-to-episode carousel of Nancy Botwin's affections for Mayor Esteban was irrelevant.
Season Five of "Weeds" concluded on Monday (Aug. 31) with an act of violence that was played for shock-value, but could hardly have been more predictable. For attentive "Weeds" viewers, the finale was like a one-third-completed game of "Clue": We knew who was going to be involved, but the location and implement were left in doubt until the last minute.
[A discussion of the "Weeds" finale and a wrap-up of the season after the break... It's not a recap. But it will spoil everything, so watch the finale first, eh?]
After four seasons of actively steering her self-destruction and the destruction of her family, her home and her community, Nancy Botwin attempted a different approach this season. "Weeds" has always been about an woman operating in an environment of masculinity. [Or at least it has been since the show unceremoniously dispatched with Tonye Patano's Heylia, an inspired character who deserved better than wherever the writers eventually shuffled her off to.] Nancy has always been a character who controlled her own destiny, even if she wasn't exactly steering it. That ended in last season's finale when a pregnant Nancy put herself at the mercy of her unborn child and her Mexican druglord/politician baby daddy.
We didn't really understand it yet and perhaps Nancy didn't either, but she had a new path: Stop emasculating men yourself. Just set back and let them do it to themselves.
As Nancy put it in Monday's finale, "I can't rely on men. It doesn't mean I don't love them. Doesn't mean I walk out. It just means I adjusted my expectations. Men are weak."
Esteban, so ruthless and upwardly mobile, turned out to just be a puppet under the joint thumbs of Nancy, powerbroker Pilar and even his young daughter. In probably the worst moment of the season, Esteban got offended because Nancy was wearing his deodorant, growling that she smelled like a man. Maybe Esteban is so stupid he needed that spelled out, but I'd like to think most viewers had already figured out the conceit.
Ever the show's paragon of manliness in arrested development, Andy pretended to be his older brother to collect an inheritance, squandered the inheritance on video games and the General Lee, convinced himself he was ready for a mature relationship with a doctor (Alanis Morissette, whose comic time remains intact from the days of "You Can't Do That On Television"), but ran for the hills when confronted by an anti-abortion wacko with a crossbow.
Those were the complicated and multi-layered neuterings. Dean (Andy Milder) and Doug (Kevin Nealon) make eunuchs of themselves. First Dean closed Doug's penis in a desk drawer to even the scales from many a previous indiscretion. Then Dean put his junk in a mug of boiling hot coffee to even the scales from the drawer incident. [Dean, in an attempt to get his mojo back, even spent last week's episode playing an unconvincing African-American police officer, beating "Mad Men" co-star John Slattery into black-face by six days.] Either way, it was only through that sacrifice that Dean and Doug were able to stand as henchmen in Queen Celia's newly formed drug operation at the finale's end, joining Celia's gay daughter Isabelle (Allie Grant) and the welcome return of Maulik Pancholy's Sanjay who is, we assume, still gay.
"Weeds" has an interesting sense of gender and sexual roles, especially as they relate to power. I'm not sure that it's a prism that stands up well to close examination, just as "Weeds" has rarely met a racial or ethnic stereotype it couldn't play into. Since white folks and straight folks have never ended up looking so great on "Weeds," Jenji Kohan and company have always been able to hide behind a curtain of misanthropy, rather than localized contempt.
The only cohesive arc of the entire scene was Shane's descent into nihilism and his desensitization to sex, drugs, alcohol and violence. In fact, Shane's arc has probably the been the only cohesive arc of the past three or four seasons. I don't know if you can really justify anything that's happened to any of the other characters, particularly since Agrestic burnt to the ground, but Shane has been a well-constructed Molotov Cocktail and Nancy and company should consider themselves lucky if this is as far as he goes. Even though he just celebrated his 15th birthday, Alexander Gould has played every step of the journey flawlessly, so well that you understand why the writers set Hunter Parish's Silas adrift this season. As recently as last year, he was the six-pack-baring teen Lothario setting hearts aflutter and bedding Julie Bowen in the back of a bakery. Since he wasn't interesting, though, Parish became just another emasculated "Weeds" man, rendered powerless by his step-sister Adelita (Seychelle Gabriel), who looked refined and strong, but was really just another junkie.
The wonder of the finale's climax -- Shane, shot earlier in the season as part of an assassination attempt on Nancy, crushed Pilar's skull with a croquette mallet, leaving her floating in either an homage to "Sunset Blvd" or a pre-homage to the new "Melrose Place" -- wasn't that Shane snapped, but that it took him so long to kill a human being. We're several years past the far-more-innocent Shane who shot a mountain lion, filmed a terrorist video in which he beheaded a classmate (or a doll) and pleasured himself to pictures of his mom. We're not so distant from Bully-Pummeling Shane, Threesome-Having Shane, Drug-Dealing Shane, Bird-Killing Shane, STD-Contracting Shane and Boozing Shane. Nancy lost Shane a long time ago and she's been looking at him with sad eyes every couple episodes, as if that might be enough to cure him. We may be due for an entire season of "Weeds" dedicated to Shane Botwin in a mental institution. If we take the finale's title -- "All About My Mom" -- seriously, Shane's action was just his way of protecting his family (not all that much different from the way Nancy's been protecting her family for years), but a more plausible explanation is just that Shane is a sociopath.
If you'd asked me to guess, going into the finale, my "Clue" prediction would have had Shane killing Esteban in the parlor with a gun.
I could go on, but I'd kinda rather open the floor.
Any thoughts on the "Weeds" finale, readers? Does it set things up interestingly for next season? Or did you stop watching long ago?