Weeds: Season 8 — a review

The series Weeds aired on premium cable channel Showtime between 2005 and 2012. This means that this review is for a series that ended about nine years ago.

While it’s not uncommon for me to get around to watching a series long after it went off the air, the truth is I began watching this one during the timespan it was still a current show. I’ve never had Showtime. I was watching the series through those little silver discs that I used to get delivered to my house from Netflix in those red-and-white envelopes. Just a guess here, but this means I began watching the series sometime after the summer of 2006, when the Season 1 DVD was released.

I stopped watching Weeds after the finale of its penultimate season. I have a theory to explain why, but I don’t honestly remember the truth.

You won’t find reviews for the first seven seasons, written by me, on this site. I did write reviews, but prior to December 2015, these reviews were posted on the Netflix website itself. Netflix discontinued the ability to post reviews in 2018, citing declining customer use. I had stopped posting on the Netflix site after I began posting on WordPress.com. All of the reviews I posted on the other site have since disappeared into the ether. I never bothered to print anything I posted to Netflix, and they have completely purged all reviews from their database.

I had something similar happen to me at a previous blogging site I used to post stuff on. Non-reviews, mostly. This site was Thoughts.com, which also no longer seems to exist. I printed out a few things I posted there, but only a tiny fraction.

Chances are, WordPress will be around for a while, but I’m prepared for the same thing to happen again. It’s a hard truth to learn, but everything ends at some point. I’ve posted over a million words on WordPress, which is the equivalent of around four thousand printed double-spaced pages. I print off some of the things I write, but probably less than ten percent. My personal philosophy is that no time spent writing is a waste.

A brief aside. I sometimes wish I still had a copy of my first novel, written in longhand using a Faber Castel Velvet No. 2 pencil (a brand to which I had a fetishistic attachment). Written while I was in high school, it was a surreal science-fiction comedy that owed more than a little to Douglas Adams. I never had an accurate wordcount for the story, written in a large spiral-bound notebook. At best, it was a short novel, but—more honestly—probably just a long novella. Who can say? No one, at this point.

Sometimes, I think I’d like to read it again, all of these decades later, but it’s probably best that I cannot. It’s a better work in my memory than it would be in reality.

This is all my characteristically long-winded way of saying my reviews for the first seven seasons of this show no longer exist. I can summarize them for you, though.

I liked the series a lot for the first two, maybe three, seasons. Then, it grew increasingly more convoluted and ridiculous until the finale of Season 7, when lead character, soccer-mom drug-dealer Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), was shot in the head by a sniper.

β€œWhat?!?”

I have to warn you about spoilers for a nine-year-old cable series? Re-read what I just wrote. I said β€œlead character.” How often do lead characters get killed off in the next-to-last season of a series? Even as I watched the episode in question, all those years ago, I knew that Nancy wasn’t dead. I just wasn’t sure that I cared any longer.

That’s one theory explaining why I stopped watching the show. I was no longer invested in the characters because the crazy plot of the story completely wrecked my willing suspension of disbelief. I woke up from the fictive dream, in other words.

That doesn’t really sound like me, though. I have the collector’s curse. I’m a completist by nature. I’ve watched the final seasons of series I no longer enjoyed just to be able to claim that I watched them all. It’s a sickness. I’m looking at you, Gotham.

I’ve always kept Weeds in the back of my mind. I never hated the series, really. I always planned to finish it. Most likely, what happened was that I made it through the seventh season before the eighth was released on DVD. If I had to wait a year for Netflix to have the discs, my interest may have waned. My DVD consumption also went down after I stopped working an early-early morning shift that required me to attempt to go to sleep while the sun was still shining, every day. I used to watch DVDs until it became a struggle to remain awake. Since I spent less time watching movies and television shows, getting back to Weeds probably became less attractive than watching whatever was newer and more shiny. I knew it would still be there when I got around to watching it.

Netflix started reminding me that they had the series as a streaming option, which prompted me to start thinking about the things I liked about the series. If you’re anything like me, very good memories and very bad memories about a television series (about anything, I suppose) tend to stand out, like neon signs on a moonless night. I seem to possess more very good than very bad memories about this series.

Soon after I began watching Season 8, I saw that it would soon be leaving Netflix. No worries. It was only thirteen episodes, and I had plenty of time, even watching only two episodes per week.

Okay, SPOILER ALERT!!!

Nancy Botwin didn’t die after getting headshot by a sniper. But, that’s the cliffhanger we went out on all those years ago. Talk about suspense. A couple of episodes into the season, Nancy still has some occasional memory issues but otherwise she’s no worse for wear. She doesn’t even have a scar on her forehead after a few episodes, something that the character points out herself.

Lampshading, as used when pertaining to comics, television or other media (don’t use urbandictionary.com for this one: their definition is disgusting), is when a character in the fictional work itself draws attention to elements that are clichΓ©d or overused, or potential viewer criticisms. By pointing out that she had no visible scar where the .22 round penetrated her skull, Nancy kept the viewer from wondering about this apparent goof for thirteen episodes. Once you’re aware of lampshading as a thing, it becomes difficult not to see it everywhere.

Now I’m going to tell you the plot of this season. The plot is merely what happens to the characters in the series, nothing more, and the plot of the entire story of the Botwins and their extended family and friends had gotten so muddied and hard-to-follow, not to mention (again) ridiculous and hard-to-believe, even in the moment, that it really didn’t matter what happened in the final season. These thirteen episodes exist merely to have a little bit of closure in the macro Botwin universe and to give us some idea of what happens to the characters when the cameras stop rolling.

Nancy survives the shooting, as I’ve already leaked, and it turns out that the shooter was Tim Scottson (Daryl Sabara), the son of her late second husband, DEA agent Peter Scottson, whom I’ve already forgotten. The β€œWho Shot Nancy?” plot doesn’t go very far. Nancy, once she comes out of her medically-induced coma, seems to be focused on forgiveness. She wants her family to turn their collective lives around and go straight. Shane Botwin (Alexander Gould), however, has been training to be police and hunts down Scottson himself. It seems fitting that psychopath-in-training Shane becomes a police officer*

*[editor’s note — the author apologizes if his gross over-generalization of police as psychopaths offended anyone (especially the psychopathic police officers); a few bad apples murder the people they are pledged to protect and ruin the whole barrel]

Nancy’s sister Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh) moves in for a while, with her twin daughters. She ends up sleeping with Andy Botwin (Justin Kirk) and Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon). Doug, for some reason, has become a non-blood-related Botwin.

Nancy becomes a pharmaceutical rep. Her company grows medical marijuana legally, so she manages to get Silas a job with the company. Silas Botwin (Hunter Parrish) becomes a legitimate marijuana grower. He also reconnects with Megan Beals, played by deaf actress Shoshannah Stern. I couldn’t remember her on Weeds, but I knew the actress from Supernatural, where she played Eileen Leahy. I never cared much for the character of Silas, who always seemed spoiled and petulant to me. He still does in this season.

Doug starts a fraudulent charity, and, later, his own cult, when the charity doesn’t pan out. You know how Doug is.

For complicated reasons—but mostly so that the series can come full circle—the Botwins end up back in what used to be Agrestic (then Majestic and, finally, Regrestic), where the show started its crazy train ride. This gives us a chance to play catchup with Conrad Shepard (Romany Malco) and Guillermo Gomez (Guillermo Diaz), and remember the show back when it was very good. Nancy has hatched a scheme to guarantee their future success and wealth.

All of which leads to a time-jump into the far future of 2022. I’ve come to believe that future time-jumps are a trope that I could do without in series finales. This one does nothing to shake that belief.

In this imagined future, marijuana has been legalized (which has come partially true) and the Botwins are running several successful marijuana-based businesses. Shane has become an alcoholic cop who still hangs out with his alcoholic mentor Mitch Ouellette (Michael Harney). Doug, whose cult has become a tremendous Scientology-sized success, decides to reconcile with his gay son (Justin Chatwin). Andy, who ten years earlier had sex with Nancy, but then decided that he was better off without her because she would never love him the way he loved her, has finally become a father, and a chef, and is happy with his life.

I’ve always talked about how characters are more important to me than plot-driven narratives, and the best stories are when both characters and plots feed off each other, like a perpetual motion machine. The characters in this series are all quite shallow. While there is the illusion that the characters have grown and changed over the eight seasons, they really haven’t, although the younger characters did indeed grow and change. I think we’re meant to sympathize with Nancy’s plight. I never really did, and when I think about everything she did during the series, I think she’s truly a villain. Like Walter White, without the narrative cohesion and masterful storytelling.

In this final season, we are there when Nancy meets husband number whatever, Rabbi Dave Bloom, while swimming naked in his swimming pool. In the time-jump episodes at the end, we find out that the rabbi died in a car accident. This was necessary from a story perspective only to drive home the running gag that all of Nancy’s husbands die and she’s incapable of having a lasting relationship with anyone. Hilarious.

I just re-read what I’ve written in this review. It sounds like I didn’t enjoy finishing off this series at all. That’s simply not true. It was nice to visit with the Botwins again, mostly because I’m no longer invested in the chaos that’s inherent in this series. I genuinely like most of the actors on the show.

Since I stopped watching it all those years ago, I’ve also enjoyed Mary-Louise Parker in The West Wing, where she played a smarter, more focused but no less sexy character. We were both born in South Carolina and we both later escaped, so I feel a bit of a kinship to the actress. She’s been in a lot of movies during her career as well. I’ve seen only a small fraction of them, it seems. She must choose projects aimed at a more highbrow audience.

This series was good to pick out actors who later appeared in things I did like, however. I remember seeing Pablo Schreiber and Michael Harney on another Jenji Kohan series, Orange is the New Black. Justin Kirk appeared on Modern Family in a recurring role. Justin Chatwin, who played Doug’s gay son in the future, had a recurring role on Shameless. I mentioned Shoshannah Stern already.

I could go down the IMdB cast list for all eight seasons and write about actors whose work I enjoyed in this series. I’ll spare you that. The premise of the show was great, and the production values were high. It succeeded at creating memorable moments throughout, but ultimately failed at stitching these moments together with a coherent story.

Firewater’s Better-Late-Than-Never Report Card Grade: C

Not a failure. It’s a series that I would still cautiously recommend that people watch, although I would feel compelled to disclose its abundant weaknesses. Since we are friends, you and I, I would tell you to watch the first three seasons and then bail. Life is short, and there are better forms of entertainment out there.

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