Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds

***Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t seen the Fourth Season of Weeds, why would you be interested in reading this anyway?***

I think we all knew that after Nancy burned down their little box on the hillside at the end of Season 3, that creator Jenji Kohan and company were going to have to take the herb out of the suburb. Burning bridges is one thing. Burning an entire town is another.

We also had high hopes for the series which continued to keep things fresh and intense – a feat for any show after three seasons. We were also a little relieved. The last episode of Season Three wasn’t exactly the cliff hanger that we’ve seen in seasons past, giving us a little time to breathe and question where Nancy and her crew could go next.

Now that Season 4 is over, we can breathe again. Sort of.

My personal fascination with this show stems mostly from the innovative writing, my crush on Mary Louise Parker, and the envelope that they continually seem to push while giving an intimate look at a family forever falling apart. After all that intensity, we were all due for a beach vacation to cool down. I just wish that things hadn’t been kept cool so long.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into this season the way I have in the past. I think, after smoking a bowl and talking it over with an orange unicorn, that the main problem was the sheer number of storylines clouding the series. With too many storylines, they couldn’t go as deep as they have before, and that resulted in a lack of connection. Let’s count it out:

1. Nancy delves deeper into trafficking with Guillermo until she’s set up behind a maternity store that acts as a front for a tunnel to Mexico where drugs, weapons and people can be herded through. She starts a whirlwind love affair with the big boss, who happens to be the Mayor of Tijuana, until her long-dormant ethics make it hard for her to continue her line of work.

2. Andy is mostly on his own until he and Doug start a coyote business to make money and get Doug’s dream girl back from Mexico. When that falls apart, he floats around without much story until Doug’s dream girl seduces him and comes between him and Doug.

3. Doug mopes around, pursues his dream girl, and proves to be an even bigger asshole than we’d thought possible. He mostly sits around, smokes pot and avoids his major life problems.

4. Silus enjoys himself all season by having sex with a gorgeous neighbor who owns a cheese shop and lets him set up his growing/dealing business inside.

5. Shane has little to do until he falls in league with two bad girls at his new school and has his own sexual awakenings and a touch of popularity for the first time in his life.

6. Celia starts off in prison when everyone fingers her for the dealing business that Nancy set up. Despite the betrayal, she falls in line later, working for Nancy and developing a drug addiction. As her family life falls apart at her own hands, she heads to Mexico to reconnect with her daughter, Quinn, who we haven’t seen since the first few episodes of Season 1.

7. Dean and Isabelle stumble through their own familial issues, and Isabelle decides to leave her father after he decides he has to move across the country to get work.

Clearly, there’s a lot going on, and sometimes, not much going on at all. There’s a lot of storylines because the characters have been, for the most part, split up from each other. Sanjay returned from time to time for comedic effect, but, perhaps the biggest misstep in the season, Conrad and Heylia are nowhere to be found. Plus, the way in which he was written out after a few episodes makes the inclusion of Albert Brooks as the grandfather seem more like a false start instead of the genius move it felt like in the beginning.

Basically, the stakes are just not high enough for any of the characters except for Nancy. As she gets deeper and deeper into the violent, unethical world that lies just behind drug-dealing, the other characters seem to float around without much direction.

On the other hand, the diaspora of characters works well thematically. Silus’ love affair with a middle-aged woman as well as Shane’s discovery of nude photos of his mother (and subsequent masturbation sessions) are excellent Freudian messages. Nancy’s absence from her family nearly all season shows just how much she’s needed as an anchor, but aimless wandering does little to advance stories.

Despite my lackadaisical feelings, the season finale was about as perfect an episode as Weeds can provide. It makes me wish all the other episodes were written as tightly. It provides the natural development of Andy’s love for Nancy as well as the abrupt cliffhanger of Nancy showing her lover and crime boss, Esteban, a sonogram of his unborn child – telling him it “feels like a boy.”

Wow.

Nancy’s story this season brought to light the ethical gray area of crime. There’s no doubt that human trafficking and the sale of hardcore drugs has a negative effect on certain circles of society, but Weeds dares to ask if the process is all bad if the proceeds go toward the direly needed infrastructure development that impoverished Mexican towns need. It dares to ask if the presence of police enforcement wasn’t necessary, if drug sales would be seen in a positive light. At the end of the day, there’s no clear answer.

Whatever the opportunities that moving closer to the border provided, it might be the change that felt so jarring. Weeds succeeds best when it points out the hypocrisy of suburban life – at least it’s done so for three seasons – so when the characters are removed from that overarching theme, it loses a little something.

Overall, there were a few solid jaw-dropping moments – the torture of Agent Schlatter, the revelation that the drug overlord was the benevolent mayor of Tijuana, of course Nancy’s out-of-the-blue pregnancy – but during the season, it felt like the writers didn’t capitalize on the serious drama that could come from the family’s situation. Andy and Doug are smuggling illegal aliens across the border, for god’s sake, and the only danger they’re ever in is the sights of a weak-willed Minute Man. Even Nancy, for all the trouble she gets herself into, is never in much danger from the authorities or her drug-smuggling cohorts until the very end of the season. But when it does get real, it gets really, really good. Even though, I would have hoped that tension could have been maintained throughout the mid-season episodes, Weeds got me hooked with the last twenty seconds of the season finale to look forward to Season Five which should show up in nine months or so.

Did you watch season 4 of Weeds? If so, what did you think?


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