I gotta admit, I am hooked on Weeds now. Nancy Botwin and family had a very rough S03 which started with the follow up to the S02 finale where all the characters were running for their lives more or less and ending actually with the flight of all of Majestic and formerly-known-as-Agrestic. While I was mildly disappointed with Season 2, this installment was really good.
The introduction of the slimy developer played by Matthew Modine (!!) was at times hilarious. [Aside: perhaps it was the association of Modine-Birdy-Gabriel that subconsciously led me to play So yesterday?] But what I appreciated most were the many jabs taken at the religious right: their hijacking of the public school system, their hypocracy, their arrogance and annoying militance all were well portrayed and lambasted. The touch of the giant cross was particularly appreciated. As was Shane’s demasking of the Christian summer school. There was also a nice shot across the bow of the military with Andy’s battle buddy getting killed by an army drone and the aftermath of that event. I think that is what distinguishes Weeds is the action in the foreground and the political subtext in the background.
If I compare it to Breaking Bad, there are many parallels – you could say that the fire at the end of S03 is analogous to the plane crash at the end of S02 of Breaking Bad. The far-ranging consequences of the criminal choices made by the characters are in both cases perhaps exaggerated but nonetheless interesting cases of the domino effect. The major difference being that Weeds rides more on the comedy side of the equation whereas Breaking Bad is all drama and tension, some comedy here but primarily action. I’ll have to see the rest of the Weeds episodes to really judge which series I prefer, but for the moment, for me, the edge goes to Walt over Nancy.
The subtext of how the Botwins are evolving towards criminality and, in Shane’s case, perhaps insanity, is also fascinating. Nancy is nearly almost always on the edge but somehow keeps the ball rolling forward and is more of less consistent in her moral judgements however questionable they may be. Silas has matured into a good weed raiser and despite the episode with the religious freak-pot dealing blondie, seems to revel in his new status as a criminal. Andy is still the pathetic magnet for loads of shit that threatens the family including the final fire provoked by the bikers.
And then there is Shane. He has a brilliant, critical mind that dwarfs the intelligence of almost the entire cast with the exception of Nancy herself. And yet, since the loss of his father, he is helplessly unrooted. The real tragedy is that Nancy is so engaged in her new business that she has lost touch with the day-to-day in his life (despite his multiple pleas for attention) and resorts to an imaginary father at the end to cope. I think that he is a complicated character. It must not be easy to write about 10-year olds on the cusp of adolescence and in an adult world – especially Nancy’s world – without using cookie cutter dialog like in Desperate Housewives. Here they have succeeded in creating a credible, deep and ultimately lovable character. I am curious to see how he continues to evolve.
In terms of TV time, although there are three real years between the projection of Seasons 1 and 3 (2005 to 2007) but in the series itself, I’d guess that there has been a total of 8 months of TV time from when we meet Nancy. I believe this is correct because she met Peter early in Season 1 and when the widow Valerie complains her about the life insurance payout, she says that Nancy had been married with Peter for six months before he was killed. This would mean that Season 1 spans about 3 months, Season 2 about 3 months and Season 3 another 2 months probably. I wonder if they shot all three seasons tightly together because the actor playing Shane hasn’t had a birthday yet according to the plot line and yet three years in a kid that age is a long time.
Deaths so far in the series: Judah (before start of Season 1), Peter (end of Season 2), U-Turn (middle of Season 3), the “village” of Agrestic, CA (late Season 3), the “burb” of Majestic (end of Season 3).
Amusing side note: all the series I am following now are about crime: Breaking Bad (crystal meth), Dexter (serial killers), Justified (redneck slimeballs/Federal Marshals), Boardwalk Empire (mafia), and Weeds of course. Well, there is also Treme about New Orleans but you could argue that the criminal behavior there was that of the evil,absent president and mother nature as well.
So, who says (W)eed(s) isn’t (aren’t) addictive?