Sunday, June 17, 2012

Picking Up For A Much More Engaging Season, Weeds Season Seven Actually Justifies Itself!

The Good: Interesting character directions, Very funny, Great acting, Surprisingly decent plotlines
The Bad: The characters all keep making the exact same mistake!
The Basics: In its seventh season, Weeds rebounds into a show that makes the old, very stale, formula work again!

I picked up the seventh season of Weeds solely based upon inertia. I, honestly, had no real desire to watch it. I recall being disappointed even when I heard that Weeds was not cancelled after its seventh season, that it was being renewed for an eighth season. My thought and feeling at the time was “why bother? What haven’t they done already?!” So, I sat down to the three-disc set of Weeds Season 7 with remarkably low expectations.

It’s nice that I can still be surprised.

The seventh season of Weeds is an odd mix of a course correction and a re-establishment of the same, old, familiar thing. The result is a show that feels very familiar – which has been a real weakness in the past seasons – but manages to still feel fresh and, mostly, funny. In its seventh season, Weeds actually seems to actually mortgage the humor more often than not in order to expose the characters for exactly who they are. That makes the seventh season feel surprisingly raw and it works.

In fact, the seventh season of Weeds works very well in all aspects, except the concept. While very early in the season, Nancy Botwin is told not to try reforming, it seems like exactly what it is, a cheap excuse not to move the character forward and allow her to return to her life as a pot-selling mother. Therefore, the fundamental problem with the seventh season of Weeds is that the concept is so stale as to be annoying. In fact, as the Botwin family reunites around Nancy, more often than not the feeling I felt was annoyance. But aspects like the unabashed way Shane is referenced as a killer and how Andy once again makes a serious attempt to go legitimate. Weeds Season Seven would be worth watching even if Nancy never appeared in it.

Nancy Botwin is paroled after serving three years in prison for the murder that Shane committed. Sent to a halfway house in New York City after Esteban is killed in prison, Nancy intends to get Stevie back and lay low from her family and friends. Outed by her sister, who is raising Stevie in California, Silas, Shane, Andy and Doug return to the United States from Copenhagen. Nancy, not keen on seeing them, flees to recover something her cellmate, Zoya, left on the outside. She discovers a suitcase full of grenades and artillery and she works out an exchange with Zoya’s brother for them. Reuniting with her family, Nancy is overwhelmed by the changes in them.

While Silas remains deeply hurt over his issues with Nancy (having learned he was fathered by a rather dim man), Shane tries to convince Nancy to go into business with him. Failing that, he takes out a massive number of college loans and begins to pursue training in criminal justice. But Andy has truly had it with Nancy’s self-centered ways. Borrowing money from Shane, Andy tries to bring a hybrid bicycle product to the United States and build a community. While Doug ends up hired back as an accountant at a powerful firm, Nancy continues to fight her sister for custody of Stevie, with mixed results.

As the season progresses, Nancy finds herself at an awkward junction between ex-military thugs, the CEO of a powerful Ponzi scheme, the S.E.C. and the Department of Corrections. The different forces tugging on her put her into awkward reunions with Heylia James, Dean Hodes and her obsessed former cellmate!

The seventh season of Weeds cleverly reinvents the wheel in a way the show has not managed to do in prior incarnations. Nancy Botwin has moved from the Agrestic suburbs to Del Mar and Mexico to Dearborn, Michigan and now ends up in New York City. Something about this particular setting with the characters where they are at in this point in their lives makes the season work. The kids are not starry-eyed, Andy seems to have a handle on his previous feelings for Nancy and Silas truly is working to become a man who has plans that are vital and interesting.

And that makes it work.

More than any of the prior seasons of Weeds, the seventh season works (when it is not simply the characters falling back into Nancy’s orbit) because it focuses on growing the characters and giving them each their own strong sense of motivation. In the seventh season of the show, the primary characters are:

Nancy Botwin – Released from prison, she immediately betrays her cellmate and starts exchanging Zoya’s weapons stash for marijuana. Timid at first with interacting with her family, she quickly starts using them to attempt to get Stevie away from her sister. She borrows money from Shane, uses Silas’s newfound marketing skills and manipulates Doug into getting a legitimate job to show the Department of Corrections. Illustrating she learned almost nothing in prison, Nancy is virtually unchanged,

Silas Botwin – Having been a male model for an obscure flower water drink in Copenhagen, Silas is reluctant to return to the U.S. and his mother’s b.s. Unable to find modeling work easily, he starts giving away weed to male models in order to start a distribution network. He soon goes into business with Nancy . . . until the local big dealers on the block, Pouncy House, come to shut their operation down,

Shane Botwin – Having spent his time in Copenhagen in the company of an older woman, puppeteering, he seems far more balanced and less menacing than he was after he killed Pilar. Figuring that Nancy took the fall for him, he rushes back to the United States to be with her. When she insists he go to college, he takes out many loans and starts on the Criminal Justice track. There, he finds a New York City detective he can manipulate in order to save Nancy’s business,

Doug Wilson – Not left behind by Shane and Andy, he leaves Copenhagen and in New York meets up with a friend who more or less forces him into a job. Doomed to play on the company softball team, he begins taking steroids. He realizes that the Feds cannot prosecute the firm without damaging their own retirement and begins sleeping with the S.E.C. agent in order to keep the company afloat,

and Andy Botwin – Tired of running and of Nancy’s issues, he strikes out with a legitimate business of his own. While Silas sells weed out of the back, he runs a legitimate bike shop trying to sell a hybrid bike product. After he saves Silas from asphyxiation, he is drawn into a relationship with an artist and her husband, which leads him to understand exactly what is most important to him.

The acting in the seventh season of Weeds is flawless and the guest stars in this season integrate with the main cast exceptionally well. Michael Harney, who had a wonderfully slimy recurring role on NYPD Blue, appears as Detective Ouellette and he and Alexander Gould play off one another expertly. Jennifer Jason Leigh makes her brief guest starring roles as Nancy’s sister very funny and memorable, as does Michelle Trachtenberg (who plays Silas’s foil).

On DVD, Weeds Season Seven includes commentary tracks on key episodes, a gag reel, deleted scenes and a few featurettes. The commentary track on the second episode, featuring Gary Anthony Williams is by far funnier than any of the episodes and is well worth listening to. The other bonus features are pretty average.

Even so, Weeds Season seven is engaging and enjoyable, even for those who have not – traditionally – been a fan of the series!

For prior seasons of Weeds, please check out my reviews of:
Weeds Season 1
Weeds Season 2
Weeds Season 3
Weeds Season 4
Weeds Season 5
Weeds Season 6


For other television reviews, be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing of all I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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