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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
o say that Jenji Kohan’s “Weeds” has evolved during its five-year run is a major understatement. It’s always nice to see a TV series mature beyond its original concept, but when a show called “Weeds” is no longer about the drug in question, you’ve gone a bit too far. Granted, Kohan does her best to sneak in the leafy herb every once in a while, but for the most part, the fifth season of “Weeds” is surprisingly drug-free. It’s also almost entirely laugh-free, transforming into a full-fledged drama more concerned with digging itself out of yet another hole instead of focusing on the great characters that made “Weeds” so enjoyable to begin with.
The show hasn’t completely cut its ties to the titular drug – with Silas (Hunter Parish) and Doug (Kevin Nealon) opening up a medical marijuana club in Remar, and Shane (Alexander Gould) dealing the remainder of Silas' stash at school – but family matriarch Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) is no longer in the trade. Instead, she’s busy trying to stay alive after giving up the drug tunnel to the Feds, and her only bargaining chip is that she’s carrying the baby of Mexican drug lord/gubernatorial candidate Esteban Reyes (Demián Bichir). The first half of the season is dedicated to Nancy’s paranoia about Esteban before the show jumps the shark with a lame “six months later” placard that fast-forwards the story to the final days of her pregnancy.
From there, the story becomes less about whether or not Esteban is going to kill Nancy and more about how they’re going to deal with the birth of their child. (Esteban’s campaign manager, played by the ice-cold Kate del Castillo, warns against any public record that he's the father). It’s exactly the kind of overwrought drama you’d expect from a show like "Desperate Housewives." The other characters aren’t treated much better. Elizabeth Perkins’ Celia goes on an embarrassing journey from Mexican rebel mommy to peddling overpriced cosmetics, while Andy (Justin Kirk) spends most of the season pining over Nancy. Thankfully, both characters are redeemed in the end – with Celia becoming the new Nancy and Andy falling for her OBGYN, Audra (Alanis Morissette).
Morissette hasn’t had very much acting experience, but the fact that she can hold her own against Kirk (by far the show’s best asset) is very telling of what she’s capable of in her role. Jennifer Jason Leigh also shines in a two-episode stint as Nancy’s older sister, while Hemky Madera is easily the best thing about the whole Esteban storyline. The MVP of the season, however, goes to Alexander Gould, who has not only shown incredible growth during his years on the show, but is clearly having fun experimenting with his dark side. It’s exactly this change in character that results in the best finale to date, but even though it ends with a bang (or a whack, to be more specific), there’s very little to be salvaged from the season. The show just isn’t as funny as it used to be and the characters are even less relatable than they were when it started. Perhaps Kohan should consider another creative reboot, because “Weeds” is so much better than this.
Special Features: As always, the three-disc set is loaded with bonus features, even if they aren’t really that interesting. There are seven different audio commentaries with various members of the cast and crew, an 11-minute blooper reel, a behind-the-scenes video diary with Kevin Nealon, and another round of commentary for the show’s clever title sequences (“Little Titles”). Also included is a short featurette about relationships on the show, TV promos starring Justin Kirk, and a timeline on the history of marijuana.