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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
f “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan was a golfer, she’d probably spend every hole aimlessly hacking away at her ball in the bunkers. That’s the best comparison that comes to mind when discussing the Showtime series, which has spent the last six seasons digging itself into holes and then desperately trying to find a way out. For the most part, Kohan has been successful in keeping the series afloat by continuously upping the ante in a manner that kept viewers entertained and intrigued, but it’s finally gotten to the point that it’s almost painful to watch. Kohan and her team definitely deserve credit for managing to squeeze a whole season out of yet another ridiculous situation, but if Season Five was the warning shot, then Season Six makes it official: “Weeds” has run its course.
No matter how you feel about the way she’s handled the direction of the show, however, you have to admit that Kohan knows how to write a great cliffhanger. And Season Five was no different, with the final seconds revealing that it was Shane (Alexander Gould) who hit Pilar in the head with the croquet mallet, effectively killing her. You can’t say that Esteban’s icy campaign manager didn’t have it coming after threatening Nancy (Mary-Louis Parker) and her family, but it didn’t make the act any less surprising – at least to most people. Andy (Justin Kirk) seemed to know it was only a matter of time before the youngest Botwin tapped into his dark side, while Silas (Hunter Parrish) is dumbfounded (and a little scared) by Shane’s lack of emotion after committing the murder. In fact, Shane is more concerned with everyone referring to the murder weapon as a stick instead of a mallet, which should tell you just how much he's really changed.
Frightened by what might happen to Shane when Pilar’s body is discovered, Nancy gathers the troops and makes a run for the border, picking up Andy along the way after he not-so-bravely left his fiancé (Alanis Morissette) to fend for herself when she was taken hostage by a crossbow-wielding stalker. When their plans to head for Canada are ruined upon learning that the FBI are looking for them, the Botwins decide to set up camp in Seattle where Nancy, Andy and Silas get jobs at a ritzy hotel. Nancy even gets back into the weed game briefly when she makes a deal with the concierge to sell hash to hotel guests, but when Doug (Kevin Nealon) is kidnapped by Esteban's goons and forced to help them track down Nancy, the Botwin family must go on the run once again.
Sending the Botwins on a cross-country road trip might sound like an interesting plot device, but it only reeks of the writers’ desperation to keep the story moving. It’s like they’re just making shit up as they go, and a lot of the twists and turns that occur appear to be designed more for shock value than progressing the story or developing any of the characters. Nancy, in particular, has gone from a crafty suburban mom looking out for her family to a selfish bitch who gets them into trouble every chance she gets. Just when you think that their relocation to Seattle is going to serve as a solid reboot for the series (with Nancy dealing weed again, Andy living his dream of becoming a chef, and Silas finding his true calling at college), she goes and screws things up again. That doesn't mean that the character shouldn't have her flaws, but this is just lazy storytelling.
It’s almost as lazy as the show’s strange habit of getting rid of characters for no apparent reason. First, it was Romany Malco’s Conrad, and now, Elizabeth Perkins’ Celia – who was being positioned to take over as the local dealer in Agrestic at the end of Season Five – never appears once throughout the season to receive any sort of closure. Thankfully, the rest of the cast is still great, particularly Justin Kirk and Hunter Parrish, who are the only ones given anything even resembling a character arc. And though Doug is just as superfluous as ever, he does get a few funny moments, like when asking God for forgiveness by admitting he tried to read “The Bible,” but always felt like it was “a much less awesome ‘Lord of the Rings’.” The guest stars aren’t as memorable as you’d hope with veterans like Peter Stormare and Linda Hamilton, but Richard Dreyfuss is excellent in a four-episode arc as Nancy’s old math teacher, Mr. Schiff, who she once had an intimate relationship with when she was in high school.
Unfortunately, none of it changes the fact that “Weeds” has significantly dipped in quality over the last few years – something even Kohan would probably agree with based on her comments that next season would be the show’s last. Of course, if it were up to me, the cast and crew would just walk away now to avoid further humiliation, because now that “Weeds” has transformed from a biting satire into a full-fledged soap opera, it’s become a shell of its former self. You can’t say that Kohan didn’t have plenty of chances to right the ship, but just like Nancy, she always seems to make a bad situation worse.
Special Features: Lionsgate has always done a really good job of producing bonus material for their TV-DVD releases, and Season Six of “Weeds” is no exception. There are audio commentary tracks for eight of the 13 episodes with several cast and crew members contributing at least once (although Mary-Louise Parker is curiously absent from the fun), as well as a gag reel, a short discussion between Kevin Nealon and Justin Kirk, a fan-submitted Q&A session with Kohan and executive producers Roberto Benabib and Matthew Salsberg, and interviews with the cast about the new season.