Saying goodbye to an old friend: ‘Weeds’ lights up for the last time
If you’d have told me last week that I would break down crying during the series finale of ‘Weeds,’ I’d have laughed in your face. I’d have thought you were high. But somewhere the universe is laughing at me, because that’s exactly what happened last night as I watched the Botwin family (including unofficial official member, Guru Doug) gather one last time – this time to celebrate little Stevie’s Bar Mitzvah.
I truthfully never saw this show lasting eight seasons. When it premiered in 2005, it was a dark, twisted and fresh new comedy for Showtime, then a relative unknown in the television field. It made its mark by taking a relatively safe, benign concept – a widowed suburban mother of two has to find a way to make do after the sudden death of her husband – and turned it on its head by having her become a pot dealer.
This concept isn’t all the exciting in today’s world, as we now have Walter White, Meth Cook Extraordinaire/Sometimes Scary Drug Lord, on ‘Breaking Bad’ and Father of the Year Don Draper on ‘Mad Men’ as comparisons for her parenting skills, but at the time it was a relatively shocking idea.
This was only compounded by the tight spots Nancy found herself in – growing more dangerous and ridiculous as the seasons progressed. But Mary-Louise Parker, who seemingly never aged during the 7 year run, was a steely, relatively calm, devoted if not fucked up, mother to Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould). Add to that her brother-in-law and best friend, Andy Botwin (Justin Kirk), and insanely stupid hanger-on Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon) and the show became a family drama of the most unconventional kind.
The show and its stars were nominated for several awards, even managing to take a couple home. But I never thought it had the longevity that it did. It was the show that wouldn’t die – even as cast members started leaving the show to explore other opportunities (most notably, Elizabeth Perkins).
But even though I didn’t believe in its staying power, I believed in it enough to stick with it through thick and thin. And believe me, ‘Weeds’ fans had to put up with a lot of bullshit during the last few seasons.
Writers asked us to believe in Nancy and her clan as they went on the run after Shane killed a woman in Mexico, as Nancy took the blame for it and went to prison for three years where she had a lesbian tryst, and as she took over New York. But the most ridiculous plot of this last season was Nancy’s attempt to go straight as she recovered from a bullet to the brain, fired by one-time season two character Tim Scottson (son of Nancy’s ex-husband, DEA Agent Peter Scottson, who was murdered by the Armenians – see what I mean about ridiculous?).
But even through all that I stood my ground, as I have a rule to never give up on TV shows I’ve already committed myself to for at least two seasons. I stood by the Botwins through drug lord pregnancies and trips to Michigan, through Copenhagen and stories about weird bicycle wheels, through the obvious jerry-rigging and terrible facial hair. I stood by the Botwins as if they were my own extended fucked up family. Because a show has to do something so horribly offensive to me that I have no choice but to drop it from my weekly rotation. And even with all the bullshit, ‘Weeds’ still made me giggle and I still loved Andy Botwin enough to stand by him. In fact, I can only think of three shows that committed such heinous crimes that I dropped them flat – ‘One Tree Hill’ (killing Keith), ‘Robin Hood’ (killing Marian) and ‘Glee’ (everything).
But I have to say that I come to this post with a deep cleansing breath and a sense of closure, because I finally get to bid adieu to the Botwins with a proper ending. I can finally rid myself of their drama.
It isn’t to say that there haven’t been pieces that I enjoyed – I was deeply invested in the idea of Andy finding happiness, and I was desperate to find out if Silas would ever truly be able to get out from under Nancy’s life-ruining thumb. I wanted to know if Shane would grow up to become a serial killer and if Doug would ever grow up and stop looking for the next new way to act like a douche. And the series finale answered all of my questions.
Was the Stevie story stupid? Yes. I didn’t mind the time jump – I actually welcomed it – because I wanted to know what happened with my favorite Botwins down the road. But I didn’t much care for Bar Mitzvah-age Stevie. The actor they chose was all wrong for the part; he had no chemistry with Mary-Louise and he didn’t even resemble someone who was half-Mexican by birth. His outburst about not being Jewish was uncomfortable at best, but I understand that the writers needed a reason to reunite the whole clan.
And speaking of reunions, it was fun to see some of the old characters return. I’ve always enjoyed Conrad and Guillermo, Marvin too. And of all the women Silas has been with, I think Megan was the only relationship that wasn’t just about sex, so I even accept her reappearance. But there is such a thing as too far.
To think that those were the people Nancy invited to the Bar Mitzvah was ridiculous and sad. I know the woman has no friends of her own – she’s not really the type of person who builds lasting friendships … or any friendships – but I don’t believe for a second that Guillermo would fly to Old Sandwich for the party. But I suppose, if they wanted Stevie to find out the truth about his birth father, some jerry-rigging had to happen.
I also didn’t much care for Shane becoming an embittered cop with a drinking problem. And that terribly cheesy cop mustache just about made me hurl. But something had to be done with his character in order for him to seek help for his obvious lack of conscience. Because up until that point, nothing seemed to work. The dude killed a woman with a croquet mallet in season five and felt no remorse.
Initially, I liked the idea of him becoming a cop – it was fresh and not at all the direction I thought his character would take considering the family business and the aforementioned croquet mallet murder, but I refuse to believe that’s where he would have ended up some eight to 10 years down the road. It just felt out of character. And what was with the cake shooting?
As for the eldest Botwin, I enjoyed married-with-a-baby Silas. And although I don’t understand why facial hair makes any of the characters appear older, it worked. His middle-of-the-night conversation with Nancy, as a sleeping Megan lay nearby, made me tear up. Silas has always had a problem separating himself from Nancy and her schemes and he was always the one to get screwed because in the end. I think it was a good idea to have him live on the west coast. His position within the business meant he was never fully extracted from his mother and her business, but it was enough to let Silas live his own life and to grow and mature on his own. It was a completely fitting end to his story while staying true to his personality and his character.
But perhaps the main reason I stood by this show for so long was Justin Kirk’s Andy Botwin. He’d long been the only character I truly had any interest in and I was so invested in his search for happiness that, at times, it felt like it was tied to my own. I knew that if this show didn’t end up with Andy Botwin finding happiness, that I’d never be satisfied with this show. All those years of groaning in annoyance at contrived plot devices would have been for naught.
Because while the other characters were mostly-developed with their own plots and semi-personalities, Andy was a fully-developed character, even if he seemed like a caricature most of the time. Andy was first introduced under the guise that he was helping Nancy to raise Silas and Shane after his brother’s untimely demise. But he was really looking for some sort of raison d’etre. He needed to find a home, find happiness. And through all eight seasons, it wasn’t until the very end that he was able to cut ties and finally start living his own life.
Because somewhere between losing two toes to avoid military service and following Nancy to Ren Mar, the man fell in love with Nancy. And just as love humanizes even the most devious and evil of characters (think Damon Salvatore on ‘The Vampire Diaries’), it can also humanize even those who started out as purely insane comedic relief.
Andy’s undying love and devotion to Nancy – who loved him but never actually loved him – made him the most relatable character on a show full of outlandish and unbelievable character moves. He was unable to sever ties with her because of his unfilled desire and it ate away at him, even as he tried to move on to other women.
I used to want Andy and Nancy to end up together. I used to fully ship them – sometime around seasons 4 and 5 – but I eventually realized that what I shipped was Andy and happiness. And I don’t think Andy could have ever been truly happy with Nancy, because Nancy will never truly be happy herself. She is a selfish woman who desperately loves Andy, who needs him in her life, but she’ll never be able to love him the way she loved Judah or the way he needs her to.
I was concerned that the show would end with the two of them getting together or with their drama unresolved. Jenji Kohan, God bless her, must have been reading my Twitter, because she finally released Andy in the series’ penultimate episode.
In the same spot that Judah died, Andy declares that he’s not returning to Old Sandwich with Nancy and that he needs to find his own life path. Nancy, desperate not to lose her best friend, the person she’s always thought would stand by her side and follow her anywhere, kisses him and the two have sex on a stranger’s front lawn.
It’s this awkward and cringe-inducing sex that fully releases Andy from Nancy’s maniacal grip and he runs off down the road while Nancy’s left screaming after him.
In the series finale, Nancy spends most of her time worried that Andy won’t show up – she hasn’t seen him since he ran away from her in Regrestic – but Silas assures her he is coming to the party. Nancy’s aforementioned middle-of-the-night conversation with Silas revolved entirely around what it was Andy’s been up to since she last saw him. And she finds out he’s happy, he’s a father, and he’s running a restaurant.
When Andy does finally arrive – sometime during the middle of the night – he’s the same old Andy, except a bit wiser, a bit grayer, but a lot happier. He’s no longer the immature or do-first-think-later Andy that we knew and loved over the course of the show, but he’s Andy. And he’s happy.
At the party, Nancy begs him to move back and when he declines and explains how he’s finally happy, she breaks down and says she’ll move out west. Instead, Andy, being the ever supportive best friend, nudges her instead to sell to Starbucks (she’d received an offer for her weed cafes – oh yeah, marijuana is legal in the future) and she does. The show ends as the members of her unconventional and scattered family gather around her, outside and away from the rest of the party, and they smoke a joint – quite a fitting end, if you ask me.