Weeds Does Time-Jumping Right

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How great was Weeds’ return last night? Pretty great. Showtime’s longest-running fictional series ended its sixth season with epic screw-up of a mom Nancy Botwin taking the fall for her son Shane’s croquet-mallet-swinging crimes, as the family took off in a jumbo jet headed for Copenhagen. Following a trend in cable dramas popularized by AMC’s Mad Men, the show skipped ahead a considerable chunk of time between seasons: the Season 7 premiere picked up on the action a ballsy three years later. A lot can happen in three years! Presidents change, iPads grow obsolete, and boys become men.

That last detail figured crucially into last night's episode, written by series creator Jenji Kohan. All traces of baby fat have vanished from Shane, whom we were re-introduced to in a startling reveal, fighting with his much older lover—a woman with whom he performs in a marionette troupe. Silas, the dumber, hotter Botwin boy, has resigned himself to a pampered life of ennui, working as a swimsuit model in a campaign for something called Flower Water. Uncle Andy and vestigial character Doug are also hanging out in Copenhagen, and have gone into business together giving local, weed-friendly tours of the city to English-speaking tourists.

Nancy, meanwhile, has been popped from the pokey three years early, for good behavior. In an amusing opening scene, we watched her face as two parole officers, a man and a woman, bickered off-screen. (It kind of reminded me of the dueling announcers from Airplane!: “Listen Betty, don't start up with your white zone sh*t again.”) Told that she’d be sent to a halfway house in New York City, Nancy freaked out—surely Esteban would come after her to avenge Pilar’s murder. After a lusty kiss farewell to her (female) cellmate, Nancy headed out into the real world once again, and was encountered by Agent Lipschitz, who informs her that Esteban is dead. She’s safe! She’s free! She’s...trapped in a dumpy halfway house where her rappin’ supervisor won’t even let her have something to eat. But Nancy is nothing if not a cunning manipulator, and she somehow coaxed a two-hour furlough out of him.

She used her time wisely. First, at an internet cafe, she checked in on her son Stevie, now a toddler. Jill, Nancy’s sister, became Stevie’s legal guardian during Nancy’s incarceration, and Nancy was shocked to learn that Jill has been raising him as her own son. (During Nancy's brief glimpse of the baby, he called her “Aunt Nancy,” then was snatched away by Jill’s sneering husband, Scott.) After the mother-and-child reunion, Nancy headed to a Swedish sauna to retrieve a car key left there by her prison lover, which she did with the aid of the oven mitts gifted to her before her release (just one of several gleefully weird plot points). The episode ended with the Botwin boys flying to New York to reunite with their mom/sister—whoops, not you, Silas! Shane couldn’t be bothered to buy you a ticket—and Nancy lugged a briefcase full of explosives and firearms with her back to the halfway house.

Not bad for a first episode! And unlike the True Blood season opener (which I thought was wretched, by the way), Weeds actually made good use of the time leap. Both main characters were in a kind of purgatory—Nancy in jail, Sookie in an Elfland decorated by Pier One—but Nancy actually changed during that period. She hardened, she became more manipulative, she had three long years to consider what her terrible life choices did to her children. Sookie, meanwhile, seems to be exact, same old Sookie. And why shouldn’t she be: She thought she was only away for a few minutes.

When Weeds began, Nancy was still adjusting to widowhood—a hostile new terrain filled with mounting debts and catty suburban moms. Now, in the show's seventh season, Nancy is adjusting to life, period; she's an ex-con thrust into an unforgiving world. It seems Weeds has achieved the improbable: It's just figured out how to make things interesting again.

What'd you think of the premiere? Are you satisfied with how Weeds handled its three-year jump? And do you like the direction it appears to be headed in next?

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