Weeds' Season 8 Premiere: Bullet Time

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Weeds S08E01: "Messy"

You'd be forgiven if your recollection of Weeds' seventh season amounted to image fragments from a fever dream. An upside-down room? Silas wearing only a plastic bubble? Nancy's inter-sibling three-way? Doug working on Wall Street? Michelle Trachtenberg? Yeah, Season 7 was definitely strange, but Weeds has been this way ever since the characters left Agrestic: Aimless yet charming, like an old high school friend you don't have much in common with anymore, but just makes you happy to be around. Oh, stay for another round, Weeds.

So here we are at the dawn of Season 8—Weeds' final season—and the most important things to know going in were that Nancy Botwin and her clan had relocated to Old Sandwich, Connecticut after cutting a deal with the SEC to bring down a corrupt financial firm. As they'd all settled down for a nice outdoor lunch, an unseen assassin trained crosshairs on Nancy's face and we heard a gunshot before the picture cut to black. Because we're all savvy TV watchers, we knew the outcome could've ended up in myriad of ways: The bullet missed; the bullet took out a less important character; it was actually a paintball; etc. You know, anything other than the straight-up shooting of Weeds' protagonist. Well, "Messy" answered Season 7's cliffhanger question with a surprisingly bold answer:

NANCY WAS SHOT IN THE HEAD.

Yeah, Weeds went there. The classic shocking-twist-that-wasn't-a-twist-at-all! But because this was still the show we know and (frequently) love, the opening scene of Season 8's premiere laced the traumatic aftermath with gentle gags and one-liners as though to comfort the viewer that we were still in safe hands of a well-meaning comedy. First we saw things from Nancy's P.O.V. as Andy stammered over her for someone to call an ambulance and Nancy chided them for using cell phones at the table. When we finally did see Nancy we saw a bloody face, but no discernible head trauma—the bullet had apparently entered cleanly and stayed put—and before losing consciousness in the ambulance, Nancy was yammering on, spouting the free-associative snark in which writer/creator Jenji Kohan specializes. So, Nancy might've lost a lot of blood (and a cute outfit) but even with major head trauma it's hard to keep a good anti-heroine down.

The rest of the premiere centered on Nancy's bedside during her medically induced coma. Characters would enter in pairs, have important or comic interludes that neatly introduced where each person was in his or her personal journey, then exit. First Shane took it upon himself to find out who the shooter was, and in the process revealed to Silas that he'd joined the police academy. Silas was understandably worried about what that meant for the family business, but Shane earnestly explained that his excitement about becoming a cop was the first time in a while he'd ever felt driven to be somebody. But anyway, Shane might be an occasional psychopath, but I'm guessing the Botwins could benefit from having a cop on the inside. Could that be where this plotline is headed?

For his part Andy dealt with a ton of existential questions, as he seemed to be the one most freaked out by the prospect of Nancy dying. In a long but enlightening conversation with the hospital's resident Rabbi-Chaplain, he admitted that he'd be lost without Nancy even though she refused to love him back. Nancy and Andy's weird, frustrated, and frustrating romance has become a major element of the series, so now that we're in the final stretch it seems like maaaybe it'll head toward something more substantial? Or at least closure? Either way, Andy's self-loathing-laced quest for self-actualization was front and center in this episode and included a regrettable quickie with Jill beside a comatose Nancy. Stay classy, Andy!

As morbid as this episode was, it wasn't without its insane moments. A gag involving the Botwins' casual thievery from Nancy's roommate (and the accidental abuse of his visiting daughter) was a funny reminder of just how awful most of our main characters are. A scene involving Doug groping Nancy in her sleep was both disturbing and ridiculous, knowing what these characters had been through together. And Jill's, um, strength-training equipment? You learn something new every day!

Along with a new title sequence that succinctly sums up the Botwins' adventures so far (and hey, it was nice hearing the original theme song again!), "Messy"'s biggest hint that we're in for a season of full-circle happenings was in its reveal of WHO exactly shot Nancy: The now-grown son of deceased federal agent Peter Scottson! That's some Season TWO stuff. Daryl Sabara's grown up so much since then that I barely recognized him, but the idea that a kid would bide his time so much before exacting revenge on the woman he believed got his dad killed was pretty powerful. In the final scene a clearly remorseful Tim Scottson entered Nancy's recovery room and admitted that trying to kill her didn't make him feel better at all. It's hard to disagree with him: As much as Nancy probably deserves karmic retribution for all she's done and/or caused throughout the years, there's something about her that just makes us keep rooting for her well-being. That's why, as much as her last-minute ragged breathing suggested she's in trouble, we hope she won't be. Nancy is a lot like Weeds itself: Despite its lapses, Weeds is still our friend. I'm glad its back for one last round.


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