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Weeds: Season Five
Weeds: Season Five 2.5 out of 4

star2-5

I wonder what the housing prices in Agrestic are like these days. After four seasons, we've seen Weeds grow from a smart, taut commentary on American suburbia to a sprawling soap opera with increasingly over-the-top twists and developments. Last time we left Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), the mom-turned-drug-dealer had revealed to her Mexican politician lover, Esteban (Demián Bichir), that she is carrying his child, effectively delaying his vengeance against her. (Nancy had previously ratted Esteban out to the DEA about an underground tunnel he was using to smuggle drugs and humans.) Meanwhile, Celia's (Elizabeth Perkins) attempts to reconnect with her daughter, Quinn (a character who had been M.I.A. since season one), results in her estranged daughter and her hen-pecked, revolutionary leader boyfriend kidnapping her and holding her for ransom.

Indeed, the show has come a long way since its initial Desperate Housewives-style aesthetic of hyper-stylized suburbia. Quinn's appearance late in season four stirred up some strong nostalgia in me for Weeds's roots: its sordid suburban landscape, where hypocrisy bloomed and ironic situations unfolded, and even its original theme song. And while any good show should evolve to avoid stagnating, one wonders if Weeds has taken it too far. Given all the Kill Bill-esque revelations of late, Agrestic now feels like it belonged to a completely different—and ultimately more satisfying—show.

Season five looks to play out in the same affected way as the previous one, with Nancy's pregnancy neither ensuring her or her family's safety. Rather, it introduces constant surveillance by Esteban's surly bodyguards and rudely complicates the growing affection between Nancy and her brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk). Fearing for her sons' lives, Nancy tries to ship the boys off to her sister Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh). (The plan backfires when Jill arrives in Ren Mar with a few issues of her own to hash out with Nancy.)

Despite the increasingly incredulous scenarios, Weeds's writers have nevertheless managed to maintain a compelling tone that makes up for all the outrageousness. They have never lost their touch for masterfully blending dark humor with moments of high drama. The acting has remained top-notch with Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould) truly coming into their own, and Leigh's performance as the miffed older sis is another bright spot. Kirk, however, emerges from the show's entangling webs with the meatiest role: As he sorts out his feelings for Nancy, Andy's playboy demeanor coalesces interestingly with a newfound gravitas. All this is to say that Weeds, like Lost, proves that good screenwriting and an emotional investment in well-developed, well-acted characters can make any story line work, no matter how ridiculous.

Cast: Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Nealon, Justin Kirk, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould Airtime: Showtime, Mondays, 10 p.m.

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