Weeds, Jenji Kohan’s television series about middle-class moral relativity, concludes on a perplexing, wacky, but mostly redeeming note in the refreshingly low-key final phase of the Botwins’ wayward lifestyle. Season eight is by no means perfect, but that’s to be expected of a show that lost its mojo six years ago. Certain character arcs are written in crude, sentimental strokes, nostalgia is a crutch with which the writers parade out old characters a la This Is Your Life, and Nancy’s (Mary-Louise Parker) much-needed anti-criminality epiphany is conveniently written under the auspice of brain damage. Yet the season continues and successfully builds on last season’s return-to-grace groundedness.
Most of the central characters are dealt some surprisingly deft arcs. Nancy’s selfishness is dialed down to make room for the more nuanced character we fell in love with in the first season. Her overnight success as a salesperson for Big Pharma allows her to come back down to Earth in a position where she can finally provide for her family via a legitimate career. Instead of botching or tyrannically poo-pooing Silas’s (Hunter Parrish) decision in the latter half of the season to pursue marijuana cultivation via the hush-hush R&D division of a tobacco company, she respects and even compromises with him. Of course, this business decision—which turns into the Botwins’ family fortune as a lucrative marijuana cafe chain many years in the future, when cannabis is legal—is just another example of the writers’ proclivity for pursuing goofily absurd premises constructed from the stuff of libertarian wet dreams. But for once the sheer ridiculousness of a Kohan conceit truly works: This fantastical normalization of cannabis as a middle-class social ritual isn’t only a cute idea, but completely foreseeable with the Starbucks treatment. Enjoying a cannabis latte is not unlike the caffeinated variety Nancy spent so much of the series slurping through slaws.
Silas’s season arc is more mechanical, but it aligns perfectly with his character: Since he replaced Conrad as the dedicated farmer, imbuing his hydroponic green thumb with artisan craftsmanship, his criticisms of Big Pharma’s methods in the final episodes provide him (and Kohan) an appropriate soap box to make some perfectly valid arguments for the potential of legal marijuana. Andy (Justin Kirk) has the most emotionally touching breakthrough in his desire to become a father, finally letting go of Nancy and pursuing his dream job. The reason the finale works so well for him is because it gives the viewer the chance to see the new, changed Andy—one who no longer falls head over heels for psychotic women and has the guts to settle down—after an entire season dedicated to his gradual realization that his talents lie in parenting. Kirk’s natural smooth-talking loquaciousness is turned into a stoic serenity that suits him/Andy extremely well.
The finale, being set in the future and employing some weak comedic setups about technology, is somehow, bafflingly, the perfect setting for Weeds, given that in 2005 the show was ahead of its time. Of course, with every new season it lurched into a deeper hole of irrelevance, exchanging its liberal critiques for cat-and-mouse-tale gimmickry that unfortunately plagued the show until the very end. But extreme absurdity, as witnessed in the finale through its automatic dry-cleaning services, clear cellphones, and Nancy’s tacky blond streaks, strangely works. The elliptical fast-forward to a fantastical future also provides an opportunity for Shane (Alexander Gould) to get his due. After a traumatizing adolescence, Shane is understandably, expectedly maladjusted, but Nancy is finally in a position to help him, and she plainly tells him so, and he accepts with no drama. With only minutes left in the diegetic world of Weeds, it feels germane to give the one character who was most impressionable during the Botwins’ crazy years the ambiguity of a better future.
In one of the included featurettes on this Blu-ray set, Kohan and the producers complain about how they never quite understood viewers’ contempt for the show’s move out of Agrestic. Perhaps the multiple change in settings was never the real culprit in the show’s degradation, but rather that the Botwins’ off-the-grid lifestyle robbed the writers’ of the ability to mock white privilege. Season eight comes full circle with those ideas in another suburban space that challenges the characters to once again reexamine their lives, but for the first time in years it gives them the benefit of intelligence to actually do so.
This is a mostly exquisite transfer for a show with a visual signature of over-saturation and flashy backlighting. There's a certain balance necessary to ensure color saturation doesn't kill the nuance of black surfaces while still respecting Weeds's zany, glossy settings. Such nuance reduction does occasionally occur throughout the last season, most notably with Mary-Louise Parker's deep brown hair looking jet black. And the most egregious result of a high-definition show as brightly colorful as Weeds is the ruddy-red sheen in many of the character's faces. But the ambrosial yellows and reds of the interiors in the Botwins' renewed suburban life, and the lush greens of the impeccable landscaping outside their madhouse, are a visually arresting metaphor for Nancy's personality: a character so fecund with spirit she bleeds hypomanic self-destruction. The 7.1 DTS-HD track is a little overkill for a show that never invested too much effort into its sound design and mixing, though it does slightly elevate the emotional cues of the show's well-placed music, particularly in the memorable closing shot.
Given the finality of Weeds's eighth season, it wouldn't have been inconceivable for Jenji Kohan and company to go overboard with some additional last-hurrah features, but thankfully the two-disc set keeps things simple with a few choice commentary tracks on the most important episodes of the season, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a few featurettes of varying degrees of quality. "Clippin' the Buds" is the only serious—and unsurprisingly, only truly fascinating—feature, about the season's exploration of medicinal marijuana and the possibility of its future legality. "The Wrap-up!" is a panel between Kohan and producers about many of the show's artistic decisions. It's one of those cases where artist navel-gazing and philosophizing lessens one's respect for the show, which in the case of Weeds, is already in short supply.
Weeds's concluding season is a mostly redeeming finale for a show most people hate to love and love to hate, arriving in a modest package with entertaining extras likely produced under the influence of drugs.