When Weeds premiered in 2005, it was a modest comedy about an ordinary housewife who became a pot dealer to provide for her family after her husband’s untimely death. The best creator Jenji Kohan’s could hope for with that premise was a decent two-year run, but the brilliant casting of the do-anything Mary-Louise Parker as the lead, Nancy Botwin, not only solidified the central comic tones, but helped the show find dramatic weight. Then again, as Nancy shot rival drug dealers sultry looks, Kohan found herself boxed into a corner, and at the end of the third season, she shifted the show from upper-class Agrestic, California to the grimier border city of Ren Mar. The drama followed (in a good way, since Nancy was at last struggling to deal with the consequences of her poor parenting), but the writing struggled to keep up, and now, two escalating seasons full of DEA agents and drug-dealing Mexican politicians later, Kohan has once again uprooted Weeds.
The result is both good and bad: On the one hand, Weeds feels fresh again. On the other, the writers still don’t know what sort of show they’re making, and the supporting cast keeps getting shoehorned into new roles. It’s as consistent as you’d expect a show written by stoners to be, and if you’re not ready for the shifts between the madcap and the morose, you’re going to be constantly disappointed.
Take, for instance, the opening dialogue of “Thwack,” the season-six premiere, which picks up right where last season left off: “It’s cool how the lights change color. I wonder if it’s a salt water pool,” says the always wide-eyed Shane (Alexander Gould). Of course, he’s ignoring the bloody body floating in it, the one he just brained with a croquet mallet. And that jarring dissonance—always presented with an indulgent wink by the far-from-subtle writers—is Weeds in a nutshell.
Everything is played for laughs, whether it should be or not, and as Nancy hurries to grab her kids and flee the state and her soon-to-be-vengeful husband, Esteban (Demián Bichir), the wise-cracking nanny turns a blind eye and simply pockets some of Esteban’s illicit money. When Nancy drops in on Andy (Justin Kirk), her brother-in-law, hoping to borrow his roomier car, she stumbles into a hostage situation. But in Weeds’s world, it’s okay: The anti-abortionist threatening Andy’s fiancée (Alanis Morissette) just wants to read her Bible verses at crossbow-point. Quick, snarky resolutions are key in this manic universe, so when Nancy offers her disgruntled older son, Silas (Hunter Parrish), the choice between talking about the many ways in which she’s failed him and playing license-plate bingo, expect the latter.
In that light, the trailer for the rest of this season doesn’t look all that appealing: The Botwins, now calling themselves “the Newmans,” jump from Seattle to Canada, Nancy once again takes up drug dealing (hey, living on the lam’s expensive), and Esteban’s right hand man, Cesar (Enrique Castillo), is in hot pursuit. And though he thankfully doesn’t appear in “Thwack,” Nancy’s old, hapless partner-in-crime, Doug (Kevin Nealon, a comic liability for the show), will once again be awkwardly shoved into the mix.
If Weeds hopes to survive, it needs to get away from these one-note performances. Shane already looks like a run-of-the-mill sociopath: His nonstop quips only make him more lopsided (when asked if he’s a killer, he replies, “I don’t like labels”). Thankfully, Parrish has grown into a great—and much needed—straight man for the show, refusing to drive the getaway car until everyone’s buckled up: “Someone has to be a role model around here.” And more importantly, the chemistry between Parker and Kirk is alive and well: Their addictive performances are what sell this drug of a show.