Hollywood TV Review: ‘Weeds’ season six opener — smart, but slow
By Anthony D’Alessandro
HollywoodNews.com: The “Weeds” season six opener of “Thwack” unfortunately doesn’t live up to its pointed title, however, the good news is that creator Jenji Kohan is finally moving the Botwin family away from the Mexican border after they’ve overstayed the drama there for the last two seasons.
The episode, like many “Weeds” season openers, begins promptly after its finale’s riveting cliffhanger, but the pacing slows. Nancy gathers her chicks, err sons, after young teen Shane kills Pilar, the dastardly political consultant to her Mexican beau Esteban, with a croquet mallet. In season 5, Pilar was grooming Esteban as a candidate in the race for Mexico’s governor. She felt Nancy’s family was an unsavory part of his life. Thus, Pilar threatened to kill Shane and Silas. Feeling his mother’s luck was running out, Shane offed Pilar into the pool.
Fearing Esteban’s wrath over the murder, Nancy flees the scene of the crime at Pilar’s mansion and proceeds to collect her belongings at Esteban’s house. In need of a bigger car, specifically her brother-in-law Andy’s new mini-van, she heads over to his pad where he’s contending with problems of his own. Gayle, an anti-abortionist protester and crazed lover of Andy’s fiancé Audra, has tied her up with a crossbow pointed at her head. Andy looks like a schmuck having dashed out of the house. Nancy devises a save-face plan for Andy to re-enter and battle Gayle. Though Nancy and Andy restrain Gayle, Audra is offended that Andy failed to protect her initially. Furthermore, it is obvious he still has feelings for Nancy. Hence, Andy decides to go on the lamb with Nancy.
Kohan’s gift remains her ability to uniquely draw out dramatic scenes and heighten them like a playwright. However, this can work for and against the show’s longevity and in “Thwack” Kohan’s talents have their high and low points.
Rather than propelling the action promptly, the characters are reduced to bickering over minutiae before embarking on their next move. Nancy, Silas and Shane squabble as they pack the car. When Nancy arrives at Andy’s, he’s obsesses for some time about his failure to protect Audra before they devise a plan to nab Gayle. These chit-chats are a wonderful technique for painting personalities – but we’re already acquainted with the Botwin posse. It would have been more economical to employ this dialogue with some form of ongoing action.
Kohan’s brilliance of syncing nuance with the blunt drama onscreen shines in the final minutes. As Nancy drives down the highway and throws the murder mallet weapon out the window, a nature radiocast about the parasitic wasp airs in the background. The DJs describe how the wasp can sting a cockroach in its brain, making the bug its slave. One of the DJs pipes up, “sounds like the purest description in nature of evil I can imagine.” Nancy looks in her rearview mirror to catch Shane, wide-eyed looking back at her, emotionless. It’s obvious he’s lost it. What’s clear is that Shane is motivating Nancy’s motives; she’s arguably serving him. But that’s how Nancy moves: When she sells pot or goes on the lamb, it’s all for the children.
All the key actors are on their mark, as always, with Mary Louise Parker playing the fierce and sarcastic Nancy Botwin with effortless grace. Alexander Gould portrays Shane’s newfound psycho streak with a wonderful bug-eyed goofiness; he dotes on the qualities of his mallet weapon like a character out of a Samuel Beckett play — a decent execution of character on Kohan’s part.
As is typical in a “Weeds” season, the best episodes occur from the middle onward. This show hasn’t jumped the shark yet.
Weeds Season six opener “Thwack” airs tonight, Monday at 10 p.m. EST/PST. Produced by Lionsgate in association with Tilted Productions. Executive Producers Jenji Kohan, Roberto Benabib, Matthew Salsberg; producers Stephen Falk, Michael Trim, Leslie D. Waldman;written by Kohan; director Scott Ellis. Cast: Mary Louise Parker – Nancy Botwin, Hunter Parrish – Silas Botwin, Alexander Gould – Shane Botwin, Justin Kirk – Andy Botwin, Alanis Morissette – Dr. Audra Kitson, Matt Peters – Gayle, Demian Bichir – Esteban Reyes, Enrique Castillo – Cesar, Renee Victor – Lupita
Photo Credit: Showtime
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