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Weeds: Season 7 Premiere

By Zack Gutin · June 30, 2011

I remember when Weeds, Showtime’s veteran series that entered its seventh season on Monday night, first began.  The character of Nancy Botwin, played so incredibly by the stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous Mary Louie Parker, was just your regular neighborhood mom/weed dealer.  Fresh off her husband’s death-by-heart attack, she was doing whatever needed to be done to keep her family fed and housed.  Now, as this latest season kicked off, we see her released from prison – the culmination of an out of control string of events that led to one of her sons killing the wife of a Mexican drug lord, for which she took the wrap (after being on-the-run in last season).  As the series has once again reinvented itself, creator Jenji Kohan deserves high praise (pun intended) for having evolved the Botwin character into perhaps the only iced-coffee sipping drug kingpin mom in America (maybe the world, not sure).

In the season premiere, Botwin is being released from prison and placed into a halfway house, despite her expected arrangement of entrance into the Witness Protection Program.  She has been in the big house for 3 years, so the lives of our characters have progressed drastically.  En route to her stay at the halfway house, she is given a 2-hour window of freedom from her hilarious, rhyming “head of the halfway house.”  Those two hours are all she needs to make a move.  Her move, as is uncovered in the drunk of a beat-up car, is a suitcase full of bombs and grenades.  Armed to the teeth, she walks away – very carefully managing the potentially explosive suitcase – and seemingly sets off for a new start.  One can suspect that weaponry might be sold-off to finance her return to drug dealing or merely to protect herself, but either way, the character has once again stepped into a new arena.  Bombs.  Bigger.  Badder.  But still a mom.     

The charm of the Botwin character has remained firmly intact even though her daily dealings have changed from season-to-season.  Her sons have grown – both physically (Silas is now a male model) and psychologically (Shane is breaking older women’s hearts).  Both of them are living in Denmark, while she is in New York (where she was arrested and imprisoned).  Her friends have been killed, babies have been taken away and yet she remains the same as always: cool, calm and collected, amidst some of life’s more dangerous scenarios.  That is true commitment to character.  This is who she is.  Nancy Botwin isn’t scared of anyone or anything, and it’s her that makes the series so addicting.  She has climbed up a proverbial “ladder” of crime without yet falling off (her feet slip constantly though) and has done it all for one very clear reason – her children.

The supporting characters around Botwin, however, are a shape-shifting bunch to say the least. She’s also moved around constantly.  These tactics help keep the series fresh.  In this season’s premiere, her friend and misfit confidant Doug (Kevin Nealon), as well as her brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk) are once again paired in a get-paid-without-really-working scheme; hustling tourists in Denmark with their private “tours” (they know nothing about the country).  Youngest son, Shane Botwin, is determined to find his mother once he learns she’s in a halfway house, so he plans to set out for New York.  Will she be headed for Denmark?  Will their paths miss one another like Fievel in An American Tale?  Kohan has begun spinning a whole new web.

The episode had a challenge to face though.  With Nancy a world away from her family, the only way the show was able to bring some of its main characters together was via web-conferencing.  Nancy speaks with her sister through it.  Her sister speaks to Shane through it.  Despite my love of technology and appreciation for incorporating its practical use into story, the show seemed to lack the same tension usually brought on by an imminent threat onto Nancy or her family.  The intention appeared to be to use the distance itself to create that threat, but it fell short and the lack-of-tension was accentuated by the “easy out” of the update that her much-feared Mexican drug lord/politician/baby daddy/ex-boyfriend had been killed.

The re-introduction of Nancy Botwin’s bitchy sister, however, could really be a juicy arc to build on this season, and she brought the only real “threat” of the episode.  She appears to be a worthy match for Nancy and is driving a proverbial “knife” into her within the story.  Nancy’s sister has taken-in the lovechild that Nancy gave birth to with her now-dead baby-daddy.  In the glimpses we get, Nancy’s sister is in touch with the rest of the family and appears set in her ways; having raised the child to know of Nancy only as “Aunt Nancy,” presumably to protect the now-toddler from his birthmother’s unsavory past.  Family ripping away at family has worked for the series before, and this story choice seems to shine a positive light on the rest of the season.

Expect that where her friends and family come up short, Nancy will cover, but not without putting herself at risk.  The forthcoming episodes will surely reunite Nancy and her family, so we can watch her struggle to keep them afloat. She is best as a fish out of water and the center of a group of eccentrics, not off on her own.  As the people around her change – or get disposed of in some violent manner – we turn to see how she’ll manage it better than the others.  She is a great example of how a hero’s failures endear us to them even more, so that we cheer for their eventual success.  Can she pull it off this time?  Of course she can!  Or can she?  That’s what keeps viewers coming back, and that’s why Showtime has let the Weeds grow tall.