The shark is a noble creature of the sea, responsible for countless deaths, human and animal alike. A mixture of equal parts teeth and concentrated awesome, sharks have been a major part of popular culture ever since a certain Steven Spielberg film. Their existence is also symbolic of something less than awesome, though certainly deadly. Ever since a certain mister Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli donned skis, hit a ramp, and catapulted himself through the air over nature's best herd thinner, majesty has been reduced to being past its prime the moment a person, idea, or television show begins the inevitable decline following the event pinpointed as the moment it jumped the shark.
I hope you see where I'm going with this...
'Weeds' isn't a show I expected to see jumping the metaphorical shark so soon, but in its fifth season, in less than an episode, I knew what had happened. For twelve more episodes, I watched as said shark leaper was beached, throttled, beaten, carved up, and sold for meat in the use of high end cat food. All this, after a spectacular and brilliant reinvention of the program in the season before. How could something so right go so horribly wrong in less than a year?
Season five picks up immediately following the cliffhanger finale from the last episode of season four. Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) is pregnant with Esteban (Demian Bichir)'s child. Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Doug (Kevin Nealon) are in search of a new grow spot. Shane (Alexander Gould) has fallen into the family business, dealing from school, while uncle Andy (Justin Kirk) is having trouble coping with his unrequited feelings for his dead brother's wife. Celia (Elizabeth Perkins)? She's down on her luck more than ever before, and looking for any way to get back on top.
Mexican bodyguards, revolutionaries, armed pot clans, previously unmentioned siblings, drug deals gone awry, police intervention (and corruption), vehicles of television shows past, complications involving childbirth not concerning actual complications involving childbirth, infighting, gunfighting, backstabbing, gay kisses, marriages, proposals, abortion clinics, heroin, and Alanis Morissette all play a vital role in this set of thirteen episodes. Characters take dramatic turns, the innocent end up dirtier than anyone, bodies pile up, and it's up to Nancy to keep her Botwin clan safe, despite constantly putting them in the line of fire.
How bad is this season of a once promising show? How about the cheap, lame, inexcusable "six months later..." cop out, fast forwarding the program like it were an alternate reality or dream sequence, leaving viewers to wonder if the next episode will go back to the time we were used to. In a few words, (spoiler) it doesn't. Was it that hard to portray the progression of a pregnancy, or was the idea so out of nowhere that the writing team couldn't write out enough complications and issues to last through an entire nine month term?
What about the ending to the first episode, the sign that things were about to go downhill fast? In a move that makes no sense whatsoever, fitting nothing in the show's brief history, a choreographed dance sequence, with random onlooker participation, breaks out like a bad case of crabs. I would expect such a move from a Disney animated feature, with singing animals jumping in to spontaneous synchronized song and dance, and I even put up with said phenomena when Kevin Smith so ineptly utilized it briefly in 'Clerks II,' but the event in question here does nothing, nothing for the show. It symbolizes nothing, advances or introduces nothing. It's simply a pretentious (and failed) attempt to break up the monotony. I was halfway expecting miniature versions of characters representing good and evil to pop up on their shoulders in the next episode, or even an imaginary friend who only Nancy could see, much like the Great Gazoo. Why not?
The show strays too far from the purpose of the show itself. Once about "dealing in the suburbs," 'Weeds' became a show about growing, and distributing and transporting the drug. Now? There's little weed to be found in this season of 'Weeds.' Sure, Silas and Doug start up a "pot club," a medical marijuana dispensary, Shane dabbles in dealing lightly for a few episodes, and even Celia becomes tangled in the herb, but Nancy is nowhere near the drug. Nor is Esteban. Andy tokes up a few times, but his recreational use is hardly the basis for calling the program 'Weeds.' If anything, this season is pure baby mama, baby daddy drama, with a heavy late mix of Mexican politics. That's right, politics. A show about marijuana turns serious, with a Mexican election playing the most pivotal event in the season, with many dark twists and turns that are less than engrossing.
I still found myself laughing out loud over a few quirky lines and moments, such as the most vile and repulsive sex scene I've ever seen in legit television or cinema. I also connected with the "it" conversations concerning a child of unknown sex, as it is an all too real situation that isn't hit on enough in these types of shows. Still, there's no cure for this convoluted mess, complete with a complete disconnect that it cannot recover from. The reset button was pressed in this fifth season, and the results were less than stellar. I just wish the reset button could be pressed, and this season done-over, a massive ret-con job that, in my eyes, may be necessary for the show to succeed much longer.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Weeds: Season Five' comes to Blu-ray from Lionsgate in a standard two disc eco-case, with thirteen episodes spread across two BD50 discs. The first episode begins with a recap of season four in three minutes or less, so backtracking is not necessary to get back in the spirit of the show. The packaging states that this release is Region A locked.
Each and every episode in the fifth season of 'Weeds' is presented with an AVC MPEG-4 1080p encode in the natural 1.78:1 ratio. The results are more of the same for the show: respectable, an obvious upgrade from the standard def release, but flawed none-the-less.
Colors are strong (though reds are fuzzy), but skin tones often run hot, with heavy yellows and oranges dominating any exposed epidermis. Blacks are sometimes too bright, other times flat with a hint of blue. Delineation is subpar, to boot.
Fine object detail is strong, with plenty of clothing fabric patterns showing off the strength of the transfer. That said, grain levels don't stay constant, spiking from time to time, sometimes as heavy as the salt and pepper grain found in 'Burn Notice.' There's some shimmering to be found, like in Esteban's blazer, that can pull the eye right to the negatives as they dance and fade in and out of focus. There wasn't a dirt problem, though there was an episode with an errant digital blip, much like the lingering of a stuck LCD pixel that would appear and disappear randomly, through the placement stays static despite random cutaways. Edges are clean and appear natural, and there isn't any obvious digital tampering. Like the other 'Weeds' releases, this season is solid, though flawed.
Presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix as the only audio option on the two disc set (with optional English and Spanish subtitles), the fifth season of 'Weeds' is quite possibly the least active, least immersive 7.1 disc put on the market.
Don't get me wrong, here, as it isn't some utter travesty, or anything like that. Dialogue reproduces flawlessly, though there are more sequences in Spanish with no subtitles (unless one is watching the show with subtitles just waiting for these moments to happen...), making discernibility a bit tougher. There is also a nice, though incredibly light and sparse ambiance to the entire season, that sometimes even dares go beyond the front channels!
I'll admit, there was a sequence with a bug flying in a forest that had me ducking (a rarity, that a sound effect fools me that well), but beyond a few spots here and there, localization and movement are nil. The few moments the show is on the streets show no activity, despite obvious crowd factors. Due to the DTS-HD insignia, I knew my subwoofer was turned on watching this show, but if I didn't have that advertisement, I wouldn't have known it, as there is no bass to speak of, perhaps a light accent here and there, but to be honest, my stomach roared more often than the black beasty in the corner of my room.
There is always the question of how good a track is based on what it provides compared to other discs, how well it utilizes the home theater set up, and how well it sounds based off of what it is, the whole actual versus potential argument. Having sat through numerous television and anime series lately, I can honestly say this was one of the weakest experiences in some time, lossless or otherwise. Utterly non-immersive, this track is like a rusted over Pinto with a custom license plate stating it's a Bentley.
The extras for the Blu-ray of this season of 'Weeds' match those found on the three disc DVD edition exactly, with one tiny difference found in the high def exclusives section of this review. While the list looks fairly long, the extras, save for one, are fairly skimpy, in length and substance.
Kohan's commentary can be utterly grating and annoying, mumbly to boot, while producer commentaries provide nice insights and thoughts into the creation process, as well as character analysis beyond actions they are making on screen (take note Kohan!). Actor commentaries have always been my favorite, when the layers of production are split, as the actors are always more outgoing, comical, and free flowing with their comments, often about experiences on the show, with far more personal thoughts on other actors and characters. The Perkins/Grant/Milder track is probably the most entertaining, with a great insight early on how Andy constantly goes for girls resembling Nancy, while the Kirk/Morissette track feels awkward due to their discussions over the repeating sex scenes. There is also a big contradiction between tracks, as Morissette admits to never watching the show before (or after) her appearance, while Kohan comments on how big a fan Morissette is. Oops, tooting one's horn alert!
As much as I regret having to say it, I found this season of 'Weeds' to be a difficult watch. It just wasn't funny, and felt more like a political drama (and not a good one, at that) than a dark comedy concerning actual weed. The Blu-ray sports an average set of extras, alongside somewhat good audio and video qualities. This is not the season of 'Weeds' to start with if you are a newcomer, to be sure. Fans of the show will pick this release up, but I see this set staying in most collections more due to OCD and collection-building than actual appreciation of the product being presented.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.