For any series that's been around for seven seasons, various ups, downs, and reinventions are to be expected. Over the years, 'Weeds' has seen plenty of all three. After leaving behind (to many fans' dismay) its initial premise as a satire on suburban culture at the end of its third season, the show has spent the last four years trying to find its footing, experimenting with various detours along the way. Some have worked much better than others, and season seven attempts to reignite the show's creative juices by essentially rebooting the status quo. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be) some things simply never change, and eventually the Botwin clan falls back into their old, dysfunctional, weed dealing patterns. Despite a new city and a few new characters, the show retains the core "values" it's developed over its last few seasons, leading to mixed results. Though wildly uneven and often repetitive, to its credit, 'Weeds' still remains entertaining. I'm just not so sure that's enough anymore.
Season six ended with a dramatic cliffhanger that saw pot-dealing mother of three, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), arrested, while the remainder of her family headed off to Denmark. Picking up three years later, season seven begins with Nancy's release from incarceration. Relegated to a half-way house in New York City, she quickly returns to her old tricks, and soon reunites with her misfit family. Unfortunately, her youngest son remains under the care of her sister, Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who plans on keeping custody of the child. Throughout the season Nancy fights to get her son back while she simultaneously attempts to rise to the top of New York's weed supply chain.
I'm not sure I've ever come to gradually hate a character as much as I have Nancy Botwin. Though Mary-Louise Parker continues to do great work in the role, the writers have seemingly done everything in their power to make the woman completely unlikeable. Having learned nothing from her time in prison, she instantly returns to a selfish life of crime. As pointed out within the show, the character essentially thinks she's special, that she's somehow above normal society and therefore doesn't have to play by its rules -- a modern day Raskolnikov in high heels and a mini-skirt, if you will. This of course has made for some potent drama and interesting character development in the past, but now it's just starting to get ridiculous and stagnant. It's hard to feel sympathy for a character that continues to repeat all of the same mistakes while remaining so self-centered and manipulative. In fact, I often found myself vehemently rooting against Nancy throughout the season.
While the main character's behavior turned me off considerably, I must admit that after a few episodes, the show starts to work regardless. Various storylines involving custody battles, Wall Street firms, the New York modeling world, a police internship, bike shops, numerous sexual escapades, and lots of weed dealing, all offer a fun blend of quirky humor and solid drama. Not all of these subplots are created equal, however, and some sort of meander, while others end rather hastily, feeling unfinished. Certain reversals of fortune throughout the season tend to be rather coincidental and convenient, but for every lucky break the family runs into, there's an equally unfortunate development waiting just around the corner. A surprise appearance by a few old characters is not unwelcome, but seems like a desperate attempt to reclaim some of the show's past glory. Martin Short, Aidan Quinn, and Pablo Schreiber also join the cast for various arcs, and while they each do a nice job in their roles, they all make relatively abrupt exits, with Short being especially underutilized.
The rest of the core cast are given some decent material to work with. Silas (Hunter Parrish), in particular, really comes into his own this year and his rebellion against his mother and journey toward independence is one of my favorite aspects of the season. Shane's subplot involving a friendship with a police detective isn't as interesting, but his brief tenure as a puppeteer is a real highlight. For the first time in years, Doug (Kevin Nealon) isn't completely useless, and the writers have finally found something worthwhile to do with the character. He even gets a moment or two where he actually demonstrates legitimate competency. Unfortunately, Andy doesn't fare as well, and while Justin Kirk remains my favorite actor on the show, his character's whole shtick just feels tired. The writers made some interesting developments with him throughout the show's run, but much like Nancy, he seems to have reached a wall. With that said, Andy appears to feel this same frustration and Kirk does a great job of lending some genuine pathos to the traditionally comedic role.
'Weeds: Season Seven' is a far cry from the show's best material, but it still offers some solid entertainment. The writers continue to blend comedy and drama with bursts of creativity to mixed but mostly amusing results. Unfortunately, some plotlines feel tired, redundant, and undercooked, character development often seems more like smoke and mirrors than genuine growth, and Nancy Botwin continues to become increasingly unlikeable. The season ends with a decent set up for next year, but unlike previous cliffhangers, I find myself caring very little about how this one resolves. By most accounts, this show should have ended years ago, and it really does seem like the writers have milked the concept for all its worth. Perhaps next season will be the series' last, and if so, I really do hope the Botwin family goes out on a "high" note. Pun most definitely intended.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate presents 'Weeds: Season Seven' on two BD-50 discs housed in a standard case. After some skippable trailers, logos and warnings, the discs transition to standard menus. Disc one features episodes 1-7 and disc two contains 8-13. An insert is also included in the package with details on each episode.
The show is provided with a series of 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfers in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally in high definition, these transfers feature great detail and dimension.
The digital source is clean and pristine. Clarity is great, with a very sharp image that reveals lots of fine details in textures and facial features. Colors are bold and vibrant, popping from the screen with a cheery, rich palette. Contrast is high with bright whites that don't bloom and deep, consistent black levels. This all leads to a very pleasing image that features some nice dimension. Some very minor noise and banding are visible in a shot or two, but don't hurt the presentation at all.
While the cinematography itself is pretty basic, there's no denying the appeal of the bright, colorful picture. With no major artifacts, this is a great transfer.
The series is presented with English DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio. Optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are provided. Always clear and occasionally lively, this is a solid but not exceptional mix.
Dialogue is clean, full, and easy to make out. There is some decent separation across the front soundstage with various effects spaced directionally across the room. Basic ambiance and a few music cues hit the rear speakers, filling the surrounds with faint crickets, birds, and city noises, but none of these choices prove to be terribly immersive. A few lively moments involving some gunshots or an explosion creep up, offering a minor burst of low end activity. Dynamic range remains wide and distortion free throughout.
Though there's nothing particularly memorable about these mixes, they serve the content just fine with pleasing fidelity. The sound design could have used a bit more imagination and variance, but overall there's not much to complain about here.
Lionsgate has put together a decent but slightly disappointing collection of supplements, including deleted scenes, featurettes, and commentaries. All of the special features are presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and no subtitles.
Though 'Weeds' will likely never reach the same heights it did during its first three seasons, the show continues to offer entertainment value. Season seven is a pretty mixed bag and Nancy's character continues to be one of the most unlikeable protagonists on TV, but certain plotlines end up working well with effective humor and drama. The video transfers are great, and the audio is solid. Supplements are a bit disappointing, however, with some uneventful commentaries and disposable featurettes. Those that continue to be fans of the show should find a lot to like about these discs, but for viewers who jumped ship long ago, there really isn't enough here to warrant a return to the series.