"Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same…"
Despite its tantalizing season seven cliffhanger, I really didn't plan to watch 'Weeds' when it returned to Showtime last year. I still found the series to be mildly entertaining, but any real investment I had in the characters was pretty much dead. When the network announced that this would be the show's last season, however, I had a change of heart. After all, I had come this far with Nancy Botwin and her dysfunctional family -- why not see her out to the end? With that in mind, I was really pulling for the writers to give the show a fitting conclusion, but to be perfectly honest, I'm still not completely sure what to think of the results. Uneven but sporadically amusing, this final batch of episodes is a mixed bag, and while I wanted to be moved by the finale, the whole thing failed to leave much of an impression. Instead of the "high" note many fans were hoping for, 'Weeds' just sort of peters out.
When we last saw Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker), an unseen assassin was pulling the trigger of a sniper rifle pointed directly at her. Season eight begins with the aftermath of this attack, and though she has indeed been shot in the head, somehow Nancy keeps on chugging along. As she attempts to recover from her near fatal wound, the pot-dealing mother has a momentary moral awakening and suddenly questions her path in life. Meanwhile, Andy (Justin Kirk) struggles to develop a relationship with Nancy's sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Silas (Hunter Parish) discovers an opportunity with a medical marijuana company, Shane (Alexander Gould) attempts to track down his mother's shooter, and Doug (Kevin Nealon), well, Doug continues to be useless.
Though she flirts with giving up her selfish ways, Nancy essentially learns very little from her near death experience. Instead, the character continues to be extremely annoying and unlikeable. Likewise, none of the various storylines really end up amounting to anything, and the season just sort of meanders through disposable subplots as a means of killing time before the finale. In the show's defense, the writers attempt to weave in some interesting themes dealing with family and the concept of faith, but none of this ever really resonates. Some comical bits prove to be amusing here and there, but for the most part, the characters' inappropriate behavior just feels stale, and the show's twisted sense of humor isn't as witty as it once was.
Andy's tenure as a Hebrew school teacher is a highlight, but other excursions involving Shane's friendship with his Detective mentor (Michael Harney) are less effective. Harney's character was a little irritating last year, but this season he proves to be nearly unbearable. Silas' arc dealing with the production of a marijuana pill has potential, but mostly fizzles out, and Nancy's misadventures in "legitimate" pharmaceutical sales only goes on to prove how horrible of a person she can be even when she's not breaking the law. While the writers almost made Doug competent last year, here they completely regress the character, and honestly his plotlines are so terrible and painfully unfunny that they're really not even worth discussing.
On the bright side, the show's penultimate episode involves a return to a once important location, and the entire runtime basically plays out like pure fanservice. Thankfully, this actually works very well, and despite the clear pandering, it ends up being the season's strongest episode, taking the show full circle. Long absent characters all make amusing returns, and by the time the season ends, virtually every major player who's ever been on the show at least makes a cameo. The episode's conclusion also features one of the series' most important scenes, and to the showrunners' credit, it hits all the right emotional beats. Unfortunately, what follows is much more problematic.
'Weeds' is rather infamous for prematurely abandoning plotlines in order to quickly reinvent itself, but what happens near the end of season eight is downright ridiculous. While I don't want to give too much away, the writers abruptly discard most of the season's developing stories (some of which were just starting) in favor of going in a completely different direction. Though I didn't really care for any of these subplots to begin with, it's really quite jarring and downright lazy to spend so much time building up certain beats only to hastily toss them aside. In the included special features, the writers claim that this was done to make the finale more of a series conclusion than just an end to the season's arcs, but surely a better compromise could have been made.
The series finale itself is… interesting. Again, I don't want to get too heavy into spoiler territory, but the episode involves a time jump, and a lot of the characters' intervening developments feel odd and overly depressing. Shane definitely draws the short straw in this regard, further revealing just how lost the writers were with the character after his notorious "mallet incident." Silas comes out the best and his overall arc proves to be the most satisfying. Of course, the Nancy/Andy relationship plays heavily into the series' endgame, and despite some good work from both actors and a few strong on-screen moments, this aspect really doesn't hit as strongly as intended. In many ways, the series final shot is a beautifully staged piece of filmmaking, but it all just rings falsely to me. I wanted to be swept up in the bittersweet emotion of it all, but when factoring in the haphazard road that gets us there, it feels hollow, confused, and sadly forced.
When 'Weeds' first began it really seemed like something special -- but now that it's reached its finale, I'm not so sure that it was ever really the show I thought it was. There's certainly some fun to be had here, and there are a few poignant dramatic beats, but by and large the series' emotional component has been too heavily diluted by dumb, exaggerated antics and a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist. It's a decent conclusion, but it's still a far cry from the series' heyday. While I wanted nothing more than for this year to be a resounding success, it really only further proves that this was a show that should have already ended years ago. A part of me will miss the Botwin clan, but to be honest, despite a few strong runs here and there, it already feels like they've been gone for a few seasons now.
"... There's a pink one and a green one, and a blue one and a yellow one, and they're all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same."
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate presents 'Weeds: Season Eight' on two BD-50 discs housed in a keepcase. 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 with details on each episode. The packaging indicates the release is region A coded.
The show is provided with a series of 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfers in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Like the previous season, the picture is bright, colorful, and sharp, offering a pleasing and impressive image.
Some marginal noise is apparent from time to time, but the digital source is free from any obtrusive artifacts. Though some shots can look a tad flat, overall clarity and depth are strong, revealing distinct fine details in the suburban settings and locations. Colors are vivid and pop from the screen (especially greens), and though saturation is high the image never looks unnatural. Contrast does run hot and slightly blown out, but the intense whites don't overpower the picture. Black levels are steady and deep, and shadow delineation is solid throughout.
Again, like previous seasons of the show, the cinematography isn't anything to get too excited about, but these transfers are technically strong and provide a clear, punchy image free of any major problems.
The series is presented with English DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio tracks. Optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are provided. Though not particularly immersive and far from spectacular, these mixes are all very solid and serve the show's modest sound design well.
Dialogue is clear, full-bodied, and prioritized well. The season starts off with a bang (literally) and the sound design brings an appropriately chaotic atmosphere to the opening scene. The rest of the audio presentation mellows out considerably, but the mixes remain technically proficient. The soundstage itself is on the small side, but general nature and neighborhood ambiance is spread around the front and rear speakers when called for. Bass activity is pretty negligible but does perk up during a few music selections and some of the livelier scenes (including a roller derby sequence). The score comes through with solid fidelity, and every varied rendition of the show's famous theme song, "Little Boxes," sounds great. Dynamic range is wide and distortion free and all of the auditory elements are balanced well together.
There really isn't much to the audio landscape of 'Weeds,' but these mixes work well with the content, cleanly delivering the dialogue while adding a faint but welcome sense of restrained atmosphere.
Lionsgate has put together a decent but slightly underwhelming collection of supplements (considering that this is the last season and all). All of the special features are presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and no subtitles.
The final season of 'Weeds' is an uneven but sporadically entertaining conclusion for this once great show. The series doesn't go out on the high note that fans were hoping for, but this last batch of episodes has some worthwhile moments. The video transfers are strong and the audio mixes are solid. Supplements are decent but a bit of a letdown considering that this is the last season. Those who have stuck with the show throughout its run will probably want to pick this up, and even casual viewers who stopped watching might want to check this out to see how it all ends. Just make sure to lower your expectations.