I should start this off with a confession: I’m a Weeds apologist. I know there’s a popular belief that Weeds got bad after it left Agrestic, but I’m here with a hot take to say that I disagree. Many would probably fight me to say that Weeds went on several seasons too long, which Showtime has a habit of doing (See: Homeland and Nurse Jackie—and some might say Dexter), but I would say Weeds only went on one season too long. Really, the only episode worth watching in its last season is the finale.
Much of that last season is spent with Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) healing from a gunshot wound to the head (first comatose and then not). Her sister Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh) stirs the pot with Andy (Justin Kirk) some more, and they have lots of loud sex. Eldest son Silas (Hunter Parrish) starts working for a corporate pharma company that grows marijuana, and Nancy starts selling it as a pharma rep, but this leads them to realize that they don’t like working for “the man.” Elsewhere, middle son Shane (Alexander Gould) solves who shot Nancy and continues training as an officer of the law instead of going to college. Our final puzzle piece, Doug (Kevin Nealon), also has sex with Jill…but mostly does random things like setting up a fake homeless shelter and then starting a religious cult. (I could’ve done with Doug being written out years ago, but I digress.)
Honestly, the only thing of value that happens before the Weeds finale is Andy leaving Nancy. Walking out of the Botwin/Bloom/Price-Gray clutches for good—but not before Nancy and Andy have sex on the sidewalk. Which sidewalk? Well, the one where Nancy’s first husband Judah (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) aka Andy’s brother died of a heart attack.
So, bless the lucky stars that the series finale takes a seven-year time jump! Rarely would you have me saying that a time jump was a good thing on television (save for maybe The Politician). I think they’re often a lazy excuse for the writers to move on from something that wasn’t working, and they result in a jarring experience for the viewer. And maybe the former is true with the Weeds finale, but the two-part episode entitled “It’s Time” ends up being a coherent, charming, and enjoyable experience that I didn’t find at all jarring.
“Time And Loss Have Mellowed Me.”
Setting-wise, the Weeds finale puts us sometime in the 2020s (based on how many time jumps we took during the series—the other lengthy one being Nancy going to prison). No pandemic in sight, but hey cool phones and computers! And automated dry-cleaners that don’t dispense the correct order!
That’s kind of it for cool future things, which feels pretty legit. It’s also nice that the episode doesn’t get too caught up in being all “tHiS iS tHe FuTuRe!” because well, plot.
In a callback to the pilot, “You Can’t Miss the Bear,” we start the finale off at a PTA meeting, which is now largely male-dominated. Nancy is again being gossiped about for losing her husband—this time Rabbi David Bloom (David Julian Hirsh). Ironically, he dies while swerving to avoid a bear. But the bulk of the episode is the lead-up to the bar mitzvah of now 13-year-old Stevie (Mateus Ward). Rabbi David/the man Stevie called “Dad” died sometime in the last year, so grief is there, but it’s not the star of the show.
The success of Nancy’s Good Seed Cafe—which now has 50 locations and interest from Starbucks in terms of acquiring it—also plays a role in this episode because marijuana is legal (for most but not all states). But in the face of this business success/Bar Mitzvah lead-up also comes something of an emotional reckoning for Nancy. In the midst of all her so-called success, no one really wants to be around her, least of all her two eldest sons. Silas’s now-wife Megan (Shoshannah Stern) even goes as far as to keep Nancy’s granddaughter Flora away from her in every interaction. And her current confidant, Stevie, wants to go away to boarding school in Minnesota, which Nancy vehemently opposes. So, it looks as if Nancy has perhaps burned all bridges.
“Like There Are Any Secrets Left in This Family!”
But where is Andy in all this? Well, he’s moved on and started a family and restaurant in Ren Mar. He has a daughter named after his father, Leni, and he sort of keeps up with Shane and Silas (and maybe Stevie?) but not really. And he’s missing from the pre-bar mitzvah dinner, which worries Nancy.
Lo and behold, he shows up to make frittatas the morning of the bar mitzvah, just in time to see Stevie’s outburst at the actual ceremony because the previous evening brought Stevie some unsavory truths from Guillermo (Guillermo Díaz) about his birth father’s actual occupation.
“It’s Lonely at the Top.”
And somehow it’s Nancy and Doug who have parallel journeys in the Weeds finale, both making amends with their sons. I know I’ve said my piece about Doug being kind of useless, but in the series finale, he does serve a point. He and Nancy both run exploitive businesses and have let power and ego hurt people they’ve loved.
They both bring their son(s) back under the pretense of something else in order to seek redemption and absolve themselves. They are both—to a degree—forgiven for their past sins, but they are also both alone by the end. (I mean, Doug has people, but he pays them to be there.) It’s not a conclusion I came to eight years ago when I first watched the ending, but upon second look, the ending is actually kind of heartbreaking.
And I think that’s also why it worked. Nancy didn’t deserve a happy ending. She is a person who fought whoever got in her way, which eventually included her family. She went out of her way to lie to her children and betrayed most (if not all) of the people who helped her build her business along the way. She craved danger, was never quite satisfied with just getting by, and would tell you to go f*ck yourself if she disagreed with you. She was also dangerously controlling as a mother while also fiercely protective. But with the latter, she never quite let her children suffer the consequences of their actions.
Part of what makes this heartbreaking is that Nancy’s growth comes too late to have a truly meaningful impact. Sure, when she decides to sell the business, she and her other partners become rich, but that doesn’t solve all the hurt she caused along the way. She’s basically loathed by all (save Doug and Crick) of her business partners: Silas, Conrad, and Guillermo. So the choice to sell to Starbucks releases them from her grip but doesn’t right the wrongs (or even acknowledge the wrongs) from over the years. Perhaps the most selfless thing she does is let Stevie go to boarding school—letting go of some of her control over his upbringing.
“Things Happen. Things Change.”
The instigator of all this push for her seems to be Andy. Nancy truly loves him, and though she spent years manipulating him, he also still cares for her. She breaks down in his arms just prior to the conclusion of the Weeds finale and tries everything to get him to come back to her. He thanks her for everything she has ever done for him and leaves her with, “[it’s] time for you to face yourself.”
And after Stevie’s speech, in which he thanks his mom the most, Nancy escapes to the steps with her thoughts. She’s joined for one last moment with Doug, Silas, Shane, and finally Andy where no words are spoken between the passing of a joint. And in the end, Nancy takes a hit, which is extremely rare for her.
I wonder in those last moments (before the rest of the main cast came outside) what Nancy’s thoughts were. Was she reflecting on the people she had hurt who weren’t there? Conrad? Heylia? Vaneeta? Celia? Jill? Esteban? Pilar? Lupita? All the people of color she exploited? Was she thinking of things she could’ve done differently as a parent? Or was she just wishing she had more iced coffee?
I also wonder if any of these questions were on the writers’ minds as the ending came to be. I know it’s not a happy ending for Nancy, and that is in itself a form of punishment for her bad behavior, but I do wish more closure was given to a character like Celia (a career-best Elizabeth Perkins) whose storyline fizzled so frustratingly at the end of Season 5. That, or a character like Heylia or Lupita came back and really took Nancy down a peg in the Weeds finale.
“Most of All, I Want to Thank You, Mom.”
But I guess there’s only so much you can do in a series finale. And what an ending this was if you look at this as a larger character study of Nancy Botwin! Hell, what a character this was if you look at television in 2005! This show arguably gave birth to the female antihero, 30-minute dark comedy. I mean, where else were women allowed to be so cunning, cruel, sarcastic, unlikeable, unmaternal, and yet so successful at the time?
Sure, Weeds had its problems and clichés at times. It also moved locations too much, killed a few too many characters and henchmen, and gave Doug too much material. I could spend some time explaining away the bonkers plotlines of the sixth and seventh seasons (seriously just read the Wikipedia plot summary of the seventh season), or I could even complain alongside you regarding the material of the eighth season, but the Weeds finale doesn’t require any of that. And that’s what made it good: it was self-aware that it had gotten a little out of its depth.
“It’s Time” was a series finale for fans who stopped watching for long stretches, but also rewarded those who had stuck by the show from stellar beginning to poignant ending. And Weeds was a show that flipped the gender of an antihero and also challenged the plot of a comedy. It was a genre-bending, somewhat infuriating, somewhat masterful mess that ultimately changed how I looked at television and narrative arcs.
Certainly, Weeds is not for everyone—and certainly, not everyone will have the patience for its shenanigans in the later seasons. But those brave souls who do stick with it will hopefully be rewarded. And if 2005 feels like too far to go back to, maybe they’ll cook us up something more current in the reboot. Maybe there’s hope yet to satisfy those who stopped watching, and for those of us who watched the entirety, another joint of MILF weed will soon be ready to smoke. Until then, Nancy Botwin.