Weeds: Season Five

(2009) ** 1/2 Unrated
360 min. Showtime. Cast: Mary-Louise Parker, Justin Kirk, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Nealon, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould.

/content/films/3674/1.jpgAs a show ages, it must try harder to generate surprise. Unfortunately, shock tactics can also lead a show to come off as a little desperate. Weeds continues to entertain in its fifth season, but even its most devoted fans must admit that—in straying from its suburban roots—Weeds has invited wilder and wilder plot developments that have become decreasingly relatable. On the other hand, despite the dramedy's prominent humor, no one can accuse the show of shrinking from dark psychological themes: the leading character of Nancy Botwin (Emmy winner Mary-Louise Parker) has spun more wildly out of control with each season, and her family has become more fragmented despite her efforts to add a baby and a husband—in that order.

Season Four moved the Botwins—Nancy, sons Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould), and brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk)—to a Mexican border town, where they continued to keep their hand in the marijuana trade. Nancy struck up with the corrupt mayor of Tijuana, Esteban Reyes (Demián Bichir), who impregnated her but also threatened to kill her when she ratted out his criminal operations to the DEA. At Season Five's outset, there's an uneasy truce between Nancy and her baby daddy, which eventually leads to a wedding proposal. Silas and pothead family friend Doug (Kevin Nealon)—having laid to rest their coyote business—partner in a medical marijuana enterprise. Nancy's nemesis Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins), more pathetic than ever, throws herself at Nancy's mercy while finding a way to turn her life around. Andy continues to pine for Nancy, even as he flails romantically through other relationships with other women, including Nancy's obstetrician, Dr. Audra Kitson (Alanis Morissette). As for Shane, he's becoming a man through sexual and violent inititations both sought and unsought.

At this point, Weeds probably continues to thrive more so for its cast than its writing, with Parker continuing to turn in a dry and fearless performance and the sharp Kirk embodying Andy as both comically and poignantly inept in society. Nealon and Perkins are still consistent hoots, and as the Botwin children, Parrish and Gould worryingly display the most maturity on the show. Though Season Four's Albert Brooks is missed as Andy's weary father, Jennifer Jason-Leigh pops up all-too-briefly (in two Season Five episodes) as Nancy's sister Jill. As always, the show's thirteen episodes gradually tighten the narrative knot until a finale that finds the family at another troubling turning point. It's hard to say what tricks creator/executive producer Jenji Kohan will pull next to keep the show fresh, but maybe it's time for another change of scenery. Perhaps the Botwins can cut a deal soon—a Witness Protection Program deal?—to start anew in a Midwestern suburbia that conspires to keep them criminal despite their best intentions. It's time for Nancy and Andy to play house.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix

Street date: 1/19/2010

Distributor: Lionsgate

Weeds: Season Five comes to Blu-ray in transfers that provide an obvious upgrade from their standard-def counterparts. That said, the transfers aren't reference quality, as they can be a bit inconsistent. Detail is quite good, and colors vibrant if not always natural. Black level at times leaves something to be desired, but contrast is otherwise okay. The thirteen episodes get DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mixes, but as impressive as that sounds, don't expect your speakers to get a workout. The mixes are perfectly adequate but very front-heavy, with little notable use of the surrounds.

Audio commentaries include "Wonderful, Wonderful" with creator/executive producer Jenji Kohan; "Su-Su-Sucio" with executive producer Roberto Benabib & Matthew Salsberg; "Van Nuys" with Hunter Parrish & Kevin Nealon; "Where the Sidewalk Ends" with Benabib, Nealon & Salsberg; "Ducks and Tigers" with Justin Kirk & Alanis Morissette; "Glue" with Elizabeth Perkins, Allie Grant & Andy Milder; and "All About My Mom" with Kohan. It's particularly fun to hear from the stars, though Parker doesn't contribute here.

"A Brief History of Weed" (1:58, HD) is a bite-sized documentary on marijuana, while the promo "Yes We Cannabis" (1:02, SD) finds Nealon playing a "change"-themed politician.

In "Little Titles" (3:18, HD) Kohan provides not terribly useful commentary for each of the season's "little title" sequences.

"Really Backstage with Kevin Nealon" (11:07, HD) is a cheeky video diary.

In the most entertaining bonus feature, "Crazy Love: A Guide to the Dysfunctional Relationships of Weeds" (12:15, HD), Nealon, Kirk, Kohan, Perkins, Grant, Mary-Louise Parker, and Demian Bichir discuss the bizarre relationships among the show's characters.

Also on hand are a reel of "Bloopers" (11:04, HD) and Lionsgate's bookmarking feature.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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