Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Weeds s.3 ep. 13: "Risk" wri. Roberto Benabib, Matthew Salsberg, & Rolin Jones, 2007

These hands went to college, majored in English Lit.

We finally get our resurrection payoff for all the Biblical imagery in this season, but it's an odd one. For everything great about Weeds, it is a visually conservative show. The camera operates as an invisible chronicler, capturing and arraying the goings-on of the characters in the most simple and straightforward manner possible. So when Shane starts talking to the camera, mano y mano, the effect is jarring, even moreso when he identifies the other in his conversation as his dad.

Look: there are dozens of ways that Shane's quasi-convo could have been shot, but this way - a Kubrickian stare, dead-on the camera - indicates the audience in a big way. Two readings: we've become Shane's dad or the camera has become Shane's dad. (Of course, the obvious reading is that Shane is resurrecting a parental figure because he has none; his dad is dead and his mom is caught up in the drug world, emotionally and physically unavailable. This reading makes perfect sense in the constative, but it doesn't really account for the what the camera is doing in these scenes. Let it stand as sufficient in terms of content, but the form requires a little more teasing.) Both readings are problematic, mainly because Weeds hasn't offered any foundation for this type of bravura meta-analysis. It's a show that, perfectly constructed plot and characters aside, is what it is.

But there's still the nagging question of what to do with those shots. It is interesting that the camera and the audience have spent more time watching Shane grow up than Nancy, and also that Shane tends to be the technology whiz, so he's the ideal character for this type of reading. More than anything, though, I think these shots are indicative of something mostly different: formal invention, used correctly, is extremely powerful. Shane's dialogue with the camera stands in stark contrast to the rest of this - relatively meh - episode. Both that and the fact that the series rarely touches anything visually inventive allows this shot to pop, its formal characteristic acting as perfect counterpoint to the emotional content of the scene. This type of creative intelligence and play is the reason that Weeds has not delivered a single bad episode or plotline yet. Some have been just ok - I'm not to keen on Mary-Kate Olsen, and I have no idea what happened to the Hispanic guy that that Nancy got it on with at the end of season one - but even the ok plots and characters have been thought and well and justified in terms of the logic of the show. For a show that could quickly devolve into satire and bathos, that's an impressive feat.

Other things:

-Weeds handles race incredibly well. Heylia says, "What they say is, 'Good morning,' but what they really sayin' is, 'I'm not racist.'" Fantastic description of the way racism mixes with fear to produce a sort non-response to race. It's an indictment of suburbia without resorting to parody.

-Heylia and Celia together (oh shit, it rhymes!) is a stroke of genius. Great dynamic in that one scene, can't wait to see where it goes. Is it possible that Celia's lesbian undercurrent will finally fully manifest itself? A possibility, I think, especially since so much of H & C's conversation revolved around how awful men are.

-What do we make of the U-Turn tattoo? Nancy's been strange the last few episodes, clinging to pretty much any man she encounters, but I'm not sure we have enough of a reason for this. The fact that she's a widow and could in need of some emotional and physical support is certainly believable, but the abrupt outward expression of that need lately isn't. A little more justification would be nice.

-Here's my one other nagging concern: aren't we, basically, back at season one? Nancy is more big-time, but not too much has changed. Her own grow house, her marriage, her run-in with the DEA - shouldn't these things have a greater effect on the plot? Shouldn't we be in Pittsburgh now? I imagine the finale will address these questions, but its important that the life-changing in moments in a show are, indeed, life-changing.


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