Over the years, Weeds has dismantled itself from the things that made it such an intriguing series to begin with - A down to earth and relatable plot, organic character development, and even the occasional ability to pull on our heartstrings. No, instead of continuing the successful formulaic build of the first couple of seasons, Weeds has become an exercise in spectacle, and to be rather blunt, it makes the show wreak. Not of marijuana mind you, as the clever tag-line of the season, let's blow this joint, would have you believe, but of laziness. In the beginning, Jenji Kohan crafted a show that had the potential to be remembered as one of the greats after all was said and done, but the dramedy turned tight-rope walking circus act, especially in regards to the fifth season, is certain to be forgotten unless the show finds a way to get back to its roots. Fortunately, the plot synopsis for the sixth and latest season seems like the restarting point that certain fans like myself have been waiting for, but does Jenji continue to play it safe by continuing the charade to obtain easy ratings, or does she once again provide some intellect amidst the smoke of these 13 new episodes?
Warning - This review contains a major spoiler from the previous season. Please skip down to the other sections of the review if you have not yet seen season 5.
At the end of the previous season, Nancy was really becoming engulfed in an unwinnable situation. Her husband Esteban, a Mexican crime boss and crooked politician, was being aggressively pursued by Pilar, a woman who also craves a great deal of power in the country south of the American border. Just so I'm clear on the definition of 'aggressive' here, she had Esteban arrested on conspiracy charges, set him free so she could blackmail him to run on her political ticket to better her chances at winning, and even hired a hit man to wipe Nancy off the face of the Earth. In the final moments of the season however, Pilar stepped up her intimidation technique, telling Nancy to her face that if she didn't back off of Esteban, something horrible would happen to her and her children. It all seemed like a perfect setup for the sixth season but, THWACK! A croquet mallet handled by none other than Nancy's youngest son, Shane, turned Pilar's brain into Jell-O in an instant. Nancy's eyes go wide as her brain tries to process what just happened and... cliffhanger. No worries though, the sixth season picks up precisely where the previous one left off. The opening moments finally reveal Nancy's response to Shane murdering Pilar, and as typical for mother Botwin, her natural instinct is to choose flight over fight. So, with both the United States and Mexico looking for the Botwins, they attempt to flee to Canada to start anew as the Newmans, but some 'issues' force them to settle for Seattle instead. Supposedly having learned a lesson or two, Nancy and her crew of misfits decide it's time to do some legitimate work. Of course, none of them are truly cut out for the daily grind most regular folk have to attend to, so when an opportunity presents itself to get back into the drug game, they take it. Of course, one mistake leads to many, and Esteban and his goons are on their trail every step of the way.
Well, here we go again.
If you've read my review for the fifth season of Weeds on Blu-ray, you'll probably think I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but the amount of face-palm inducing stupidity on display throughout the latest season is not only maddening, but insults my intelligence as a viewer as well. I mean, after relocating to Seattle in an effort to get away from the criminals and authorities that want to get their hands on them, the Botwins finally have a genuine opportunity to stay under the radar and live a semi-normal life. They changed their names, obtained new identification cards, and even started working at a hotel in order to make ends meet. Sure, the lifestyle of a bellhop or maid might not be very glamorous, but let's be honest here - The Botwins haven't exactly been living the dream for quite some time. This was a golden opportunity for the writers to finally take the show in a different direction, in an effort to bring the plot back to a respectable level of authenticity, and perhaps even make the main characters feel like real people again, as opposed to the cartoon caricatures they've become of their former selves. No such luck though, as Nancy, with painful predictability, once again risks the lives of everyone she loves by trying to make some easy money. Furthermore, she doesn't even attempt to keep her illegal business venture low-key - As a new employee at the hotel, she finds it appropriate to use the industrial size laundry dryers to help with making hashish. What bothers me about this, besides the obvious fact that her employer could find out and call the feds in a second, is that Nancy is scripted to be an intelligent woman. A woman in over her head, yes, but an intelligent woman nonetheless. But her actions on a regular basis don't convey to me that she's intelligent... they just scream out loud that she wants to get caught. Of course, I know she doesn't really want to be caught, but that's the discrepancy I take issue with - Nancy's character vs. what she's forced to do for the sake of the so called 'plot'.
The rest of the cast isn't really given any attention when it comes to character development either. Shane is just as awkward as he ever was, Andy is still struggling with the feelings he has for Nancy, Doug is still just an over-the-top cliché of a stoner without three brain cells to rub together (a real shame, since at the beginning of the series he was an average working man that happened to smoke pot), and Silas is still just going along for the ride. If there was a single character that I absolutely had to choose for advancing the furthest this season though, I guess Silas would be it. He finds out a revelation about his family history that's sure to change his plans for the future, and he's also aspiring to go to college. Other than that though, there are no surprises this year in regards to anyone else. It's just more of the same, with the exception that they have a few different backdrops to work with yet again. As with the last season, I found myself unable to empathize with any of the characters. I couldn't care less about who lives, who dies, who goes to jail, or whatever other fate could possibly await the Botwin clan. Just as there's no substance to the plot, there's no substance of any value for these characters anymore. Gone are the days where Nancy used to find a connection with every housewife across America, Andy was merely the bad influential uncle, a tale of love actually existed with the likes of Conrad, and Shane was just a little boy trying to figure out his place in this cruel, cruel world. So be it.
Rating this season purely on the substance-free spectacle alone, it's still the most disappointing season of the series to date. I can understand why Jenji Kohan wouldn't change her series back to its original winning formula this late in the game. It just seems like it's probably too late for that now, and besides, the spectacle angle has helped to keep the ratings up. Of course, the problem with producing a spectacle, is that it really needs to be something worth watching in the end, and the sixth season is far from it. Every episode of season 5 seemed more unbelievable than the last, almost in a good way. In the sixth season however, the only thing more unbelievable than the events in the preceding year, is just how routine all of this seems by now. It's old hat, old news, kaput. I guess that's probably why Jenji is claiming that the next season may be the last, because seven years would be 'a good run'. Hopefully things are able to turn around for the better, but if this season is any indication of where the series is headed, it may not even be worth sticking around to see the end. I've been a 'fan' since the beginning, but this viewer has reached his breaking point. I need more than just a string of 'oh no she didn't!' moments to stay interested. If you've never had a problem with how the last few seasons of the show have been rapidly dumbed down, then you probably won't find much wrong with this collection of 13 episodes. Those of you who have been growing increasingly weary over the direction the show has been heading, you may want to approach this year with caution.
Encoded at 1080p with the AVC codec at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Weeds - Season Six looks fantastic on Blu. The picture is sharp, clarity is immaculate most of the time, the contrast is impressive at both ends of the spectrum, skin tones are accurate, and colors are bold and lifelike. This provides a great amount of depth and dimensionality to make the show seems as if it's taking place behind a window rather than a television screen. Simply put, this is a great improvement over what Showtime is able to broadcast over the air. Showtime continues to prove that it knows how to treat its properties in the home video market, at least where A/V is concerned. If you've never had the chance to see Weeds in full 1080p, now's the time.
Once again Weeds is presented with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and although it may not be as impressive as, oh, a feature-length blockbuster, it's still a flawless representation of the source. The dialogue is what really drives the series, and the lossless track really benefits this aspect of the sound mix by providing speech astounding clarity. Surrounds aren't really active all that often, but this is to be expected for a television series. Whenever it's appropriate for directional audio to come out to play however, the soundstage can really provide a surprising sense of environmental ambience. Much like the video presentation, the audio on this Blu-ray set is definitely a step up over what Showtime's HD broadcast has been able to provide, and will satisfy any fan that doesn't have any unreasonable expectations of the mix.
Cast and Crew Commentaries -8 of the 13 episodes this season have commentaries accompanying them, and for the most part they're pretty decent. Series creator Jenji Kohan is pretty boring to listen to during whatever commentary she provides, as she seems to spend half her time watching and then making obvious comments when appropriate, but there are a lot of awkward silences that make her commentary skip-worthy. Everyone else that contributes on other episodes however seem to have a lot of relevant things to say, and anyone who wants to find out more about the writing process and how things go down behind the scenes should give these a listen.
Kevin Nealon and Justin Kirk - What Do We Have Left to Say? - This interview featuring the two actors is just over ten minutes long, surprisingly, and is quite a bit more interesting than the episodes on this set. It's informative and funny, and both actors seems like the kind of guys I'd want to go out and have a beer with. If you're a fan of the series and happen to pick this set up, make sure you watch this one!
Fandamonium - Weeds Creators Tell All - Justin Kirk asks questions by the fans to the people who are responsible for developing the show behind the scenes. This clocks in over ten minutes as well, and although it's not quite as informative as I would have like it to be, it's still an interesting supplement that should please any fan of the show.
Bye Bye Botwins - Clocking in at just over 8 minutes, this featurette has the cast discussing their roles between the fifth and sixth seasons of the show. It's really interesting to watch the cast sit down and justify what's been happening to their characters. If they truly believe in where Jenji is bringing the show, kudos to them, but it was still hard for me to swallow a lot of the enthusiasm that was on display.
Last but not least, is a hilarious Gag Reel. It's always a pleasure to see actors and actresses step out of their role to laugh and just be themselves, so I especially enjoyed this.
Jenji Kohan had the perfect opportunity this season to brings Weeds back to the good ole' days, where believable character development and comical yet nail-biting plot points kept the viewer hooked. Unfortunately, it seems that the creative team behind the show decided to keep going for the easy ratings by continuing the unbelievable circus that has plagued the series for years now. The next season is supposedly going to be the last, and after seeing this season, I can agree that it's definitely time for Weeds to step down and make room for another Showtime original. If you've found the antics on display in the third, fourth, and especially fifth season of the show to be thoroughly enjoyable, then consider my review to merely be a bunch of hot air that you should ignore. If you've felt the show declining as rapidly as I have however, then you should do yourself a favor and only rent this release. For you die-hards out there that are unwilling to acknowledge the fatal flaws this show possesses, you'll be happy to know that the audio and video presentation on this release is better than broadcast, and the supplements although not numerous, should also strike the right chord.