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Weeds: Season Five
At the end of the last season, Nancy was only seconds away from being just another dead drug dealer because she wasn't able to play the game discreetly enough. After revealing to Mexican crime lord Esteban that she's pregnant with his child however, she's granted permission to live... although she's not exactly sure for how long. The child growing inside of her is seemingly nothing more than a nine month lease on life, and to make sure that message is loud and clear, she's kept under surveillance by Esteban's bodyguards every second of every day. Afraid the cost of her stupidity might very well come in the form of pain and suffering for those that she loves, she isolates herself for their protection. Shane, her youngest son, is sent off to live with her sister, while Silas and Doug head for the hills to test their entrepreneurial mettle in the weed business. Being as how things never really work out for Nancy, it isn't long before everyone finds their way back home. She even receives an unwanted house guest, as Nancy comes home one day to find Celia living in her garage. Keeping her distance from everyone has failed, and the only option she has left is to get closer to Esteban than ever before, but the choice becomes almost unbearable to make when Andy professes his love, says he has enough money to take care of them for a long time, and asks her to run away with him... and that's just the beginning of the madness that's in store for the Botwin family. Throughout the rest of the season, Silas and Doug learn from Nancy's mistakes and decide to open a legitimate business, Shane continues to explore his darker side, Andy deals with depression as well as a new love interest, and Celia questions her sexuality and awkwardly begins to morph into Nancy.
I know the season summary doesn't sound like it's that off the wall, but without giving too much away, you're just going to have to take my word for it. Nancy's story alone is more than enough reason to induce a groan and a roll of the eyes. This woman is pretty much responsible for Agrestic being burned to the ground, and despite the fact she took her family the hell out of Dodge so they could start anew, she still manages to peep her peepers where they shouldn't be peekin', and she flaps her yap when she should have shut her trap. To put it bluntly, the contrast of this character between the first and fifth seasons are so ridiculously outlandish, that I can't even begin to see her as a real person anymore. In the first couple of seasons, Nancy was a delicate flower that was merely trying to provide for her family the quickest and easiest way she knew how - by selling marijuana. Now, a few seasons after the fact, Nancy has practically become a whorish cartoon caricature of herself. I mean, Nancy used to be a woman who was afraid to even get involved with a man, let alone let him in her pants. But a couple of seasons later, and it seems as if she's slept with practically every guy that came into the picture. Despite the numerous times she's come face to face with death, Nancy was finally given the opportunity to make a clean break from all the crap that went down in Agrestic, and what does she do? She moves along to the next town to stir the pot once again. Oh, and to sleep with, and become impregnated by a Mexican crime boss. Yeah, let's not forget about that. It's really no surprise that the fifth season continues Nancy's trend of making the most dumbfounded life altering decisions imaginable. Even the most patient fans of the series might be tempted to pull on their hair and scream at their television, "What?!"
The 'common' and 'relatable' woman that made this show a hit in the first place is gone. It's pretty clear the writers couldn't care less about meaningful, or even intelligible character study anymore, and this is the very reason why season five misses the mark more often than it hits. The most unfortunate thing about it all is the fact that Nancy isn't the only character that's become a clichéd shadow of a former self. Shane has become the poster boy for adolescent angst, Doug has finally completely regressed to being nothing more than a goofy stoner, Andy becomes the creepy bearded guy that plays Ms. Pac Man for six months straight, and Celia is practically an animated villain - She's dumb, full of rage, always has a scheme up her sleeve, but lacks a single ounce of wit to ever execute one successfully. If you thought I was being harsh when I first said I couldn't care less about what happens to the characters on this show anymore, perhaps at the very least I've justified that opinion.
Here's where I find myself torn though, because despite the fact the show has lost any chance it had to eventually wrap things up with a single ounce of integrity left intact, I can't deny that it's still thoroughly entertaining. I know the episode structure that's been dominating the show for the last couple of seasons doesn't compare to how the show first started, but what the writers set out to do in this particular season of Weeds, they do it well. Nancy has screwed up her life so bad, as well as the lives of everyone around her, that I simply can't help but watch the train wreck continue to unfurl. The tone of the show continues to grow darker, and the cliffhangers, although feeling pretty forced, are likely to consistently cause jaw-drop reactions that'll have you committed to watching numerous episodes back-to-back. Despite the darker tone however, Weeds is still a comedy at heart. There are plenty of cheap laughs, sure, but the fifth season has its fair share of clever gags too. In the end, I guess it all depends on how you personally felt about the last couple of seasons. If you loved what seasons three and four had to offer, you're most likely going to find the fifth season to be amongst the best yet. If you've become indifferent to Weeds sometime after the second season for the same reasons I have, then the fifth season probably isn't going to change your mind.
Encoded at 1080p with the AVC codec at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Weeds - Season Five 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 - 7 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.
Bloopers - The bloopers here aren't the funniest I've ever seen, but it's still a pleasant surprise to see everyone break character and just have a good laugh.
"History of Weed" - This is a two minute featurette that acts as an animated timeline on the history of marijuana.
Yes We Cannabis - This is a one minute promo of Doug standing at a podium, campaigning with the 'yes we cannabis' slogan. It's not really all that entertaining, and could really be perceived as filler to pad the special features list.
Little Titles by Jenji Kohan - Weeds has come up with inventive ways to show the title at the beginning of each episode, and this featurette shows each of those titles with commentary from series creator Jeni Kohan. She discusses what each one of these titles were inspired by, but much like her commentary skills, everything Jenji says really seems to be a no brainer.
Really Backstage with Kevin Nealon - Kevin Nealon (Doug) gives us an 11 minute look at what goes on during any particular day of filming. He shows us everything from having breakfast near the star trailers each morning, to getting to some pretty interesting behind the scenes footage, as well as some on the spot candid interviews with various cast members. This is a featurette I would definitely recommend.
Crazy Love: A Guide to the Dysfunctional Relationships of Weeds - This featurette specifically covers the relationship issues the main cast members seem to have. There are some interviews with both cast and crew to dissect this topic, and at only 12 minutes in length, this is definitely an extra everyone should watch. It's interesting to see everyone taking the character storylines so seriously, especially considering the lack of such development in the show nowadays, but at the very least we can see how everyone is truly inspired by their work. I have to give them credit for that!
University of Andy - The "University of Andy" is made up of 12 webisodes that ring in at a total of 34 minutes in length, and I have to admit, these are pretty interesting. Andy will spin you a cautionary tale on how to handle bears, improve your game with the ladies, and even school you on how you can start a band. I'd recommend watching them separately though, as they can become a little tedious after a while if you decide to watch them back-to-back.
There were a lot of little things in the first couple of seasons that gave Weeds its original charm, but the writers have unfortunately failed to realize that sometimes less really is more. Instead, they've opted to take all the funny quirks the audience responded so positively to early on, and have blown them up to the point where the show no longer resembles its former self. The characters now feel as if they're from another world, and the situations they're placed in episode after episode are no longer relatable. So I can't help but wonder why I, or anyone else for that matter, continue to watch Weeds on a regular basis? It's because of the spectacle, or as I like to call it, the never ending Botwin circus. The writers are blatantly putting all their effort into having viewers like me sit on the couch saying, "Oh my gosh! What's going to happen next? I can't believe she just did that! How is she going to get herself out of trouble this time?!" This does make for good television, but does it make for memorable television after all is said and done? No.
If you've been a fan of the series all along, you're going to have a blast with the fifth season. If not, then you're probably going to find this seasonal offering to be a disappointment. Me? I'm somewhere in the middle. Although I recognize how much of a decline the series has taken over the years, I think the cheap parlor tricks are still making the show exciting enough to be something I can recommend. Next season I might be singing a different tune. But, chances are you've already decided how you feel about the show itself, so for those of you that can't wait to see Weeds - Season Five uninterrupted from the comfort of your home, the A/V presentation on this two disc Blu-ray set is sure to impress.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!