What is it about Mary-Louise Parker? What is that hoo-doo she does so well? The third-season opener of Showtime's "Weeds" is a Mary-Louise tour de force of sidelong glances, mischievous grins, heavy sighs and "oh fucks" that bespeaks the weariness of working moms everywhere. Who wouldn't get tired chasing a teenager and a pre-teen boy around all day, keeping tabs on them and trying to make a living all at the same time.
What's always been fun about "Weeds" is that it's a crazy suburban fairy-tale about a sexy-sweet pot-dealing soccer mom. Series creator-exec producer Jenji Kohan was smart to ground "Weeds" from the get-go in the heart-breaking story of a woman who was truly living the dream with a husband she loved madly and two beautiful sons, and then wakes up one day (in the pilot) finding herself a widow and forced to make her own way in the world, and to make enough of a living to maintain the comfortable lifestyle that her family has become accustomed to, or more accurately, the only way of life they've ever known. In the dealing with this smack-in-the-face wakeup call, Parker's Nancy Botwin discovers a very real world far removed from the neatly trimmed lawns and tract houses of planned suburbia.
In season two of "Weeds" last year, Nancy veered off the rails as she built up her weed-dealing biz like a entrepreneurial pro, and attempted to make some sense of her adult-emotional life in tackling a serious relationship with a man who happened to be a DEA agent. I'm not gonna be a spoiler here -- I wouldn't want to take the fun away from fans who've waited all year -- but let's just say in this season's opening seg Nancy is so off the rails she can't even see the tracks anymore. And of course, Elizabeth Perkins' Celia's in the middle of everything, directing her withering, snooty sneer at Nancy and her family and anyone else who crosses her path.
The seg opens with a fantastic bit of McGuffin-ry involving a random family that happens to be poking their noses into the wrong place at the wrong time, and it signals the high quotient of wild-and-crazy humor that's in store for the rest of the episode and, presumably, the rest of the season. The casting of the eclectic group of characters that swoop in and out of the seg is fantastic, and so is the writing, which gives these people (some of them not such nice folks) real characterization and backstories in all of two-three lines of dialogue. And as always, the writing offers plenty of commentary on the class issues that the show explores so deftly, and the big questions about morality and virtue, and how the various characters in the show demonstrate those qualities, or not.
Of course, Justin Kirk is ever-charming as Nancy's neer-do-well brother-in-law Andy (he gets himself into a good ol' scrape in the opener), and young actor Hunter Parrish (pictured above with Parker) just gets better and better as Nancy's conflicted older son, Silas. The good folks at Showtime and Lionsgate TV, which produces "Weeds," have been swearing to all of us that this is the best season of "Weeds" yet. So far, I'm inclined to agree.