Nurse Jackie: Season 3
Every year when it comes time to review another season of the Showtime Series ‘Nurse Jackie’ I’m faced with quite a dilemma. The series is a sharply written dark comedy with a keen satiric edge, traditionally one of my favorite genres. The acting is impeccable and the direction among the best on the upper tier of premium cable. The problem is the titular character transcends the term unlikeable or unsympathetic. Her actions are criminal and the woman belongs behind bars. Jackie Peyton, RN (Edie Falco) is a senior nurse working as an emergency room nurse at All Saints' Hospital in New York City. She has two daughters with her husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) and on the surface maintains the façade of being a diligent professional. The one major aspect of her personality that overwhelms this is a simple fact; Jackie is an uncontrollable addict. This is where my problem with the series is rooted. While addiction is a disease and presents a major health problem in this country there are certain conditions that rationally should move the societal concerns from treatment to judicial action. In her capacity of a nursing supervisor in a hospital Jackie’s medical problem extends significantly beyond affecting herself or immediate family to deleteriously impacting the health and lives of her patients.
No matter how well crafted a series may be it does irk me to see such a dangerous person be glorified in thus fashion. I’m usually the first to defend the separation of reality and fiction but due in large part to many years in the medical community this series triggers a cord with me. Still, with that said I will endeavor to concentrate on this series as a piece of fiction not necessarily obligated to the repercussions of reality. In any case suffice it to say Jackie is a woman who is in a bad position, a danger to herself and others but at least this third season the show runners are making a concerted effort to depict a few of the ramification of Jackie’s addictions. This is used to drive a dramatic slant to the season story arc and fuel the very dark humor. In short it might take more of an effort to get past the criminal activities here but that just seems to be latest fertile ground for premium cable original programming. Morally repressible main characters are the latest, very successful trend. From warrior Popes to libidinous writers and soccer mom pot dealer characters like these are obviously here to stay and Nurse Jackie is one of the better produced shows of this type.
As the third season begins Jackie is reeling from an intervention mounted by her family and best friend Dr. Eleanor O'Hara (Eve Best), a surgeon in her hospital. The immediate impact of this intervention was to put additional stress on her already tenuous marriage and bring her one stable friendship to the brink of dissolution. Work has always been a place for Jackie to lose herself either in an affair with the pharmacist or overindulging in the readily available supply of drugs. The hospital administrator Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) announces that a nearby hospital is shutting down sending the overflow to All Saints. This will result in a major increase in stress and Jackie is notoriously bad in find stress reduction tactics. Instead of helping the staff cope all that is on Akalitus’ mind is the possibility of a visit from the First Lady. Jackie’s daughters are exhibiting the results of the tension and turmoil present in the household. The eldest, Grace (Ruby Jerins) is obsessing over the tragic lives of the saints while Fiona (Mackenzie Aladjem) has become overly clingy with her parents. The ever bizarre Dr. Fitch "Coop" Cooper (Peter Facinelli) is on a self aggrandizing high after having his face on hospitals’ billboards challenges O'Hara in her bid to become the chief of the emergency room.
Some of the lighter moments are derived from the secondary characters that admittedly do take the onus off of the drug seeking behavior of Jackie as the only plot devices. Coop, is a fool by nature, a self obsessed and petty individual who always have to be center of attention. You might recognize the actor as Edward’s father in the ‘Twilight Saga’. In most medical shows there has to be the doe-eyed young nurse; one that idolizes the main character. Here we get Zoey (Merritt Wever). Initially she was the personification of innocence. Over the seasons the writers have expanded the role considerably inserting a few foibles into her persona. Ms Wever has fleshed out her portrayal incredibly. That is important since you have to have someone to connect with and Jackie has very few admirable qualities. She is a mother who cares about her children although it doesn’t seem to provide sufficient incentive to make some drastic changes. Actually, this is a strongly emotional character study of a person struggling with addition. All her bad choices revolve around her pursuit of pills. Even her sexual liaison with pharmacist Eddie Walzer (Paul Schulze) was to obtain drugs. This relationship haunts her as he becomes best friends with her husband. If you think he has a great chemistry with Ms Falco they did spend years with her as her priest and confidant in the ‘Sopranos’.
The one thing that has to be admired about this series is the incredible talents of Edie Falco. I have never seen her take on a role that she didn’t own. she can bring life tp Jackie in such a way that although you cannot abide by any of her choice you understand that this is a women completely at the mercy of her addiction. Falco plays Jackie without apology as a woman who his extremely damaged and who doesn’t have the focus to successfully overcome her disease. This is a brilliant character study albeit one of a ultimately not a very good person.