Nurse Jackie: Season 4
It appears that a trend that has taken hold of entertainment is the anti-hero; a protagonist of less than stellar or ambiguous moral fiber. The glorification of persons that would, under any normal circumstances would be considered criminal has moved to center stage as the main characters in films and television series. This is most evident in the premium cable tier. With its less restrictive guidelines for content themes that are mature in nature are possible. This has led to an organized crime boss in psychotherapy to a police forensic expert who moonlights as a serial killer. In most of these cases another factor of premium cable is evident as a showcase for some of the tightest direction, best writing and most formidable performances you are likely to see anywhere. For a sizable number of viewers the quality of the shows appears to be a mitigating factor for the unconscionable behavior of the titular characters. In the series under consideration here, ‘Nurse Jackie’, this is at least partially true. For four seasons thus far this series has followed the personal and professional life of a registered nurse in New York. Jackie is a wife, mother, nurse and out of control drug addict. Another trend that is gaining in this realm is the need for these characters to face the consequences of their heinous and dangerous actions. On broadcast television, another medical professional with a serve substance abuse problem was shown going into rehabilitation and eventually prison. In this fourth season the show runners decided it was about time for Nurse Jackie to pay the piper. In some ways this laid the foundation for one of the best seasons the series has presented so far. Although there is a certain degree of vicarious thrills in watching the actions of somebody living outside the legal and moral structure of our society there is also a counterbalancing need to see justice prevail. At some point the vigilante is captured or the drug addict must admit to their problem. This is necessary in order to maintain the balance necessary to our society and feel safe. It comes down to a requirement in telling a story that those that choose to live outside the constraints of the law must also abdicate its protection.
For several years Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), RN, has been living a double life. Ostensibly she was a loving wife to her husband Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) and dedicated mother to her two daughters, teenager Grace (Ruby Jerins) and younger sister Fiona (Mackenzie Aladjem). At work as a senior nurse at a Catholic hospital Jackie is considered hard working dedicated and dependable. The part of her life carefully guarded from everyone revealed the true nature of Jackie; addicted to powerful pain killers. One way she managed to feed her habit was to maintain a sexual affair with the hospital pharmacist. Eddie Walzer (Paul Schulze). Over the last couple of years her carefully isolated lives began to crumble apart. Her husband found out about the drugs and her affair, her job is in jeopardy and even her normally free spirited best friend Dr. Eleanor O'Hara (Eve Best) is extremely worried about Jackie. The hospital administrator, Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) has done her best to help Jackie albeit with a limited knowledge of the depth of the problems. By the time this season opens Jackie is at the tipping point; about to face the consequences of her addiction as well as drastic changes at work. After receiving a shock due to her drug use Jackie finally realizes her life is completely out of control. She goes to Akalitus and requests her piled up vacation days. Although the word rehab is judiciously circumvented both women know exactly what is needed. Akalitus agrees and after her gossamer thin cover story, a trip to Disneyland is in place Jackie commits herself to in patient drug rehabilitation.
While in the treatment facility major changes were being foist upon the hospital. The Arch dioceses have turned over the management of the hospital to a health care corporation, Quantum Bay. First and foremost their objective is turning the All Saints into a profitable endeavor. Dr. Mike Cruz (Bobby Cannavale). Although he has medical training and possesses an MD Cruz is a business man through top the core. Efficiency and profitability are his guidelines caring more about the corporate bottom line than the patient’s charts. Cruz wastes no time before drastically altering the working environment. The alterations are not met with acceptance of the staff. Individuality falls to the new corporate culture when Cruz implements a strict uniform code eliminating any personal tastes in scrubs. This hits the somewhat flaky nurse Zoey Barkow (Merritt Wever) particularly hard denying her the juvenile oriented scrubs she is accustomed to wear. A similar objection is held by Thor Lundgren (Stephen Wallem), another floor nurse. The changes hit Akalitus unexpectedly hard. She is relieved from her administrative job and forced to stay on as a floor nurse. Cruz barely has time to take over Akalitus’ office when staff physician, Dr. Fitch Cooper (Peter Facinelli) starts in with a concerted effort to curry favor with the new boss. Be begins to campaign against O’Hara for the post of head of the ER.
Meanwhile, Jackie is having a difficult time accepting the restrictions inherent in a rehab setting. She is reluctant to participate in the treatment program torn between knowing things have to change and the deep seated visceral cravings for drugs. She eventually becomes friends with another patient, teenaged Charlie Cruz (Jake Cannavale). In a twist of circumstances the troubled young man happens to be Cruz’s son. This opens the story up to an unusual dynamic between the new boss and Jackie as she attempts to reintegrate into the hospital. On the home front Kevin admits to an affair and a brutal battle over the custody of the girls begins. Both of the daughters are affected by their parent’s separation but Grace becomes sullen withdrawn and Goth-like in attitude and attire.
There are elements of an ensemble production it is arguably a vehicle to showcase the considerable acting abilities of Ms Falco. Star of stage, screen and a few other critically acclaimed premium cable series Falco is able to bring a level of pathos to this character that is surprising. In the previous seasons Jackie was depicted as always one step ahead of calamity. As is frequently the case with addicts Jackie was unaware of just how close she was to destroying everything she loves or worked hard to achieve. Here denial is shattered; even the drugs offer little solace to ease the emotional pain. Falco is incredible in displaying the inner conflict, the constant internal struggle every day brought. In the scenes where Jackie is tempted, drugs in hand, Falco reinforces the well-deserved praise her career has brought.