“You should smile more.”
Don’t you just hate it when people tell you that? What if I don’t want to smile, damnmit! What if things are so bad and terrible and downright tragic that one can’t help but scowl with the worst of them. Everyone wants you to look on the bright side, but what if there is no bright side? I mean after all, Nurse Jackie is going through a messy divorce, dealing with two young daughters, fighting to survive her addiction. There’s a lot to not smile about. And yet, Jackie is still trying. She’s trying really hard to turn that frown upside down. Like, actually utilizing self-help audiotapes that are meant to illicit bright and shiny smiles, even in the worst of times. This sharp, yet definitely weaker version of Nurse Jackie is still playing it safe so far this season. Granted we are only three installment in; however, the acting of staying sober–the back and forth with Jackie’s addiction can only remain involving enough for so long. Adding a man to Jackie’s troubles might invoke some new “flavor” into her life…and possibly the series as a whole.
Where does one find the power to smile while they’re walking into yet another divorce meeting. Jackie’s life has turned into one annoying, trying antic after another. Everyone’s fighting for one thing or another, in their personal lives and their work lives. For Jackie, all she’s trying to do is get by right now and yet everything seems to be falling apart at the seams. Finally coming to a mutual understanding, Jackie and Kevin finalize their divorce and are able to deal with this split with some shaky semblance of grace. It’s a nice surprise watching them get along–the small talk and the half-cautious looks of “we’re gonna be okay”, even as their marital separations are finalized, Jackie, remaining almost hopelessly and near foolishly on the positive side, attains to keep the peace. That peace is short-lived however, when Jackie rear-ends Kevin in a brief moment of fateful distraction. It’s all set up for having something to smile about, just a little later on…
And the yelling begins. Kevin goes from content to a complete jerk in less than two-minutes. And the repercussions lead to lots of craziness that might make anyone crack and pop a few pills just to relieve themselves of it all. Jackie does a lot to keep the peace, but Kevin’s continuous words of aggravation not only elicit a mood from Jackie, but also her friends and co-workers, Zoey and Thor. More fun for Jackie! More things not to smile for. From accusing her of using drugs again to even having a small argument with our very own special, quirky Zoey, who then proceeds to give Jackie the old ritualistic check-up they both know all too well. The comedy in the latest episodes of this season have been rather drab–dull in some aspects–and then it ranges into maybe trying too hard. Merritt Wever is always a grateful saving grace–an outstanding part in the show altogether and a golden comedic glow welcome in the latest depressing trials and tribulations of Jackie Peyton. She shines in this week’s episode. Quite hilarious.
As the day goes on, Jackie remains stuck in All-Saint Hospital, as a patient, being tended to by the less than truly competent staff. It’s a fun little scenario that allows us to engage a bit more with the various characters, from Dr. Carrie Roman to Dr. Ike Prentiss and more. The comedy continues as Dr. Roman tends to Jackie, still rather lamely practicing her doctorial duties–Jackie is forced to coach her through the whole experience, still clueless that Jackie is a former drug addict, writing her a prescription for oxy. Oh, the temptation! Things go from goofy to moderately involving as Jackie is forced to make a statement about her accident with Kevin. The police officer, Frank (Adam Ferrara) is adamant in his mission to make a rather stressed out Jackie smile above all else. And the “else” is a lot.
It’s quite enjoyable seeing Jackie be wooed by someone after everything that is going on in her life. While Frank is around, all of Jackie’s issues seem to fade away, if just for a brief moment. He’s charming, funny, and off-putting in the best ways. I don’t really suppose Jackie’s relationship with cops to be the best especially involving her past with drugs, which makes for a significantly compromising relationship. But like most things in life, we’re surprised to find ourselves admiring someone or something we normally wouldn’t. It’s the darndest thing when the last thing we expect makes us smile–once or twice a day. Maybe even three times. Frank is a much needed painkiller, both for Jackie and for us. From all the episode’s hijinks to dreamboat Frank coming in an whisking Jackie off her feet, this is another step-up from this season’s rather drab rendition of Nurse Jackie.
The best thing about Frank is his casual attitude. He’s easy and that’s just what Jackie needs right now. Everything’s so hard right now, tempting her to relapse and such–she’s gotta give in at some point right? In a day and age where everything sucks, Jackie’s new companion is her rescuer. Not that she really needs one. I mean, she’s just coming out of a divorce, why in the world would she want to put herself through the insanity of marriage again so soon? Jackie’s apprehensiveness is very real, and she spends her day being annoyed with everyone, but saved by Frank and his charm. After asking her out on a casual date, Frank walks off content, leaving behind a less worrisome Jackie, who continues to go about her day as if she’s not a patient. Like actually infringing on other nurse’s and doctor’s patients. And of course, doing their job better than they ever could. That’s a given.
Meanwhile, Dr. Cooper continues to be worn out by Dr. Roman’s continuous taking advantage. It’s truly a wonder how this “doctor” even got hired. Maybe a mistake made by the newly forgetful Gloria Akalitus? Either way, she’s still quite useless and his Dr. Cooper picking up all of her slack. Truly a testament to how far All-Saints Hospital has slipped lately, apart from the newly esteemed Dr. Prentiss. All of Dr. Roman’s BS comes to a head when Dr. Cooper finally gains a pair and stands up to her, and of course his inappropriate sexual tourettes foils any efforts to right a wrong situation, in a surprising, but spoiled by the previews, stand-off between doctors and their private parts. After being significantly impressed with Dr. Ike Prentiss’ work ethic and prowess, Jackie is off to see Zoey’s new digs. A testament to Zoey moving on a growing up. Jackie’s young protégé is finally moving on–growing up. It’s not like she’s not a great nurse, worthy of being Jackie’s protégé. It’s been pretty fun watching Zoey grow to be an important part of Jackie’s life–although Jackie would never admit it. Jackie seems vaguely sad to see Zoey move on, but more so proud that she’s becoming an adult.
As the day comes to an end, Jackie goes to see her usually backseat confidant, Eddie, who has had enough of being put on the backburner. I can’t say I blame Eddie. He’s just become a convenient tool of venting for Jackie rather than a friend. All of her personal matters come before him and their friendship. There was a time Jackie made Eddie a priority, but times have changed quite a bit. It’s become a messy situation full of hurt feelings that Eddie feels the right to say something about. Jackie and Eddie are more and more becoming “end-game”. Sure this Frank fellow is quite great–a lifesaver even. But I can’t deny the real conventions of Jackie and Eddie’s relationship that I love. They’ve been through so much and it would be ideal if they finally come back together in the end. But for now Frank is there to fill that void…
Frank is great because Jackie actually opens up with him. She literally spends hours talking all night with him at a nice little coffee shop. It’s almost surprising the real, involving chemistry Jackie and Frank have. I say all of this with caution however, seeing as how Jackie just finalized her divorce, but anything that makes Jackie smile genuinely is a good thing, right? At least for now. We know this thing has to self-destruct in someway or another. However, Frank seems very accepting of Jackie’s ugly past and equally distressing present, erratic work hours and all. And that old temptation…it’s still trying to pull Jackie down. Our heroine nearly makes a decision to utilize Dr. Roman’s oxy prescription, but instead pays for some IcyHot patches to relieve her bruised rib. Close call! Although, quite honestly this dance of “will she slip or won’t she” is already starting to lose some steam. It’s a good on the writers for introducing a new, slightly interesting aspect and character in Frank.
Another good-ish installment, that leaves Nurse Jackie fans still wanting more. Clyde Phillips’ version of this amazing dark comedy series is just not up to par what the original showrunners made. It may be an amenable fifth season (thus far), but it surely doesn’t hold a candle to seasons one through four. Still, there is something to be said about it. Jackie’s journey isn’t over yet, but it’s not as significantly interesting as it use to be. From that there doesn’t seem to be much to smile about does it? A sub par Nurse Jackie? Nothing really to smile about. Not really. But the continued promise of what use to be? Now that is worth a smirk at least. For continuing to take baby steps in the right direction yet still coming off as watered down, “Smile” gets a mediocre 4 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013