“Nurse Jackie” hooks us again

Far from the rehab and reckoning you'd expect, Edie Falco's tough pill-popper starts a new season still in denial

Topics: Nurse Jackie, Our Picks, TV, Television,

"Nurse Jackie" hooks us againEdie Falco in "Nurse Jackie."

Nurse Jackie” may be the first show ever made about a drug addict who’s very good at her job while high.

A bold central premise, to be sure, made even bolder by the fact that Jackie (Edie Falco) doesn’t start the second season (premieres 10 p.m. Monday, March 22, on Showtime) in rehab, which is what you might expect after her world almost comes apart at the end of the show’s first season. But then, the show’s first season finale was filled with almosts: Jackie’s lover Eddie (Paul Schulze) almost told her husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa), about their affair; Jackie’s boss Gloria Akilitus (Anne Deavere Smith) almost discovered Jackie’s habit of breaking rules (both on behalf of her patients and on behalf of her addiction); Jackie’s older daughter, Grace (Ruby Jerins), almost had a nervous breakdown.

All of which almost made the first season a little disappointing, when taken as a whole. What did we learn about Jackie by the finale that we didn’t know within the first few minutes of the show? There wasn’t much character development — or much of a complete season-long narrative arc for that matter. But the real issue may be that this show is almost a comedy, but not really, because it’s too dark and not funny in the ways traditional TV comedies are. The show is almost a drama, but not really, because the characters aren’t fleshed out enough and the show’s storylines don’t end conclusively the way that a drama’s plotlines would.

Considering, though, that this is a show about an efficient, effective, on-the-job addict, considering that Jackie doesn’t start Season 2 either in a 12-step program or in church, repenting for all of her sins, there may be a reason we should tolerate the close-but-no-cigar style of this story. Thwarting the expectations of the modern dramedy could be part of the point here. When Dr. O’Hara shows up to the hospital on ecstasy and comes on to the new RN, Sam (Arjun Gupta), when Zoey (Merritt Wever) befriends “God,” the man who yells insults at people from his apartment across the street from the hospital, when Dr. Cooper (Peter Facinelli) develops a huge crush on Jackie and Jackie tells him he’s an idiot for the 50th time, that’s the show’s writers telling us that they’re going to choose the paths that they find entertaining or evocative, standard TV storytelling be damned. And when it comes to ridiculous conversations like this one, between Coop and Jackie, you sort of have to admit that they’re on to something:



Cooper: It would be good for us to spend some time …

Jackie: What us? There is no us. I thought we got past this weeks ago.

Cooper: (laughs) Jackie, this whole “come here, go away” thing is exhausting me. I’m just …

Jackie: But there is no “Come here.” It’s all go away. Go away. Just go away!

Cooper: What do I care? Try to do something nice for a nurse, you know, who’s a little bit older than me, by the way.

Jackie: Ok. Thanks a lot. I’m gonna head back to work.

“Nurse Jackie” is like that funny, bad boyfriend who you know will never pop the question. Even though you’ll never get exactly what you want or expect, he’s just too charming and addictive to kick to the curb. Not only is Falco irresistible as the no-nonsense, occasionally aggressive, wildly avoidant woman whom we haven’t come close to understanding yet, but the rest of this clown show bounces along with breathtaking dynamism, teetering precariously between giddiness, rage and existential angst. When Dr. Cooper files a complaint against Jackie to a stern Mrs. Akilitus (who thoughtfully scribbles “World’s Biggest Asshole” on her pad of paper as he’s talking), then he breaks down crying in her office? When Jackie’s lover Eddie shows up at Jackie’s husband’s bar (again) and manically incites an uneasy friendship with him? These are good, tense moments. We may not laugh that much or cry that much, but if that were the whole point, Jackie would’ve entered and left rehab, filed for divorce, quit her job and lost custody of her kids by now.

“Nurse Jackie” walks a more subtle path than that. And really, the second season of this show feels more like the second half of the first season. The same tensions are still growing: Jackie is still addicted, Cooper is still full of love/hate for her, and Eddie is still threatening to blow her double life out of the water by exposing their affair to her husband, and Grace is showing signs of needing more help than her parents, who have a shared interest in denial, are willing to admit that she needs.

Most of all, though, “Nurse Jackie” is a show that, through the patients who show up in Jackie’s emergency room, focuses on the daily slices of joy and sadness that make up a life. Some days are fun, some days are heartbreaking, and it all adds up to a big picture that’s sometimes difficult to look at closely without a hefty dose of pharmaceuticals.

We understand why Jackie needs those pills to get through her day, we just don’t know who the real Jackie is yet. Maybe this season we’ll find out. 

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>