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Friday, June 21, 2013

NURSE JACKIE Bares its "Soul"

Article first published as NURSE JACKIE Bares its "Soul" on TheTVKing.

This has been a tough year for the titular character on Showtime's Nurse Jackie. Jackie (Edie Falco) has struggled to put her life back together while going through a divorce and trying to hang onto her sobriety. Her personal and professional pressures have not made such trials easy, but she has managed to make it through and celebrates one year of being clean in the season finale, "Soul."

I didn't think Jackie could ever turn over a new leaf. She was closed off and withdrawn, a sneaky liar who used people, where the series began. Now, she's so much better a person. She is far from perfect, of course, but even when her relationship with cop Frank (Adam Ferrara, Rescue Me) suffers its slings and arrows, it isn't because she treats him poorly, as has been the case previously.

Watching Jackie read last rights to the patient-of-the-week, Wally (John Cullum, Northern Exposure), and how she reacts after, is nothing new, and yet it seems so. She has always had a soft spot for those under her care, but now it's different because it seems genuine. To the outside, it always was. To the viewers and Jackie herself, this is new.

It's awesome to see her come around. It's been a very slow journey, which is good, because it has allowed time for very natural character development. It's why Falco deserves all of the praise she gets for the role, and it's why you celebrate with Jackie when she does well.

That's why the end of this episode is so disappointing. Every thing that is working for Jackie, with daughter Grace (Ruby Jerins) even showing up to her ceremony, despite their issues, feels unearned when Jackie swallows a pill.

Why does she do it? Yes, addicts backslide, but Jackie seems to be doing so well prior to this! Wally's death is depressing, but she makes up with Frank. I don't understand how she can throw everything away as she does. It will come out; these things always do. So now it's just an unpleasant waiting game.

Sadly, Jackie's support system isn't as strong as it used to be. Zoey (Merritt Wever) tries to be a good pal, but also is maturing herself, setting her own path outside of anyone else, especially when it comes to her relationship with Dr. Prentiss (Morris Chestnut), which is kept a secret. Eddie (Paul Schulze) also makes effort, but isn't capable of just being a friend all the time when Jackie moves on with Frank or when he is accused of doing things he isn't by Jackie's daughter. And O'Hara (Eve Best) is almost completely MIA this year after moving to London, and she won't be coming back, as Best has regrettably resigned from the series.

This means that no one is really in a great position to notice Jackie's problems. With her life more fractured and divided than even before, and giving up custody of her children, she can slip through the cracks.

Jackie isn't the only one that matters on Nurse Jackie, which boasts one of the most outstanding ensembles around. Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) has dealt with memory issues in a very moving story that turned out OK, to fan's relief. In "Soul," Thor (Stephen Wallem) makes a connection with Wally and pays tribute to him. And Cooper's (Peter Facinelli) elicit behavior with Dr. Roman (Betty Gilpin, Ghost Town) bites them all in the butt when it means the hospital can't fire her without risking a lawsuit.

I'm not upset that Roman is sticking around. She's a horrible person who cannot be trusted, but she's made Cooper grow a spine and creates some delicious drama in the dynamics of the cast. Every show needs someone who can stir the pot, and Roman does so in a way no one really has yet on Nurse Jackie. Many of the problem people have been in authority, but by bringing in someone lower on the totem pole, whose power is ill-gotten and far from absolute, the story takes an interesting turn.

In the end, season five has continued a wonderful tale with fantastic characters. This is a series I greatly look forward to watching every week, and miss whenever it's gone. Thankfully, Nurse Jackie will return for a sixth outing next year.

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