Compelling telly after Jackie hits the skids
REVIEW: Nurse Jackie Mondays, 9.40pm, TV3
Is the jig up for Nurse Jackie? For three seasons the brilliant show has been driven by a huge narrative engine: will Jackie get busted for her drug addiction?
Now, in the first episode of the fourth season, Jackie's world of lies seems to be crumbling around her. When you're smoking heroin with a guy you just picked up in a church and he dies from an overdose in your apartment, that would seem like a textbook definition of rock-bottom. But on this show of surprises, I wouldn't bet on it. And speaking of surprises, the overdoser was played by Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong.
"There's nothing left to wreck but I can't stop wrecking," Jackie confesses to her best friend, surgeon Eleanor O'Hara, before facing up to the fact that she is ready for rehab.
The season opened with Jackie in rehab and the drug counsellor is laying down the law: "No phone, no caffeine, no makeup. Let's make this really clear: you're accountable now. From what I've seen so far, detox is going to be a bitch."
Jackie may be in rehab but that does not mean she has changed her devious ways. We see her sneaking a staff member's coffee and manipulating people to smuggle her daughter Grace in for a quick, forbidden visit.
Meanwhile Eddie, the hospital pharmacist who Jackie has been having an affair with, mostly in return for some industrial-strength painkillers, is melting down. He confronts Jackie, and then shows up at her husband's to confess. Jackie's secrets are slipping out.
Just as Jackie's world is being turned upside-down, into All Saints Hospital strides handsome corporate stooge/new boss man Mike Cruz, played by the always excellent Bobby Carnavale. He aims to turn the New York hospital into a "centre of medical excellence", delivering profits for the new corporate owner.
He tells hospital administrator Gloria Akalitus that he is replacing her, and gives her an ultimatum: stay on as a floor nurse for two years and get her pension, due in two years, or leave now with half.
Now we have the appealing prospect of Mrs Akalitus dealing with patients, as the glorious stage legend Anna Deveare Smith who plays her slips on the scrubs.
How much of Jackie's secret world will leak out and how will it affect the show?
The tension between high-functioning super-nurse Jackie and on-the-verge-of-personal-disaster-drug-addict Jackie has always been the heart of the show.
In rehab, Jackie is constantly being told to stop hiding behind her job.
"You're good at your job but you suck at life. You're not a nurse, you're a patient."
In the language of rehab, Jackie has been abusing painkillers to cope with her emotional pain, and the counsellor tells her it is not self-inflicted. At the end of season three, husband Kevin confessed to an affair and Jackie kicked him out. Now that he knows about Eddie, what will the fallout be?
The scene where a drunk Eddie confessed to Kevin was a great example of how the show manages to straddle the line between humour and serious drama. Eddie comes to Kevin's place, knowing his daughters are with him, so Kevin will not be able to freak out. But the girls are dancing along to a Wii game with headphones on, oblivious as Kevin beats up Eddie. Rehab is all about confronting the truth but as the 17-year-old kid who is already on his fourth stint of rehab tells Jackie, "no-one is real".
As Jackie tries to confront her own truth, will her friends and family be able to confront the fact that they have been lying to themselves about Jackie, effectively overlooking her deceptions and flaws because they love her?
They think they are supporting her but, in their kindness, they have been enabling Jackie's destructive behaviour. How will the ripples of Jackie's infamous temper spread?
As Jackie, Edie Falco is utterly believable, as anyone who saw her play Carmela Soprano would know. The show's supporting cast is uniformly terrific and if they shoulder more of the season's story lines, the show will not suffer. Personally, I'm looking forward to Jackie letting rip with what her counsellor calls "F... you letters."
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