Spoilers for Showtime’s Nurse Jackie coming up after the jump:
Much like the pilot of Mad Men, the first episode of Nurse Jackie was confounding to review, because it ended on a revelation that is key to understanding both the character and the premise of the series, but could not be discussed because it would be an ungodly spoiler. With the first episode of Mad Men—if I recall correctly—at least critics had nothing more than the pilot to review. For Nurse Jackie, however, Showtime sent out six episodes, which introduce a number of storylines about Jackie’s family, none of which I felt I could bring up, since that would give away the reveal that Jackie cheats on her husband.
That reveal, by the way, also had to do with my biggest problem with the pilot, much as I liked it: I thought it worked way too hard to establish Jackie as a principled, dedicated (if not always ethical) nurse, the better to pull the rug out when we find hubby at home making pancakes. She flushes an abuser’s severed ear down a toilet, she argues with a doctor about a patient’s treatment and is pained when the patient proves her right by dying, she lies to make him a “donor” or badly needed organs, she has that brief “I almost killed you” moment, and, to top it off, she is literally told: “You are so dedicated.” Good show, but it needs to trust the audience a little more (and it’s not giving away too much to say later episodes improve on this).
What I enjoyed most about this first episode, anyway, was not the histrionics of the scenes above—or even the weird sight of seeing Jackie banging Father Phil—but the mall humanizing moments that depict nursing not as a heroic calling but as a tiring job. The bit where Jackie sees a patient wheeled by in the hallway, screaming, and mutters, “I could eat something”: perfect. People will suffer, and people will die, and in their world it is a banner-headline event. But you still gotta eat something. And even then there will be someone to save from choking.
I’m not sure if I’ll do a weekly Nurse Jackie Watch, since of the 6 episodes I saw, some are more noteworthy and devoted to the larger story than others. But I’m curious how much enthusiasm there is for the show in Tuned Inland, so let me know.