SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, unplug your TV, plug it back in, and watch last night’s season finale of Nurse Jackie.
Pity the poor comedy actresses come Emmy-time next year. It was bad enough when Edie Falco was in The Sopranos and running the drama category, and it was Allison Janney or Glenn Close having to go up against her. But come on. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is supposed to compete with this?
You could argue that Jackie is not a strictly comic role, and that that could handicap Falco if voters take that into consideration. (It’s an outgrowth, really, of the fact that as TV comedy matures, much of the best comedy doesn’t neatly fall into the ha-ha-funny category.) But in this last episode, even as Jackie’s neatly separated worlds began to collapse into each other, Falco also had some strong comic moments, some of them wordless, as when she kicked the pill computer like Homer Simpson trying to get a candy bar to drop. The looks that played across her face during that physical comedy bit—frustration, anger, hunger—showed how good Falco is at playing the dramatic and comic elements of the role, often at the same time.
I liked that the finale had the confidence not to end on some major shocker or cliffhanger. (Yes, there was Jackie knocked flat on the floor by three capsules of morphine—reprising the opening image of the series—but assuming they’re not going to rename the show Nurse Zoey, let’s guess it was not a fatal dose.) Eddie met, but didn’t confront, Jackie’s husband, and faced the same perplexing question we have: why would she cheat on this guy? The donor issue and the Nutterman coma are hanging out there, but you have the feeling something’s always going to be hanging out there. The real question for next season remains: can Jackie reconcile her lives, can she pull it together—and if not, who will get hurt, figuratively or literally?
I’ve had problems with the show’s uneven tone, especially around Akalitus, but I’ve liked how the show is unflinchingly willing to let Jackie be both dedicated and, in some ways, a truly awful person. One way the show has pulled this off is by surrounding Falco with an excellent cast playing more likeable characters. Because we like both Eddie and Kevin, we can see how she could genuinely love both of them, to the extent that she has created two of herself to deal with the situation.
“Who is luckier than me” indeed? For all her stresses and pains, Jackie is in a way dealing with too much luck in her life, and next season promises to test whether she can get the two Jackies together and get her life in control. I can’t wait to find out.