07/09/2012 03:22 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2012

Weeds Season 8, Episode 2: 'A Beam of Sunshine'

As the second episode of Weeds's final season begins we flash-forward seventy-seven days, bypassing Nancy's lengthy rehabilitation. Nancy is on the road to recovery. More importantly than that, it's revealed Nancy was awake enough at the end of the last episode to find out it was Tim Scottson who shot her.

What's most interesting about Nancy finding out the identity of her would-be assassin is how it affects her personality. She's not angry and vengeful. We know this when she dissuades Shane from trying to find the sniper. Instead, Nancy appreciates why Tim would try to kill her. She ruined his life when her actions led to Tim's father dying in season two. As the end of the last episode implied, Nancy being shot in the head was karma -- not just for what she did to Tim, but for everything else since the show began.

Nancy's quest for redemption began this episode when she watched the hospital clown selling marked-up weed to cancer patients and proceeded to use her resources and newly scary reputation to bully him into giving weed to the patients pro bono. It's ironic that after telling her sons she wanted to be a better person, Nancy's immediate approach to doing this still involves drugs. Which raises the question...

Can Nancy really change?

The show has asked this many times over. In "A Beam of Sunshine," she certainly seems to have dramatically changed more than in any other season, embracing the do-over she spoke of at the end of season seven. But as Jill's husband concluded after catching Jill having sex with Andy in a toilet stall, "People don't change. It's bullshit." He was talking about Jill but it just as easily applies to Nancy -- especially as they're sisters and probably more alike than either of them care to acknowledge. So while it may seem like we're dealing with a new and improved Nancy, I'd wager it's only a matter of time before Nancy falls back into old habits.

Having spent most of the season premiere comatose, Mary-Louise Parker shines in "A Beam of Sunshine" as this new Nancy. Parker plays Nancy differently, but still as unreadable as ever. Is she brain-damaged? Is she still a narcissistic sociopath who's deluded herself into thinking she can be a better person? Or is she finally just beginning to act like a decent human being, shaken by her karmic brush with death? An argument could be made for all three. This is intentional in the writing but could so easily fall flat with a less competent lead. Mary-Louise Parker rises to the challenge with a subtle performance that makes any of these possibilities plausible.

"A Beam of Sunshine" also addresses Nancy's earliest mission statement. Protecting her children. Over the course of the show, many a character has pointed out to Nancy that despite her selling drugs to provide for her children it is they who have suffered the most. In bringing the show full circle it looks like creator Jenji Kohan and company will be providing resolution to this. The first hint of which came in Nancy's mission to get Silas and Shane to smile. They both attempted it, but it was unconvincing. These were small moments, highlighting to Nancy and the viewer just how unhappy her children were after years of her danger-seeking lifestyle. And while Nancy smiled her way through the episode, excited by the possibility of changing, her sons' first sincere smiles came at the end of the episode when they were back to their usual twisted antics. Silas' smile came when he saw his mother had returned to her manipulating ways with the clown and Shane didn't smile until he discovered the identity of the shooter. As last week's episode illustrated with the gift basket saga, Nancy's toxicity has extended far and wide and so if she truly wants her family to return to normalcy, she's got her work cut out for her. Just because she wants a do-over doesn't mean she can force it on her corrupted family members.

Shane's similarities to Tim Scottson were brought to the fore this week. Both have lost fathers and subsequently acted out in violent and deranged ways. I'm predicting Shane's pursuit of Tim in next week's episode will be the first step in humanizing Shane after his sociopathic turn during season five when he murdered Pilar. Hopefully this'll bring Nancy one step further toward remolding her family as a happy, cohesive unit and not two steps back.

Once again, I hope you enjoyed this commentary. See you again next week!