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Nurse Jackie returns, and continues to woo me in spite of myself, but the seams are definitely beginning to show on this third season. The writers are recycling too many plot elements, the characters aren’t moving new places quickly enough, and the 13 episode, under 30 minute structure is cutting short both the wider scope of the story, and the formally fun stand-alone hospital vignettes. At this point the series is at its best when it’s being quirky and funny, which may just mean it’s filling a light-hearted hospital void left by the baddening and eventual cancellation of Scrubs.

Nurse Jackie: Season 3

‘Cluster-fudge. I am out.’

The season’s first episode, Game On, picks up immediately where season two left off – Jackie (Edie Falco) is cornered by her loved ones concerning her drug abuse, and viciously lashing out. From here the writers are quick to reintroduce the audience to all the major players and their place in Jackie’s life. Jackie and many of her former ‘enemies’, Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) and Dr. Cooper (Peter Facinelli), are on better terms than usual following the events of season two, which sort of evens out her early antagonism with husband Kevin (Dominic Fumusa ) and best friend Dr. O'Hara (Eve Best). Within about 15 minutes, unrelated hospital drama intercedes; Jackie gets to act with angelic patience and we’re really off and running. There’s also plenty of zippy comedy via the nursing staff, especially Zoey (Merritt Wever) and Thor (Stephen Wallem), who offer major levity in a heavy situation.

Enough Rope sees some of the problems smoothing over, which we know will just lead into more, but offers a smidge of a pause from the difficult stuff before it becomes exhausting. The pacing remains quite tight, leaving little room for reveling in anything too melodramatic or precious. An ongoing subplot begins here, one that sees Akalitus obsessing with Michele Obama visiting the hospital, and is precisely what the character needs to keep her relevant in the busy cast. Zoey’s hospital-wide glove theft ring is among the funnier things the character has even been given to do. The writers also take time to deal with the issues between Sam the nurse (Arjun Gupta) and Dr. Cooper, bringing the tiresome subplot to a reasonably efficient end.

Play Me introduces Kevin’s sister Tunie (Jaimie Alexander), who is a quirky lovesick mess, as if the show needed another, and reintroduces a drug dealer (Bill Sage) Jackie crossed in season two (a new brand of addiction related danger). The standalone hospital story features a bit of a redundancy concerning religious beliefs and medical care, but it’s not a huge part of the generally forward moving super-plot. Subplots include ‘God’ (Michael Buscemi) stealing a street piano, Cooper moving on to attempt to forge a friendship with Thor in order to win a high stakes Fantasy Football game, Lenny’s (Lenny Jacobson) awkward attempts at romantic gestures, and Akalitus dealing with the removal of the hospital’s chapel statues via the local Catholic church.

Nurse Jackie: Season 3
Mitten starts with Jackie finding new places to stash her drugs around the house, and berating a rude man at a restaurant before getting down to the usual business of being an angelic, advice-giving nurse. Akalitus names O’Hara head of the ER (in name only), which Sam uses to tease Cooper. Subplots include Akalitus continuing her crusade to get Michele Obama to come to her hospital, and Zoey obsessing over her pedometer. Another brisk episode that ends with hints at future home-based drama.

Rat Falls sees Jackie growing jealous of Eddie’s (Paul Schulze) interest in her sister-in-law. Her anger leads her to one of her drug stashes, which isn’t only quickly depleting, but also being slowly eaten by the hospital’s basement rats. Fear of running out leads Jackie back to the drug dealer, and casts a shadow over future events. This episode includes the return of a patient from the previous episode, which is mostly unusual for the series, and opens up the hospital a bit outside the ER. Unfortunately this return doesn’t go anywhere special in later episodes. Subplots include Akalitus commissioning Jackie and Thor to help her steal a Virgin Mary statue from the chapel, and Cooper discovering his moms are getting a divorce, which leads him to a series of hilarious and childish outbursts.

When the Saints Go starts with a new look at Jackie’s home life. Older daughter Grace (Ruby Jerins) continues to develop her OCD, Tunie continues to act as a bad influence on the girls and a romantic interest for Eddie. Akalitus hires a new temp nurse named Kelly (Gbenga Akinnagbe), who bothers all the women in the office with his generally pleasant/somewhat passive aggressive attitude. Thor quickly develops a crush, and Cooper begins speaking ‘urban’ in an awkward effort to connect with Kelly (who is black). Meanwhile, Akalitus continues her obsession over the First Lady, Zoey becomes jealous over female attention thrown at Lenny, Cooper continues to obnoxiously compete with O’Hara, and Jackie is left to take care of a patient’s dog, which is positively adorable (as anything involving dogs tends to be). Things continue growing darker towards the end of the episode, bringing us back to a place of utter frustration with Jackie.

Orchids and Salami sees Grace continuing her more morbid obsessions with Catholicism (thus continuing the season’s focus on Catholic iconography), and Jackie continuing her trips to the drug dealer. Meanwhile, Kelly charms his way through the ranks, leading Akalitus to realize his mother knows Michele Obama. Hospital subplots include Zoey getting to know a tough-as-nails kid, whose mother’s OD ‘hits Jackie where she lives’, and Cooper attempts to bond with a Native American patient. This particular episode strains the suspension of disbelief a bit when Kevin discovers a stash that went missing in season two, and was somehow not discovered despite Jackie’s desperation, but overall it appropriately turns the screws without rushing too whole-heartedly into the really dark stuff.

With The Astonishing the writers begin really flushing Jackie down the seedy tubes of drug addiction and jealousy, leading her to some mean spirited, and frankly, hard to watch places. Meanwhile, Zoey drags Jackie and O’Hara out to lunch, where she corners them and grills them for her nurses blog, O’Hara is shaken up by a physical attack from a patient and Jackie’s frustration with Kelly’s popularity starts to boil over. The Kelly issue threatens to grow stale following the previous season’s already well told Sam story, but Cooper’s existential crisis officially turns into a funny counterpoint to Jackie’s addiction, rather than an obnoxious side-plot (the sequence where Akalitus speaks to Cooper through a diorama is particularly adorable). Overall this is a frustrating episode, but one very much worth the time for a violent last minute twist of fate.

Nurse Jackie: Season 3
Have You Met Ms. Jones? starts with the shocking events of the previous episode seemingly effecting Jackie for the best, leading her to numb herself with an excess of over-the-counter drugs, which is, sadly, an improvement. Kelly’s subplot continues to mirror Sam’s from the previous season, even though his character is definitively different, Cooper’s descent continues to amuse with its childishness, and Zoey and Lenny’s relationship continues to blossom in the most delightfully awkward fashion, which becomes the most charming aspect of the entire series.

Fuck the Lemurs exposes the depth of Grace’s mental problems, leading her doctor to prescribe mental health drugs, which, in turn, leads Jackie to wonder about her part in Grace’s problems. Back at the hospital the nursing staff is delighted by a minor power trip while giving the doctor staff their flu shots, and Kelly’s missing narcotics come back to haunt Jackie and Akalitus. Angst runs high, but the heavy stuff is cut with amusing medical cases, a funny couple of subplots (Akalitus’ statue story starts up again), and warm reminders of Jackie’s status as the ER alpha.

The season starts to wrap-up with Batting Practice. Jackie falls to the pressure of addiction, Kevin reveals to Eddie that he’s steaming with frustration, Michele Obama chooses to visit a different hospital, Cooper’s bizarre wedding plans continue unabated, and Zoey pushes a nurse’s appreciation week party on her co-workers. Besides starting the final drive to the end, the writers remember to include a little more technical doctor/nurse stuff than what is seen over the rest of the third season. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot left to like Jackie for at this point, and the character doesn’t stand up to the antihero treatment quite as well as Don Draper or Walter White.

Things come to an end with ...Deaf Blind Tumor Pee-Test. Akalitus announces that mandatory urine tests will be implemented, Cooper’s wedding ‘commences’ (which is more of a clever comment on sitcom season ending clichés, not a fulfillment of them), and Kevin has it out with Jackie over his problems (his final reveal isn’t actually that shocking assuming you’ve been paying attention). This doesn’t feel like a season finale as much as a season centerpiece leading to something else. Despite all the tragedy the season ends on a series of warm notes. I just have one question: what ever happened to Tunie?

Nurse Jackie: Season 3

Video


‘At this very moment I have no desire to stab you in the neck’

I’m pretty sure it’s just a case of ‘emperor’s latest clothes’, but my eyes are telling me this 1080p Blu-ray transfer is the best looking of the three seasons. I said basically the exact same thing last year when comparing seasons one and two last year. This disc looks a tad sharper overall, with finer details (especially in medium and wide shots) and a generally more life-like look. It seems that with each season the show’s creators are turning down the candy colour and soft lighting schemes, and this one appears the most natural yet. Contrast levels are a tad harsher, whites tend to not blowout as heavily as those of previous seasons. The colours are still vibrant, but generally pretty cool (once again, varying degrees of blue make up the bulk of the palette), featuring smooth blends, and no real sign of banding effects. Grain is precise and tiny, and textures definitely play a bigger role than they have before thanks to the increase in contrast and sharpness. I didn’t notice many digital compression effects, or even haloes on the sharpened edges. The show’s patented extreme close-ups look just as great as ever.

Audio


‘Those kids look fat. That one looks very sad. Oh, now I’m sad. That’s a good ad.’

This release features another somewhat unnecessary 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, but once again, outside the show’s generally low-key sound, I don’t have anything to complain about. And once again, the bulk of the important noise is well centered, clear, consistent, and natural, including dialogue and most basic on set sound. The stereo channels buzz rather quietly with general hospital noises, like monitor beeps, moving people and ringing phones. The surround channels feature the most minor additional effects, but open up a bit when the show moves outside. During some of the outdoor sequences the background noise, which is mostly centered, cuts up the dialogue a bit. This is a double-edged sword, allowing for more natural sound, but also making for some weird noise reduction effects. The music continues to be used mostly to highlight dramatic or comedic moments, but with each season the amount of score increases. This features a warm bass presence, and is mostly delegated to the stereo channels. The collected pieces of pop music that close each episode are usually louder than the rest of the series music, with a more boisterous LFE presence.

Nurse Jackie: Season 3

Extras


‘If you go into cardiac arrest, I will kill you.’

The brief extra features are spread over the two discs of the collection. The first disc starts with a series of well meaning and entertaining, but generally not all that informative commentary tracks. Participants here include actors Edie Falco and Richie Jackson, along with series creators Linda Wallem and Liz Brixus on episodes Game On and When the Saints Go, and actors Anna DeAvere Smith and Paul Schulze on Enough Rope. The first disc also features Inside Akalitus (14:30, HD), a featurette on actress Anna DeAvere Smithk and her acting career. Disc two features commentaries on Batting Practice, with actors DeAvere Smith and Schulze, and ...Deaf Blind Tumor Pee-Test, with Falco, Jackson, and creators Wallem and Brixius. This is followed by Jackie’s Guys (12:20, HD), an interview with actors Paul Schulze and Dominic Fumusa concerning their careers and parts in the series, and a fun blooper reel (7:50, HD).

Nurse Jackie: Season 3

Overall


‘She’s dead…and I’m jealous’

There are some high highs in season three, but as a passing fan that tears through these collections for work purposes, I’m seeing the signs of a creative team losing their muse. As a comedy, I think the show could still produce a few solid seasons, but the episode to episode over-arcing drama is really losing steam, threads are being lost, and the writers are repeating themselves all too often only 39 episodes into their run. The cliff hanger doesn’t have nearly as much oomph as season two’s did either, making it difficult to get too excited about the next installment. Fans should be quite happy with the look of this collection on Blu-ray, the underwhelming soundtrack features no major problems, and the thin extras are generally quite entertaining.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.


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