“Nurse Jackie” season ends with a trip

Nurse Jackie’s first season ended as it started: with Jackie flat on her back in a narcotic haze.

But what came in between those drug-laden bookends was truly remarkable. (If you haven’t finished watching the season, beware of spoilers.)

Edie Falco can say more with a raise of the eyebrows than many actors do in a full monologue.

Her Jackie Peyton is a mess — a liar, an addict and an adulterer. The character should be contemptible, but she’s not. I find myself pulling for Jackie to clean up her act without getting in enough trouble to end her career and marriage. I don’t see any way for that to happen, though, at this point. She’s in too deep.

A complaint I hear from people who don’t like Nurse Jackie is that she gets away with too much for her character to be believable. But I’ve known substance abusers whose lives are quite similar to Jackie’s. They appear to be happy and successful, but nothing in their world is real except for the drugs or alcohol or food. They divide their lives into boxes — and keep the boxes separate. But the day comes when they have to choose between their addiction and life — and that day is rapidly approaching for Jackie.

Pharmacist boyfriend Eddie (Paul Shulze), who was replaced by a computerized drug dispenser, learns that Jackie not only is married, but happily so. Her husband Kevin is a great guy and Jackie dotes on him. When a drunken Eddie rushes into the ER to reveal all, Jackie heads him off before much damage is done. But that crisis is far from over.

Jackie, of course, deals with the situation as an addict would, by looking for a fix. Without Eddie to supply her, she has to enter her ID into the Pill-O-Matix to get morphine. She will not be able to explain that away easily.

The addiction also has threatened the friendship between Jackie and the only person who seems to know about her family, Dr. O’Hara (Eve Best). O’Hara needs Jackie’s support as she waits for her deceased mother’s body to arrive at the hospital.

Jackie, however, is aware of nothing but the need for drugs and is long gone when O’Hara breaks down in tears over her mom. Eve Best is wonderful and I love O’Hara — I hope we get more of her story in future seasons.

My biggest dread is the harsh dose of reality that is yet to come for Zoey (Merritt Wever). Zoey has become  my favorite character on Nurse Jackie. She is often the comic relief, wide-eyed about being a nurse and awestruck by Jackie.

But Zoey has also grown more than any character this season. And I fully expect Wever to get an Emmy nod for her performance.

One of the real treats of Nurse Jackie as a whole has been its casual treatment of LGBT characters. Dr. Cooper has two mommies and nobody cares. They are treated as any other couple when one has a medical crisis.

Gay male nurse Mo-Mo’s boyfriend trouble receives equal weight to Coop’s girlfriend trouble — and equal advice from an elderly straight male patient. Kudos to lesbian writers Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius for addressing LGBT issues by making them non-issues.

The good news is that Nurse Jackie will be back for another season. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

What did you think of Nurse Jackie Season 1 finale? Have you become a fan this season? Any predictions for next season?

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