Season finale review: ‘Nurse Jackie’ – ‘Handle Your Scandal’

A review of the “Nurse Jackie” season finale coming up just as soon as security comes to escort me from the building…

See how much more satisfying this show can be when there are consequences?

After a couple of years of waving away any threat of Jackie being called to account for any of her mistakes, Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius(*) finally put her secrets and transgressions out into the open. And with that, the series’ weakest point turned into its greatest strength, and in the process made it easier to enjoy the many things that had been working – the performances, the comedy, the off-beat patient stories – even as Jackie’s life was running in circles.

(*) In case you missed the news from a few weeks ago, Wallem and Brixius are exiting the show, to be replaced by longtime “Dexter” showrunner Clyde Phillips. On the one hand, Phillips has spent enough time in the worlds of both comedy and drama that he should be equipped to handle the shifting tones of this show. On the other hand, “Dexter” under his watch was even about as afraid of change as “Nurse Jackie.” Hopefully, he understands that there’s no putting this particular genie back in the bottle.

Letting Zoey find out about all of Jackie’s secrets, and making them into unlikely roommates, didn’t take away any of the things that makes Merrit Wever so damn funny on this show, but it made that relationship – and Jackie’s relationships with Gloria and Eddie and O’Hara – feel much, much richer.

And every time I feared that Cruz was just going to be a cartoon bad guy representing all the evils of for-profit medicine, the writers and Bobby Cannavale found some new shadings for the character. He wasn’t pure of heart, but nor was he a villain. He was a man with marching orders, but also principles, who over time developed genuine personal and professional reasons to mistrust the hell out of Jackie. I’ll be curious to see whether Cannavale returns, as the death of Cruz’s son gives the producers an out if they want him to leave. I’m not sure what his contract status is on “Boardwalk Empire,” but the two shows film on opposite schedules (which is how Steve Buscemi has been able to direct several “Jackie”s), so we’ll see. But the scene where Cruz’s son was wheeled into the ER as he was trying once again to throw Jackie out of the hospital was fantastic – tense, moving and tying together so many themes of the season without neatly undoing everything we had already seen.

For those middle years, “Jackie” symbolized what happened when Showtime series refused to grow and change. With this one, it demonstrated how much can be gained by moving a show, and its main character, out of their comfort zone.

What did everybody else think?