“What do you call a nurse with a bad back? Unemployed,” and with a quote from T.S. Eliot and the music from Valley of the Dolls we begin the complex tale of Nurse Jackie, an emergency room nurse at All Saints Hospital, mother, wife and drug addict.
With brilliant storytelling, each half hour episode shows the lives of the men and women who are there for people experiencing “the worse day of their life.”
This award winning show was produced by Showtime and is now airing on Netflix where I happily binged all 7 seasons.
**SPOILER ALERT** If you haven’t seen it STOP READING AND START TO BINGE.
Humanity is a mess lot and Nurse Jackie gave us multidimensional characters that crashed and soared, sometimes simultaneously.
Nurse Jackie – Masterfully played by the highly nominated, award winning Edie Falco who also played in The Sopranos. Jackie is a sociopath and a drug addict, an unlikely heroine who tackles life on her own terms. Her greatest passion, besides opiates, is her desire to save lives.
Zoey Barkow – Played by Merritt Wever (who is now Dr. Denise on The Walking Dead), Zoey makes an amazing journey from nervous nursing student to a confident woman and accomplished nurse. In one storyline Zoey enters into a relationship with the very handsome Dr. Prentiss played by Morris Chestnut. The nervous nurse in bunny scrubs became a self-assured woman capable of attracting the hottest doctor on staff. Dr. Fitch
Cooper “Coop” – Played by Peter Facinelli is pretty much a buffoon who stumbles into some remarkable moments. Primarily comic relief, Coop suffers from a form of terrets syndrom where under stress he grabs the nearest breast – much to the dismay of the staff.
Gloria Akalitus – Played by Anna Deavere Smith is the ER Administrator who appears stuffy and rigid but under the right circumstances is as much a rule breaker as Jackie. One of my favorite episodes is where she assists Lana, a transgender patient, on how to cut corners and get assistance in health care.
Thor – Wonderful sarcastic Thor, a male nurse seaching for love and backing up Jackie’s every move. Played by the talented Stephen Wallem who put diabetes on TV.
My most memorable episode involved Wallem’s character. It was entitled Soul (Season 5 Ep 10). It involved Wally, a gay man with advanced liver cancer who had been 22 years sober and refused pain meds. As he dies Thor tells him how honored he is to be with him, because he was not just a survivor of the closet, stonewall, the plague but he survived it so elequontly. By the time Jackie gave him last rights I was sobbing uncontrolably. The episode ends with Thor singing a song for Wally at a local club.
The series ends with the hospital closing and everyone scattering. Jackie gets a job at another hospital and Zoey volunteers with Doctors Without Borders. Jackie keeps asking her to come with her but Zoey tells her that it’s time for them to part company. Basically Zoey has had enough of Jackie’s antics. The “I love you but not your behavior” speech.
As everyone is saying goodbye, Jackie goes into the ladies room and overdoses. She stumbles out and falls at the feet of her co-workers and friends.
This is where there is some contention. Some people believe that she doesn’t die but is saved, but I believe that Jackie does die.
Remember back in the first episode when Zoey called Jackie a saint? Jackie reflected that if she were a saint that she would be St. Augustine because he knew he had good in him but he also had some bad which he didn’t want to give up – just yet. Jackie says, “Make me good God, but not yet.” It’s poignant because she is thinking that as she talks with her husband, whom she is cheating on with the pharmacist who provides her with drugs. And as she thinks that, she steps back into the shadows.
In the end, in full view of everyone, Jackie is on the floor dying of an overdose. No more shadows, no more secrets. Zoey strokes her head and says, “You’re good.” not, “You’re going to be okay” but “you’re good.” It was Jackie’s time to be good. **Sob**
To everyone involved with this project, WELL DONE!