Nurse Jackie Finale Postmortem: Executive Producer Liz Brixius on Luck, Lies and Season 4
[WARNING: The following story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Nurse Jackie. Read at your own risk.]
Somehow, Jackie continues to avoid rock bottom. During this season of Nurse Jackie, she got around a surprise intervention and then flirted with sobriety, though not by choice — her drug dealer died, Eddie cut her off and her kid's plea for prescription drugs forced her into temporary withdrawal.
But by the end of Monday's Season 3 finale, Jackie's stars had realigned once more: She was still using, yes, but O'Hara was back on her side, she had moved into the power position with Kevin and her all-important career remained intact. Could Jackie be the world's — or just TV's -- luckiest drug addict?
Nurse Jackie: Has the truth finally caught up with Jackie?
Executive producer Liz Brixius says yes and no: "She's Houdini! She's the luckiest addict in the world. But she's not. If you look at the score sheet, if you look at what it's really cost her, she's a f---ing mess. She's like every other addict. She lost her marriage. Her job's in jeopardy. She's compromised everybody around her. Her relationships aren't what they used to be. Just because she's up and running doesn't mean that it hasn't taken a huge toll."
Brixius spoke with TVGuide.com about just how lucky Jackie is, why O'Hara — and not Kevin — is the most important person in her life, and why next season, Kelly will be downright dangerous.
Can nothing crush Jackie (Edie Falco)? This season, most of her lies unraveled, and yet she continues to walk the line with both her career and Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith), and her husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa).
Liz Brixius: That's where we wanted to be by the end of the season. Jackie's overestimated her own strength, but she's not passed out anywhere, she's not peeing in her pants. However, things around her are compromised. She's been able to metabolize a lot of consequences or think she has been able to metabolize them, but her husband was unfaithful. He went someplace else because she's just not there. In Season 2, he said, "I don't know where you go. I don't know where you are in your head, but you're not here." And then, in classic addict fashion, when he says, "Please forgive me," she says "Pack your bags." Jackie had two nooses around her. The first one was her husband closing in. The second was Akalitus — and she doesn't yet know that Akalitus has saved her.
But, it's a high-wire act and you can't stay up there all the time. It's all about the rush with Jackie. When she was sober, she missed it. She walked through traffic just to feel something. Most people who work in emergency rooms are adrenaline junkies; they live to be on the edge of that life or death cusp. This is a woman who works in the emergency room and is also an addict.
Why did a rule enforcer like Akalitus dump the pee?
Brixius: At the end, when she dumps the pee, it's basically her having gone through 30 years of being a shill for the hospital, doing everything she could do, and finally saying, "F--- it, I'm taking my nurse's side." It's like she's saying, "You use Coop (Peter Facinelli) as the face for All Saints. You didn't help me get Michelle Obama in here. You don't help me. So, I'm not going to help you hurt somebody I love."
Actually, we knew that Akalitus dumped the pee before we even started writing Episode 1... That was her arc. We had to have it approved by the network. Then, when the time actually came, they were like, "You cannot have her dump the pee -- then Jackie's off the hook!" We were like, "But Jackie doesn't know she's off the hook. It's going to be awesome!" I was like, "I want Jackie to turn to Kevin and say, 'Pack your bags' while 'Hit the Road Jack' plays and Akalitus walks down a long hallway and dumps it. You've got to let us do it!'"
Jackie seems to be insanely lucky in that way: Even now that the key people in her life, like O'Hara (Eve Best), know that she's got a drug problem, some are willing to help Jackie on her own terms. Where do you see her relationship with O'Hara heading next season?
Brixius: I think because I'm a woman in my 40s and both [executive producer Linda Wallem] and I have been through lots of relationships, we wanted it to be like, she can mess around with Eddie (Paul Schulze) and have it blow up in her face because she's got Kevin. When things aren't good with Kevin, she can fix it. But when things aren't good with O'Hara, we wanted that to break your heart, because O'Hara is something bigger. She's the kind of friend I think we all wish we had. She can look at Jackie in the nonconventional ways and not be trying to get her to go to meetings or forcing her to white-knuckle it. She loves her. She wants her to be OK. She also doesn't have a life -- but she will in Season 4, to answer your question. In Season 3, O'Hara didn't have anything competing for her affection, really.
Are you saying she'll get a love interest?
Brixius: O'Hara bought a townhouse and she probably bought it for a reason... There's not going to be less O'Hara, but there is going to be less availability of O'Hara to Jackie.
What's the story with Kelly (Gbenga Akinnagbe)? We now know he's just as good at lying as Jackie is. Maybe better. What does his presence in the hospital mean for Jackie in Season 4?
Brixius: Well, I will tell you that you don't know everything there is to know about Kelly Slater. Jackie is not smarter than he is. All we know is that he has successfully pulled the wool over everybody's eyes. To what end and why isn't super important yet, except that we now know he is a force to be reckoned with... What he does is he talks to Jackie honestly about things that O'Hara also does, but she does it out of intimacy. With him, it's more workplace: I see you. I see you. But he has no idea what an addict she is. He does know that neither of them are what they appear to be to everybody else. That's important.
I'll tell you what is M.O. is: He's got a survival mechanism in him that says, "I need you to like me. Whoever you are, whoever I'm in front of, you have to like me. However I can relate to you, I'm going to relate to you." He needs that. He's a chameleon. He's working it. No matter who he's talking to, he's working in it. He's always got an answer — and that makes him dangerous.
What did you think of the finale?