Showtime’s NURSE JACKIE is back, and it’s time to wish the titular character a “Happy F**king Birthday.” In the season premiere, set the day before Jackie’s (Edie Falco) anniversary of being born, things are falling apart. Jackie may be sober, but with her support system dwindling, and beset by negative thoughts and feelings, will she stay strong?
I’ll be honest, considering that “Happy F**king Birthday” picks up months later, I didn’t think that there was any way that Jackie would still be sober. I won’t spoil if she is or not, but the episode does a good job of keeping the viewer guessing, with circumstances providing a confusing gray area, until the end of the episode, in which there’s a near-perfect scene involving a ring box that says a lot of who this woman is and what point she is at in her life.
But before we get to that, it’s another day in the life of Jackie. Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) is doing everything he can to make things difficult for her, presumably as pay back for Jackie’s infidelity. They fight over the girls (Ruby Jerins and Mackenzie Aladjem), and he won’t even give his ex-wife a straight answer as to whether she can see the kids on her birthday.
I think this does contribute towards Jackie’s feelings when O’Hara (Eve Best) drops a big announcement concerning her infant. Jackie doesn’t feel her life as a mother is fair, and wants O’Hara in the same boat. It’s probably not all selfish, as Jackie genuinely needs her bestie’s support during this trying time. But there is definitely a little bit of jealousy when O’Hara gets to be there for her son and Jackie doesn’t have her daughters around.
To make matters worse, early in the episode Zoey (Merritt Wever) announces that she thinks it’s time to move out. I really love the dynamic between Zoey and Jackie, one of the strongest elements of the show, and I don’t feel like we’ve had nearly enough of them as roommates. Jackie is understandably happy about Zoey’s decision, as Zoey does get on her nerves, but I think, given Jackie’s present loneliness, she’ll be wishing Zoey lived with her again soon enough.
The question is, will Jackie speak up before it’s too late? She’s too late to salvage things with Kevin, which puts a cramp on her parenting style, and a serious damper on her love life. She’s too late to be a factor in O’Hara’s decision (which is a doozy, I promise). Will Zoey be yet another missed opportunity by Jackie?
My guess is, Eddie (Paul Schulze) will help fill the void in Jackie’s life. This is just a theory, based on small hints in the episode, but they seem to be on good terms, and she needs a friend.
Jackie isn’t a bad person and doesn’t deserve her unhappines. Yes, she has lied and cheated, but isn’t addiction a disease? Couldn’t Kevin be a little more understanding? And now that she has made efforts towards controlling her habit, she will continue to gain more sympathy. She has done bad things, undeniably, but that doesn’t make her a bad person.
We see some of the good things that Jackie does in “Happy F**king Birthday.” Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) has her job back, and that’s all thanks to Jackie. Jackie also manipulates a patient to purchase a very expensive, but badly needed, piece of equipment for the hospital. That is a noble need, even if it’s carried out in a method that’s a bit shady. Things like these help Jackie make up for the bad things she has done.
As usual, there are a couple of new characters joining NURSE JACKIE this season. One in particular Jackie gets off on the wrong foot with, of course. The new guy (Morris Chestnut, V) used to be in the army, but of course Jackie misjudges him in their first encounter, as his her pattern when someone else arrives at All Saints. Ah, well. I’m sure it’ll sort itself out as the season progresses.
There is no misjudging the other, Dr. Roman (Betty Gilpin, Ghost Town), though. She is all pretty looks and not much else, skating by and using her hot body to manipulate others. Even those who are not attracted to her, but instead desperate for approval, bend over backwards to please her. Which means Cooper (Peter Facinelli) and Zoey are wrapped around her fingers. She is definitely there to shake things up and cause trouble. Which is why I hope she lasts at least a little while, detestable as she is.
Roman does present an opportunity for Cooper to grow, though, which is a positive to her presence. Jackie pushes Cooper to act like an adult, and we’ll have to wait and see how well he will follow through on Jackie’s nudge.
Lastly, a former hospital staffer gets their job back (besides Akalitus, I mean). I cannot possibly say who and ruin anything, but I think most NURSE JACKIE fans will be pleasantly surprised and touched when, late in the half hour, the development occurs.
For those who love NURSE JACKIE, myself among them, “Happy F**king Birthday” is equal parts a way to catch us up on what has happened during the interim, and a glad return to a beloved favorite. The episode has serious developments, but is also an excellent example of a typically great installment.
I would not recommend missing NURSE JACKIE’s fifth season premiere, this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.