Weekly Review: Nurse Jackie (2009-2015)

An ER nurse depends on prescription medications to deal with patients, doctors, other nurses, and her own personal life in this Showtime drama.

This review will talk about the entire series, which spanned 7 seasons.

American television is no stranger to the idea of the anti-hero or to protagonists who resort to actions which may be illegal or questionable. We’ve seen it in Breaking Bad, Weeds, and in an example that’s similar to Nurse Jackie, House M. D. Make no mistake though, Dr. Gregory House, while similar, is nothing like Jackie Peyton.

In Nurse Jackie, our protagonist is a drug addict, and the show portrays the struggles of addiction vividly. Jackie is manipulative, self serving, and always thinking of her next high. I’ve seen some interpretations of her character that claim she may have borderline personality disorder. Needless to say, some viewers may not find the main character likable.

While progressing through the series, I found myself constantly disappointed in Jackie, similar to her friends and family on the show. I was appalled by the lengths that she would go and the bridges she’d burn to keep her addiction going. By the end of the seventh season, I was mentally exhausted, as if I knew Jackie personally.

That’s probably one of the best things about Nurse Jackie. It’s very realistic. I felt incredibly invested in the characters and their interactions. It shows the bonds that longtime co-workers form with each other and the lengths that friends will go to for each other. I’m surprised I heard so little about the show while it was airing. The show did receive critical acclaim. Edie Falco, who portrays Jackie, won an Emmy for her performance. Falco and Nurse Jackie were nominated for other Emmy Awards, SAG Awards, and Golden Globes. It really is quite good.

An interesting aspect to this particular series is that the episodes are only 30 minutes in length. This allows for the show to pack enough drama into each individual episode without relying on many fillers. This sitcom format may make you think that Nurse Jackie is a comedy, but don’t be fooled. While there are some comedic moments, this is a drama through and through.

Keep in mind that Nurse Jackie is a Showtime series, so it doesn’t hold back on risqué topics. It’s chock full of drugs, sex, and bad decisions. Definitely not one for the kids.

For me personally, I was never a big fan of Jackie herself. While the performance was incredible, her character was not the reason I continued watching the show. Jackie is surrounded by a lot of really compelling characters that drew me in and kept me for the long haul.

Some of my personal favorite characters included Dr. O’Hara (Eve Best), a British doctor and Jackie’s best friend, Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith), a hospital administrator who tries to keep the ER running, and Zoey Barkow (Merritt Wever), a young, fresh out of college nurse.

There are a variety of other characters that are incredibly interesting as well. Dr. Cooper is pretty fascinating. When the series begins, “Coop” (Peter Facinelli) is incredibly pompous, inexperienced, and ridiculous, but as the show comes to a close, he’s grown into a very capable doctor. Thor (Stephen Wallem), a fellow nurse in the ER, is very likable as well.

All of the characters listed above are mainly seen in the hospital setting, and that’s really only half of Jackie’s problems. Her home life is a bit of a mess as well, as she hides her drug habit from her husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa), and her two daughters, Grace and Fiona (Ruby Jerins and Mackenzie Aladjem). *Fiona is portrayed by Daisy Tahan in season 1.

I mentioned earlier that one of the best things about Nurse Jackie was the realism in character interactions. Actual nurses would probably disagree. The realism of being a nurse isn’t entirely there. Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to swallow the types of things that Jackie gets away with in a hospital setting. Jackie violates the Nurse’s Code of Ethics, and almost always gets away with it. That part isn’t realistic. Needless to say, it sparked some controversy with the New York State Nurses Association.

Overall, I think it’s worth it to give Nurse Jackie a chance. While it does become emotionally exhausting as the series goes on, it is a good visualization of the cost of addiction, both on the addict and those that love them. The series goes on just long enough to get its point across. Any longer, and the show may have overstayed its welcome.

If you’re interested in watching this show, I’d definitely give it a chance. The entire series is available on Netflix. Each season is between 10-12 30 minute episodes, so it’s not too hard to see an episode or two to see if it’s for you.

Below is a short scene that includes Jackie, Akalitus, Zoey and Dr. Cooper.


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