A few times, the reboot of a series has undone the ending of the original series. One of the most insane examples was occasioned by the return of “Roseanne” in 2018. In the 1996 finale, Dan had died of a heart attack, and the season’s story lines were all part of Roseanne’s denial. But there he was again in 2018, in all his easy-going, working-class likability. “Will & Grace,” too, sacrificed its continuity for its revival. Nothing gets in the way of a potentially lucrative reboot, it seems.
But news of another new revival has me a little annoyed. Showtime recently announced that it plans to bring back “Nurse Jackie,” along with lead Edie Falco — after the writers’ strike, of course. It’s no biggie at this point in our cultural obsession with reboots. No show is immune to the lure of re-success (“Weeds” will be back, too), and I’ve stopped whining about how the return to a series can have an impact on its legacy. “Nurse Jackie” is one of my very favorite series, an uncompromising take on addiction with great performances; but OK, let’s see how it looks in the 2020s.
What annoys me is that even just the announcement of the reboot has a profound effect on the original series finale. What I loved about that last episode in 2015 was its ambiguity. Once again, Jackie was using, even after having put her life back together once again — engaged to Eddie, her legal right to nurse restored, her relationship with her ex-husband peaceful. There she was, hitting yet another bottom after snorting lines of heroin, lying on the floor, dead or not dead. According to showrunner Clyde Phillips at the time, the final shot was left open to interpretation. And I liked that, just as I liked the ambiguity of the “Sopranos” finale. The viewers are left to project their own feelings onto the end of the story. To me, she was not dead — the show was once again driving home the relentlessness of addiction. But a friend insisted that Jackie was dead, and that the show was making a point about where addiction can lead. Ah, well, the lovely ambiguity is gone. But hey, I was right…
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.