Junkie, thief and sex-mad Nurse Jackie


Nurse Jackie (TV3, Tuesdays, 9.30pm) is just the latest proof that the Robin Hood syndrome lives on in all of us, and that it’s still possible to be both hero and villain at the same time, as long as it’s all for a worthy cause. 

The second season of the sometimes comic but always edgy series began last week with Nurse Jackie, a triage nurse at a New York hospital, continuing her struggle to balance a champion mum, wife and professional label, with a double-life of drug addiction and adultery. 

Played by Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie is the most recent in a succession of stories that realistically portray the contradictions we often become as individuals, not to mention challenging that old fashioned concept we have of right and wrong. 

Nurse Jackie does this wonderfully well as she lurches from straight-laced hospital professional to thief and drug addict; from loving wife of Kevin and mother of Grace and Fiona, to the mistress of boyfriend, Eddie. From wedding ring on, to wedding ring off. 

It’s been a familiar refrain on television of late and it’s been a refreshing one, in terms of a reminder that few of us are perfect. 

Breaking Bad, in which a chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer starts manufacturing methamphetamine in order to provide a financial future for his family, plucked at similar heart-strings. 

Dexter, the adventures of a psychopathic, serial-killing Miami cop who gets his fix from taking out other killers, is another show that plays on the contradiction between the central character’s outwardly good natured and well-intentioned approach, and his dark and shadowy secret life. 

In Nurse Jackie, creators Liz Brixius, Linda Wallem, and Evan Dunsky deliver another ultimate paradox as viewers warm to her compassion and care, are chilled by her dependency on hospital amphetamines and are eventually torn between seeing her as a flawed genius or a criminal. 

It is a fast-paced sort of show, sparingly punctuated with some zany and spacey effects, such as images of brightly coloured pills against a white light background slowly morphing into a beach scene with Jackie and the family. 

There are stories within stories, as we saw last week when the neurotic Dr Cooper (Peter Facinelli) became so exasperated with her put-downs that he filed an official complaint, and when her good friend Dr O’Hara (Eve Best) was unofficially hospitalised after a night out on the turps and, oh yeah, some ecstasy. 

Of course, Nurse Jackie hasn’t come without its detractors. The New York State Nurses Association took a dim view of one of their own being portayed as a substance abuser who traded sex with a pharmacist in return for prescription drugs (I would have mentioned that, except it happened in the previous season). 

For all that, Nurse Jackie is worth a look. It’s funny, sad, alarming, disturbing, complicated and straight-forward, all at the same time. It’s also true to life, even if the NYSNA might not want to admit it. Maybe good and bad’s not so easy to define after all.