The NURSE JACKIE finale was as true to the rest of the series as you could ask. There was humor, sadness and tragedy.
The human relationships forged in the emergency room of All Saints Hospital were ultimately those that mattered most, particularly to Jackie Peyton.
Dr. O’Hara returned from England, her little boy in tow, for her goddaughter Fiona’s confirmation ceremony. She surprised Jackie at the church where Fiona was still practicing her answers to catechism questions. Jackie was deliriously happy and discovered that Kevin and the girls arranged it all without her knowing. A very loving act by a family who continued to stand by Jackie after each and every misstep.
Would she ever repay that love that forgave her for all her faults? She gleefully told them that she was waiting on an offer at Bellevue Hospital, which ultimately came later that day.
When O’Hara came by the ER for the last day its doors were open, she donned a white coat for a bit and tagged along for patient in-take.
She was amazed at Dr. Roman’s ability to correctly diagnose a condition, which instead of infuriating Carrie, flattered her. Zoey was thrilled to see O’Hara, explaining that without her she stood-in as Jackie’s hand-holder, revealing the arrest, jail, rehab and diversion program.
After O’Hara absorbed the news, Jackie got a tongue lashing from her friend who did a bit of her own diagnosing herself. She told Jackie she looked and acted high, and she should know after the years they spent together. It was denied, of course, as Jackie put up a bit of a defense, but O’Hara struck a chord when she suggested that she not remain in a profession around the substances to which she was addicted.
Once again we got Jackie’s reminder that without being a nurse she’s nothing. O’Hara went at her about that, reminding her that she’s a mother, a fiancee and a friend in addition to being a nurse. That’s not the order in which Jackie would put it all.
Bernie Prince asked Gloria for permission to hang around so he could say farewell to everyone, even though he had no privileges to treat patients. The two mended fences over what occurred the previous week and Gloria admitted her job search was slow and looked bleak. Speaking of bleak, Prince was thrust into a dangerous situation of his own accord, and almost found a way out of the symptoms ahead of him as his cancer saps the life from him.
A young man ran into the ER with a gun looking for someone who assaulted him. The guy pointed the weapon at Jackie, then Bernie took over, taking the man’s attention away from Jackie and putting it on himself. He talked him through his chances of surviving unless he dropped the gun and left the ER. After a tense standoff the man took Dr. Prince’s advice and fled.
When Jackie went into a restroom a short time later she found the man who assaulted the gunman. He’s a junkie in a lot of distress and Jackie nursed him back to a state where he could be taken to a hospital that wasn’t closing, bathing him and exchanging his filthy clothes for a hospital gown.
They talked as fellow addicts and as she always does, Jackie made him believe he was the most important person to her, at least at that moment. He called her a saint, which she sloughed off, but boy does she love to hear that.
The gang got ready for the final party, including Eddie who was coming by after his deposition with a bottle and ready to be nice, even to Akalitus.
Eddie, the man Jackie’s ready to marry was always in love with her, enabling her habit of pill popping and ultimately willing to sacrifice his freedom for “his everything”.
That is what he called her when she questioned his sanity of willingly admitting to selling the stolen samples to a pain management clinic in Brooklyn. He’ll serve time in jail for it, but you would have thought he was going to St. Tropez on a yacht the way he gleefully spilled the news.
He had a few choices once it was revealed that Eddie had been caught on camera at the place that had more than a usual quantity of the pills. There he was in the waiting room and of course Jackie was there, but in a baseball cap, apparently unrecognizable to anyone in the deposition room, excluding him and his lawyer.
He could have turned on the pill-mill doctor who bought the samples to lessen his sentence, but that would have meant implicating Jackie, who the doctor would finger as well.
As Eddie said to his “everything”, he’d probably only do a year or so in a “Martha Stewart-type” place and be back to spend the rest of his life with her. Jackie was stunned, after expressing sadness but she wasn’t going to turn down someone sacrificing for her. After all, everyone gave her their best and did it willingly. She had a knack for getting it out of people.
Except, Zoey decided to resign from that club. When Jackie got the offer from Bellevue she told Zoey there was a place for her there. It took Zoey a while to get the courage to explain that she needed to detach with love, as they say in twelve-step programs.
She wanted to worry about herself for a while, make her own mistakes rather than worry about Jackie making more of her own. She asked permission to leave the nest and the two women acknowledged an extraordinary relationship between them. What would she do? First she intended to go to Haiti and work with Doctors Without Borders. It’s so Zoey, right?
The tearful realization that Zoey wouldn’t be her support system added to a day of endings. When faced with the hospital doors literally being locked, her life as she knew it ended. Since her priority list puts nursing first, and because as an addict, patience is not a virtue, looking ahead to her start date somewhere else was of no consolation.
With that part of her life over, Jackie floated around the party, watching people laugh, cry, dance and say farewell. When Dr. Prince mistook her for his ex-wife, as he mournfully decided on custody issues and said goodbye, it was all too much for our Jackie.
The future was ahead at a new place of business, but, without Zoey. Her home life will be without Eddie as he does his stretch in the can for his beloved. She gave no thought to Fiona’s big day tomorrow, or of Grace being back in the fold, of Kevin’s sweet act to surprise his ex with O’Hara’s presence or Eddie’s extraordinary sacrifice.
She headed for the place she had bagged up the junkie’s clothes and tore through them. There were small bags of heroin that she spilled out on a ledge under the bathroom mirror, just like in the old days and snorted up a storm. She went into a haze and we saw her hallucinating as she walked the streets of Manhattan, not speaking to a soul but mingling with strangers.
When she appeared to lie down on the street among what looked like a group yoga class in Times Square she was actually on the floor, out cold at the hospital party with everyone running to help her, trying to revive her. Jackie had prayed, earlier in the episode, asking God to make her “good” and as Jackie’s eyes opened just a bit, you could hear Zoey exhorting her, “Jackie, you’re good. You’re good,” as she touched her face to try and revive her. There didn’t seem to be much life left in those eyes that were barely visible under heavy lids.
You had to wonder if she would live and if she did, if it would be what she wanted. Either way, everyone who loves her is in for hell, and they know it. With the strains of the theme song from the film “Valley of the Dolls” playing in the background, it only added to the “did she or didn’t she?” question in the finale.
RIP NURSE JACKIE, in a stunning and touching finale that let us know life is messy, people are complicated and loving someone who can’t help herself is perpetual heartache.
Photo credit: NURSE JACKIE/Showtime, used with permission