It’s impossible to love Jackie Peyton; but then it’s impossible to hate her, too. And unlike many characters on television, the viewer’s perception of her changes not from season to season but from moment to moment, as she performs heroics but then destroys her own life and the lives of others. So let’s discuss what makes all of us take a Vicodin during each episode to take the edge off the love and hate we feel towards almost everything on this show.

If you need a refresher, here it is: When last we left Jackie, she had ruined a wedding by bringing a drug dealer as her date, her kids had been taken away from her and she’d just walked out on the job she was about to lose. For some reason or another (it was never clear to me), she was on her way to the airport to head to Miami when someone needed help. She did the noble thing—climbed back into her car—and was then involved in a car accident, where all her pills were discovered. At the end of the season, Jackie was in jail and had just had her mugshot taken. And because she’d just broken up with her cop boyfriend, she probably wasn’t getting out too quickly. Everyone was done covering for her, believing her lies or even wanting to have anything to do with her. Except for Eddie, who is still madly in love with her.

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Jackie had, once again, reached rock bottom. The same way she had at the end of every season. The question was whether this bottom was low enough. The answer? Maybe, but probably not.

In the season premiere, Jackie got out of jail, tried to get her job back, tried to get her kids back and tried to make amends with Zoe.

Love her: This time, Jackie is really trying. And it seems that maybe this time it will actually work. That maybe she’ll realize that she’s sunk low enough that the only choice is to crawl back up and really kick the drugs or just give up. The problem is that she’s always trying. She never really gives up, she just doesn’t want to admit that she has a problem or allow herself to find ways to cope with her addiction and other mental health issues in a way than she has.

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One of the things that I really appreciate about this show is how real the depiction of drug addiction is. Sure, Jackie’s a little more conniving than many of the people we meet in real life (some might even consider her a bit of a psychopath?), but every season makes it just a little more clear that for here, rock bottom is a theoretical concept. If you had told the Jackie of season two that she’d be divorced and in jail, she wouldn’t have believed it. But this season’s Jackie isn’t even surprised.

She still seems to think that she’s above all that rehab stuff, because she still hasn’t found the right reason to stick to it, which I’m a little worried will be Eddie. While her former boyfriend was a pushover (and I was really rooting for Frank!), Eddie is codependent and willing to do anything for Jackie in order to keep her affection, even if it means putting his job on the line when he forges Akalitus’ signature.

Eddie would probably also benefit from some type of counseling. Remember when he befriended Kevin and stalked Jackie? That was scary, but his insistence to get back into a relationship with Jackie when she is at her most vulnerable—she ended up in jail!—is honestly more terrifying than sweet.

Still, I can’t help but keep rooting for Jackie to really beat it this time. She’s detoxed! She wants her girls back! She’s going to get all the drugs out of her house! All that stuff is important, right?

Also loved: Zoe standing up for herself when Jackie tried to push her to make up and Akalitus’ amazing speech when Jackie tried to get her job back. It wasn’t clear to her (as it probably was to the regular viewer) that Jackie was manipulating Akalitus into firing her, but her speech came not only from an angry place but a really caring place as well. You could tell that she actually cared about Jackie even as she was reaming her out for being an addict. Because it’s impossible for Akalitus not to care about Jackie; this is a woman who saved her career.

Hate her: Jackie is still as manipulative as shit. The same woman who pushed her sponsor to relapse and then tricked her into rehab is still there. Jail, withdrawal, detox have all made Jackie stronger, but not in the way that any of the people around her would hope. This Jackie has no compunction against tricking her boss into firing her so she can sue All Saints with a sleazy hotshot lawyer; this Jackie doesn’t yet feel any guilt about storming into her ex-husband’s workplace and calling him an asshole even though he’s not wrong in his desire to keep her children away from her after all she’s pulled; and this Jackie isn’t above lying to get what she wants. She lies to her public defender, she lies to the sleazy lawyer, but most importantly she lies to Zoe, who’s one of the few people in her life who’s not only stable but also good. I hated how Jackie demanded compassion from everyone, while not being able to dole out any herself. I understand that a big part of her character is not being able to understand why people become done with her, but it becomes more and more frustrating to watch as she lies instead of changing her behavior.

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I still haven’t gotten over the fact that in the last season Jackie convinced a former nun, dying of alcoholism, to take the rap for her when she stole Roman’s ID numbers and prescribed herself narcotics. Have you? How long would it take? The fact that she’s demanding that Zoe just forgive her again is ridiculous and I found myself raging at my phone screen (which is where I was watching this) until my partner wandered in and asked if I was having a stroke. While I’ve been touched by shows before, there’s something about Jackie that brings out a completely visceral reaction, whether it’s a “hell yes” when she’s rightfully telling someone off or a pained “fuck noooooo” when she’s kissing Eddie on the steps of her house at the end of this episode.

I really did scream “fuck nooooo” at my phone, in the middle of my living room, at 6am. And that’s probably why I can only watch this show in the afternoon from now on, when my blood needs a little bit of a boil to get me through the rest of my day.

Also hated: Jackie forcing Akalitus into screaming at her; Zoe not wanting to take the Head Nurse job because she still feels so much loyalty for Jackie; the fact that Grace continues to exist in this universe.

Image via Showtime


Contact the author at mark.shrayber@jezebel.com.