'Nurse Jackie' Is Back, and She's Still No Florence Nightingale

Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) lies to nearly everyone, steals drugs, cheats on her husband and hasn't got a sentimental bone in her body. But when Showtime's Nurse Jackie kicks off its second season tonight (10 p.m. ET), scores of viewers will tune in to root for her. Why? Perhaps because Falco is so adept at bringing out the complexities of her character, who actually is much more than a lying drug addict in hospital scrubs.

When we last saw her, Jackie was knocked out on morphine. She'd taken it to escape her troubles, which were considerable: Her painkiller addiction was starting to cause random nosebleeds at inconvenient times. Her coworker, Dr. Coop (Peter Facinelli) was becoming more aware of her unorthodox practices (like falsifying organ-donor documents). Her husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) didn't know about her extramarital affair with the hospital pharmacist, Eddie (Paul Schulze). And Eddie didn't know about her husband and kids -- until he discovered the truth, reacted badly and threatened to spill the beans.

Jackie sounds like a train wreck, and she is. But she's also a competent, no-nonsense nurse -- with the kind of attitude you want in your corner when a cocky physician gives you the bum's rush, or when bureaucratic rules delay life-saving treatment. She's a conscientious and intuitive mom, who takes time out for tap class with her daughter, Grace (Ruby Jerins), and picks up on Grace's anxiety issues. And she carries herself with a poise that, well, makes you like her despite everything.

When we rejoin Jackie tonight, a few months have passed. She's no longer with the emotionally devastated Eddie, who now works in a drug store and continues to pine for her (she's figured out how to pocket her own drugs). In a scene with her family at the beach, her husband gazes at her, starry-eyed and clearly clueless about her affair. But the scene is fraught with troubling undertones: Grace scrubs seashells with soap, and her younger daughter, Fiona (Daisy Tahan) discovers a rotting raccoon head on the beach. There's no such thing as a perfectly relaxing day in Jackie's life. And yet we keep on rooting for her. Maybe all her imperfections are why we keep on rooting for her.

Plus: Read our exclusive interview with Nurse Jackie's Peter Facinelli

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