Previously on Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie isn’t perfect. Sometimes the jokes miss their mark, character motivations are not always clear or convincing, and the story itself can, at times, be a little too predictable. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most enjoyable and easy-to-watch shows of 2016. The credit for which is all due to the women at the heart of it, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, and in the clever way the writers chose to develop their dynamic. At this point, Grace and Frankie have shared too many hardships and good times to dislike one another, but if they got along 100% of the time, we’d lose a lot of great banter between them. Finding the middle ground between those boundaries was essential for season two’s success and, luckily, they found it fairly early on.
Now that the shock and betrayal of what their husbands did has, for the most part, subsided, Grace and Frankie have the chance to move on and start figuring out what they truly want for themselves. For Frankie that means pursuing the commercial production of her yam lube, which also brings her back to her yam man, Jacob. For Grace it means reconnecting with her old social circle and a man who just might be her long lost true love. Having these women explore life separately gave us the chance to learn more about who they are, but it also allowed the characters to find the right kind of dependency with one another. At the end of the day, they always check in and offer honest guidance when needed – Grace even winds up defending Frankie to her hoity-toity friends. This results in a friendship that seems genuine and effortless, not forced for the sake of the show’s premise.
The show never uses epic, dramatic stakes for the sake of plot, either. Emotional, character-focused highs and lows are the driving force instead, and they never disappoint. While Tomlin typically gets the funnier dialogue, and is superb with its delivery, both her and Fonda are knockouts when it comes to the task of carrying a sensitive or heartfelt moment. If either of these women even had the hint of a tear in their eye, I was right there with them every time, without fail. A moment from early on in the season stands out as a great example of these character driven emotional stakes. Grace fusses about the layout of Robert and Sol’s living room, because to her it’s all out of place. When she realizes the furniture has been strategically positioned so the two men can sit comfortably together, she recognizes the arrangement doesn’t matter to two people so in love. As this fact sinks in, she and Frankie sit together, in presumably the same fashion Robert and Sol would. While the gesture might be a little on the nose – these women love one another, too! – it doesn’t distract from both how touching and necessary the scene is.
The entire season manages to keep moments bordering on heavy-handed or clichéd mostly in check. While it seems obvious that a show revolving around women in their 70’s would tackle aging, and the very particular issues that come along with it, the only reason they work so well is because of the honest and nuanced manner in which they are expressed. With its first season, Grace and Frankie already proved that a show starring older women can be both profitable and good – though it’s certainly not the first to have done so, and may have a little something to do with the star quality of its leads. In its second outing, the show dives even deeper into the topic of getting older, while making the material accessible and engaging to all ages. Though I wasn’t a fan of how this specific storyline seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, the question of how to handle the delicate request of their beach house neighbor, Babe, was undoubtedly powerful. It provoked numerous questions regarding one’s core beliefs, mortality in general, and how much agency each of truly us has (or should have) over our own lives.
The season is full of these perplexing, sometimes life-altering, challenges. One of which is presented through the estrangement between Robert and Sol. Robert’s reaction to Sol’s affair with Frankie seems hypocritical on its surface – you cheat on your wife for decades, but one minor lapse in judgment on Sol’s part is indefensible? And yet, it’s entirely logical from his perspective. While I wish it hadn’t taken so much focus away from the leading ladies, it was certainly handled in an interesting enough manner.
Luckily, towards the end of the season, the show hit the right balance between screen time for Grace and Frankie, and everyone else. Particularly enjoyable was seeing more of the Bergstein and Hanson kids; despite the fact their storylines were mostly in service of Frankie’s character. Let’s face it, almost anything other than following Mallory around like a lost, twisted puppy would have been a welcomed step-up for Coyote.
Grace and Frankie may not be the most groundbreaking or even the most progressive show on TV, but it never fails to inspire hope. If I can have even half the strength and optimism that these women have when I’m that age, I’ll be more than fine. Plus, it’s the only show I know of that explores love and sex between people older than 40, and committed itself to a major storyline about vaginal lubrication. For that, it most certainly deserves a spot in everyone’s queue. All that remains is to see whether or not the finale can hold on to the heartwarming tone we’ve grown to love, and leave us with anticipation for the already renewed season three.
Grace and Frankie S2E2-E12 = 8.8/10