26 May 2016
I don’t think there are enough words in the English language to design how revolutionary watching Grace and Frankie can feel. There are actual honest to God sexy sex scenes featuring septuagenarians. Septuagenarian WOMEN. There are long conversations about vagina lubricant and feeling invisible after 50 and the difference between alzheimers and normal 70 year old absent mindedness and the best type of vibrator handle for arthritis. And there’s Lily fucking Tomlin, looking insane and spacey and wonderful and smart and painting her vagina and having a legitimate, complicated love story. And there’s Jane fucking Fonda, who is still more beautiful and talented than nearly any one else working today, falling in love and having sex and struggling with her children and being a complicated business woman and a fragile ex-socialite all at once. And there are major plot points around birth and death and a sympathetic portrayal of both euthanasia and the protest against euthanasia.
But all of that wouldn’t matter if Grace and Frankie wasn’t also hilarious and lovely. In Season Two, the show finally figures out what to do with its supporting cast, making great use of Martin Sheen, June Diane Rafael, Ethan Embry, and Brooklyn Decker (while still sometimes failing to know what to do with Baron Vaughn’s Bud – who’s the only extended family member not to get at least a semblance of his own plot). Sam Waterston comes more into his own in season two – although he is saddled with the repercussions of season one’s finale in a way that does no favors to his character. The show seems to have finally unlocked Waterston and Sheen’s chemistry, however, in putting the two of them at odds.
But Grace and Frankie really rests in the capable hands of Tomlin and Fonda (Frankie and Grace, respectively), whose chemistry dwarfs everything around it. Their personal journeys and their struggles and their love lives are the grounding force of the show – and their constant battles and acts of support anchor the shenanigans that go on around them. The show isn’t afraid to let them be wrong – and petty, and difficult – but it also doesn’t come down to hard on the women – instead providing them the freedom to just BE, which is as funny as it is revolutionary.
Season Two was definitely better than Season One, although some of the same flaws still exist (the aforementioned Bud problem, a difficulty with maintaining any storyline absent Grace or Frankie). It allows for more group scenes, which benefit every character in them, and mostly dispenses with the hoary “oh I guess we’re GAY now!” jokes in favor of deeper emotional truths.
In the end, nothing sums up the beautiful mixture of hilarity and cultural import of Grace and Frankie quite as profoundly as that finale episode’s closing group scene of two seventy year old women telling a room full of their loved ones that they are leaving all of them behind to design a line of vibrators for elderly women.