Saturday, January 20, 2018

Circle Of Life, Grace And Frankie Season Four Lives Up!

The Good: Very funny with some wonderful lines, Good character development, Some good plot moments, Direction
The Bad: Repetitive plot moments
The Basics: Grace And Frankie Season Four gets in some early laughs, turns to issues of mortality and marital strife, but manages to keep the characters impressively engaging.

There are very few shows I look forward to each time they arrive like Grace And Frankie. Grace And Frankie Season Four is here and it was a big thing for me to wait a full day to sit down and watch it. But, my wife and I wanted to make an event of the fourth season, but one of our friends wanted to come watch it with us. So, we waited the day and have now binged the entire fourth season of Grace And Frankie!

Picking up after the third season of Grace And Frankie (reviewed here!), it seemed like there would be a lot for most of the characters in the show to do. The titular characters were in business together, while Robert and Sol were both retired now and Bud was facing his weird girlfriend having a child. So, with Robert and Sol arrested in the prior season's finale and Frankie facing the high potential of another stroke, the fourth season of Grace And Frankie began at an interestingly disparate point.

Grace is now working with Sheree and Frankie has moved to Santa Fe with Jacob. It has been months since they have seen one another and Frankie soon comes to visit for Bud's impending child's gender reveal party. Robert and Sol continue to be arrested for protests all around the area. Brianna and Barry are back together, with Barry now interviewing for one of Brianna's competitors. As Frankie and Brianna discover a dark truth about Sheree, the family participates in a scavenger hint to discover the gender of Bud and Allison's baby.

After admitting she is miserable in Santa Fe, Frankie leaves Jacob to move back in with Grace. Grace, Frankie, and Sheree move in together and the ladies enlist Robert and Sol to help Sheree get her house back from her spiteful stepchildren. Grace and Frankie break into Sheree's house to get a letter to help Sheree win her case. While Robert and Sol start to feel tension over Robert's acting and Sol's attempts to make new friends, Grace tries to negotiate her relationship with Nick. Frankie tries to reach out to her estranged sister after experiencing flashbacks and Robert reminds her of a past incident. As Robert and Sol's relationship leads them to greater estrangement, Grace and Robert find themselves going to a funeral together and Frankie and Sol try to get Frankie arrested to get her legally back alive! And as the season moves toward its climax, a water stain on the ceiling at Grace and Frankie's chateau leads to a series of events that has the potential to forever change their lives!

Grace And Frankie Season Four is very funny, with Brianna getting many of the season's funniest lines. The show manages to be funny and smart while exploring many serious topics, like death, aging and estrangement. The characters manage to grow and develop, for the most part, while still maintaining their core characteristics. So, Frankie and Sol are still fairly ludicrous, while Grace and Robert are generally serious. There are changes - Frankie's long-lost sister makes an appearance and Grace has to go into a knee-replacement surgery sober - and constants; Mallory is still largely defined as being a mother and Coyote remains relegated to a support character without any major arcs in the season.

On the plot front, the characters keep doing their thing - Grace and Frankie remain in business together, Brianna is running Say Grace, and the season's big events surround Allison being pregnant with Bud's child. Frankie's hallucination arc seems instantly reminiscent of Robert's hallucinations in Season Four. The season has a little inconsistency with Grace's character - she is fun and wacky with Sheree, but when Frankie reappears in her life, her personality reverts entirely to her previously-established traits. In a similar way, Mallory raises an impressive thematic point with Coyote, but the conversation is cut short and never returned to in a very unsatisfying way.

The key Grace And Frankie characters in the fourth season are:

Grace - She has allowed her nail technician of twenty years, Sheree, to move into the house she and Frankie shared. Dating Nick since Frankie left for Santa Fe, she starts getting in trouble with Frankie almost immediately. Her knee is very hurt during their breaking and entering, right after which Nick starts wanting to meet her family. Grace actually commits to Nick after a funeral where she learns Phil Millstein has died. She has to get sober for a knee-replacement surgery and outs Sol for calling Frankie his soulmate,

Robert - After getting arrested repeatedly with Sol and spending more time in a cell, with a full bladder, he decides to give up the acts of civil disobedience. He is nominated for a Tappy award for his performance in in 1776 and forgets to thank Sol in his acceptance speech. He gets Sol tickets to a folk music cruise, in an effort to spend time with him, but is offered a bigger part in the play he is assistant directing. He makes a mess out of the friendship Sol tries to build with the neighbors and ends up in counseling with Sol,

Frankie - Figuring out quickly how much her energetic disposition is bothering Jacob and instantly disappointed by how Grace has transformed into a fun person with Sheree. She goes over the top with Allison while Allison is pregnant with her first grandchild. She discovers that an offhanded remark at the Post Office has led to her being declared legally dead. She begins hallucinating when she is reminded that someone told her Sol was gay right before her wedding. When her granddaughter is born, she latches onto her, at the expense of her relationship with Jacob,

Sol - Despite being down on Robert for being politically active to the extent that he is, he protests on his own and hurts his back doing it. After being overlooked at the Tappies, he reaches out to the new neighbors for friendship, much to Robert's chagrin. After going on the cruise alone, he continues his activism with Frankie, which pulls him away from Robert,

Brianna - She tries to get along with Barry now that he has moved back in and she is weirdly suspicious of him. As Barry is left at home to take care of her dog, Spit, she spies upon him and freaks out about the nature of their relationship. She reluctantly allows Mallory to come to the office to act as an intern,

Mallory - Separated now from Mitch, she and Coyote get closer. She eagerly goes to meet Nick when Grace finally is willing to introduce him to her daughters. She is very bitter about her divorce and marriage in general. She helps Grace out after her knee surgery and stands in for Frankie when Allison goes into labor,

Coyote - Waiting for his girlfriend to be sober for one year, he starts as fairly miserable in the relationship, but otherwise happy. He finds himself unable to tell his father about his loathing of soft cheeses. He waits out his girlfriend's sobriety, but gets a lot of help from Mallory on how to treat her better,

and Bud - Still dating Allison, they are having a baby together, but have no plans for marriage. He proposes to Allison and is surprised when that leads her to reveal she won't marry him without a prenup. He finds he is exhausted as a new parent, but wants very much to work with Allison to raise their daughter together.

The character mix continues to be interesting, but the relationship between Sol and Robert ends at an unfortunate place where the characters are in danger of falling into the predictable, overdone trope of the aging gay characters who end up in a situation where they could have a threesome and don't have the character to say "this isn't us." That kind of hapless idiocy does not fit the characters and if Season Five begins there, it will be unfortunate.

The performances in Grace And Frankie Season Four are homogeneously solid. All of the main cast knows their roles and they have them mastered. June Diane Raphael continues to be one of the all-time greats at delivering sarcastic lines flawlessly and Martin Sheen gets to play exhausted in some new and interesting ways. The scenes between Lily Tomlin and Talia Shire have surprisingly strong on-screen chemistry and a sense of realism to them. Lisa Kudrow plays Sheree much like she played Phoebe on Friends, but Peter Gallagher makes a pretty poignant new character as Nick.

Ultimately, the fourth season of Grace And Frankie keeps all the important quality levels high while still being an amazing mix of humor and heart!

For other works from the 2017 - 2018 television season, please check out my reviews of:
"The Last Day" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The Trial Of The Flash" - The Flash
"Legion Of The Super-Heroes" - Supergirl
"The Wolf Inside" - Star Trek: Discovery
"Twice Upon A Time" - Doctor Who
The Orville - Season 1
The Punisher - Season 1
Inhumans - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 2
Rick And Morty - Season 3
"Beebo The God Of War" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" - Arrow
Twin Peaks - Season 3 ("The Return")
Game Of Thrones - Season 7
The Defenders - Season 1
Friends From College - Season 1


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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