Here we are, 9 weeks and 10 episodes later. The season finale, written by co-exec Neil Goldman is titled “Closure”, and while it gives us that in many ways, it also ends on big old cliff. Hanger.
First up: Ted McGinley, aka Derek, absolutely slays again this episode. He’s always been a surefire guarantee for hilarity the whole season, but this week just gives him an insane amount of material – so much so that I was afraid he may be the next supporting actor in a comedy vying for the coveted awards against the show’s own Harrison Ford and Brett Goldstein (for acting on Ted Lasso). But neatly, he is credited as a guest star, so I hope they submit this one for him in that category for the Emmys. The newly established friendship between Ted and Gaby is an absolute win in this regard (“D-Man’s gonna be a B-Man”), but his most frequent scene partner is Christa Miller, and they are a perfect match (perhaps no wonder given the character’s based on Bill Lawrence).
Miller also gets to shine again herself by showing a more vulnerable side of Liz. She doesn’t have many friends, and it’s hard for her to admit she actually enjoys things. Her tendency to overstep largely stems from her own insecurity and loneliness, and so she’s afraid to tell Sean she wants to be a proper partner in his food truck business. When she finally does, he of course happily accepts. She also gets to use her overbearingness for good, because she steps up for Gaby and tears Paul a new one for making her write her own recommendation letter. (Paul thus also finally learns that this is not in fact what “raw-dogging” means. Full. Circle.) Jimmy also chimes in, forced by Liz, and confronts him about mentoring him but not Gaby. Consequently, Paul ends up showing up at Gaby’s interview to support her in person – but she already got the job! Gaby’s gonna be a professor in Season 2! (If she were real I would still tell her to run, but as is, I am excited for some hopefully hilarious takedowns of academia on the show; the professor who only hires people who kiss his ass is already on point. If you need anyone to consult, dear showrunners, I am available.)
“Helping others to help ourselves. I guess that’s why we do what we do.”
Paul concludes his visit with his daughter and grandson, who he tells about his Parkinson’s, and even his “sexual relations” with Julie. He openly admits to Jimmy that the trip was important to him, and – gasp! – hugs him for making it happen. He is less thrilled that Liz finds out about that part, however: “what kind of a person hugs and tells???” Liz and Gaby’s friendship, meanwhile, is also further cemented when she gives her one of her coveted rocks, and finally finds out her and Jimmy are fucking – something Ted already knew, because he saw them when he was outside on the balcony, peeing in the flower pots. The season finale really brings it all together.
Brian and Charlie get married, and Brian’s father ends up being his best man after all – at first, Brian hosts a cornhole tournament for the job, but Jimmy and Liz convince his Dad to get over himself at the party. Jimmy also manages his wedding speech beautifully, despite panicking at first. I am so, so glad none of this went south, and the show generally manages to avoid overwrought drama just for the sake of drama. It is also wonderful to see Jimmy address the value of friendship in his speech. Romantic couples do need more than each other, they also need a support system around them, and so far the marriages we have seen on the show have been very mature and healthy in this regard.
It’s also finally confirmed that Jimmy is NOT safe dick for Gaby. Liz says she can hear Gaby’s vagina “humming” for him when they stand next to each other at the wedding, and she also confesses earlier that their sex is amazing. Which does have to do with the fact that he goes down on her, doubling down on Ted Lasso’s two scenes of men performing oral sex on women, and WE. NEED. MORE. OF. THIS. Oral sex, but I also mean its representation in the media. There is so much social media discourse right now on sex scenes in film and TV; and yes, they are vital, and Shrinking proves they don’t even need to be explicit. But they are relevant for the plot and for realistic portrayals of life and love in general. That also includes frank discussions of sex, as we have seen all season, and in this episode it’s Liz and Gaby’s talk of buttplay and the trend of men “slapping titties” (yes, what IS up with that???).
“Because fuck the past, right?”
On a more serious note, Alice struggles with Jimmy trying to get the titular closure: she notices he isn’t wearing his wedding ring anymore and packed away her Mom’s things. So he gets them back out for her, and she reminisces and tells Sean stories, and even ends up wearing her Mom’s favorite shoes to the wedding. All people are different people, and particularly when it comes to grief, they move at different speeds. In one scene, Alice sits at the kitchen table in the dark, reminiscing about her mother – mirroring Jimmy early on in the season. As I noted back then, a lot of their miscommunication stems from the fact that they are too similar in many respects, and I think this beautifully showcases that. She is struggling with the fact that she is starting to forget things about her, “losing little parts of her”, beautifully illustrated on screen by a flashback that cuts out the audio of Tia’s laugh. But despite their similarities, Alice has to move forward at her own pace, and find closure in ways that fit her, and that might not fit Jimmy. After all, he has lost his partner and she has lost a parent – both losses that are incredibly painful, but painful in their own ways. Once again the show makes the point that moving forward does not mean “fuck the past”, as Alice at first angrily suggests, it just means living with it. Making it part of your present, and your future.
We also see all of Jimmy’s patients again in a montage intercut with our main characters dancing to Bowie’s “Modern Love” at the wedding. (Funnily enough, I just rewatched the Leslye Headland rom-com Sleeping With Other People yesterday that also uses the song, go check that out.) It’s a beautiful sequence and everyone’s happy, it would have wrapped up everything neatly – especially as Jimmy tells Alice again that she looks so much like her Mom, but this time lovingly. He realizes it’s a blessing now, not a curse.
But then instead of to black, we cut to Grace, who had a scene thanking Jimmy for his help with her emotionally abusive husband earlier. Having joked about wanting to push him off a cliff in her session, she snaps – and does it for real. Boop, there it is.
Is this how it is?
Is this how it’s always been?
To exist in the face of suffering and death
And somehow still keep singing
(Florence & the Machine – “Free”. The song plays over the end credits of this episode, and I had hoped/guessed correctly it would come!)
A final, personal note: As you know if you followed these reviews/recaps from the beginning, I started writing them because the season ran exactly the 9 weeks I spent in day clinic for depression. They really, really helped me there – I truly had a team as good as Paul, Gaby, and Jimmy (when he’s emotionally stable) together, and I made a bunch of new friends, possibly for life. Writing on the show every week also really helped me maintain some more structure, and it was great fun, but it also made me reflect a lot. So much of it resonated. Grief was – and is – a big topic for me in all this, and Shrinking has so much to say on it, as well as on mental health and self care; on opening up to people and asking for help, and the value of therapy in general. It wonderfully compliments the important work Ted Lasso has already done for mental health advocacy – in a surreal turn of events, the cast and creators of that show actually went to the White House this week for this very purpose! (I also write about this a lot in my recaps of Season 3, where particularly episode 2’s deep-dive into Roy Kent should resonate with anyone who has ever felt like they do not deserve happiness, and struggle to live in the moment because of it.) I want to thank the people who make both of these shows for giving me – for giving all of us – so much: particularly Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein, the common threads between Shrinking and Ted Lasso, as well as Christa Miller, who does music supervision on both. But generally, it’s a true embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent between these two series. They really show us the true magic of television.
Shrinking will hopefully return next year, Season 2 is already being written, and there are apparently even plans for Season 3. When I started this, I thought this was going to be a miniseries, wrapping up my clinic stay neatly, but now that I know it will go on, I am thrilled it does. I can’t wait to see where the writers go next. But as this episode shows, while certain things come to a close, life never simply wraps up everything neatly in a bow. Your mistakes may come back at you in big ways; grief, the crafty little fucker, may sneak up at you again; and you’ll learn to live with your chronic illness, even if you won’t heal from it. And that’s fine, actually. Breathe. Big fat coochie energy.
All my recaps for Season 1 can be found here.