The third season of Grace and Frankie dropped on Netflix about a week ago and it’s taken all my strength not to marathon them in a day. It’s strange that these grey-haired nomads can capture my admittedly short attention span, and yet with no sci-fi, explosions or murder it holds me completely for the duration of the episode.
A formidable script is to blame – zinging witty dialogue to and fro at light speed. I rewatched the pilot for my own amusement and am blown away by the frenetic increase in pace. The third season only pauses twice – during an argument over guns and during a genuine character health crisis.
It constantly tackles big theme issues like gun control, ailing health, dependency, death and more with a wry and knowing smile. Contrasted to this is Frankie’s happy-go-lucky attitude and their joint endeavour to bring vibrators to the senior demographic. The business brings the pair a sense of unity that has been growing since the pilot.
Bliss is never forever though, especially in television drama, and soon obstacles start to spring up. Grace and Frankie began with a playful concept and has set up a unique lens on each complication. It’s most evident in the finale – whereby Frankie must choose between her beau and her roommate, only it is compounded by a thousand and one mitigating factors. The series works through the obvious motions quickly and eventuates itself to a sweet and emotional ending.
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are divine and as the show’s namesake they deserve to steal every scene. Their merit cannot be overstated and more facetime with Grace and Frankie is always a good thing, only last season there was no time left over for the supporting cast. That’s an unusual complaint for a television show but with a cast of this pedigree it holds.
Last season felt like Grace and Frankie in one corner, Saul and Robert in another and Brianne in a third. This season spread the love a little more with Grace and Frankie headlining and everyone else shared space. June Diane Raphael’s Brianne remains the most interesting character by far but it’s clear the show took measures to improve the others. Bud’s new relationship is highly entertaining while his no-hope brother Coyote is less pitiful and more like somebody the audience can get behind.
And the writers finally found something to do with Brooklyn Decker’s Mallory. The character lacked any notable qualities other than her children for twenty-six episodes and has kept to the outskirts of most scenes. The third series gave her actual lines of dialogue – shocking! – and imploded her marriage slowly from premiere to finale. Decker, best known for the ditzy model in Adam Sandler’s Just Go With It, delivers a fantastic performance.
If anybody got too much time it was Frankie’s lover Jacob, played by former Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson. While his motives are usually sincere his actions can come off as unlikable, and whether that’s deliberate or not in contrast to Grace is unclear. Lily Tomlin represents the angst of her decision so wonderfully that it’s almost polluted when Jacob throws his own two cents in.
And on a throwaway note, casting Peter Gallagher as Grace’s future love interest was impeccable. Also Wendie Malick, who is superb in everything she touches. While Gallagher is all but confirmed to return it would be lovely to see Malick as an adversary for Jane Fonda.
Grace and Frankie was never a bad show. In fact it was one of the better Netflix originals on offer with innovative storytelling and fantastic cast. Season three ironed out some kinks, as a mature show does, and is all the better for it. It’s a shame it’s another year til it returns to our screens.