The verdict is in at last on The Shrink Next Door [Apple TV+ recap] | Cult of Mac

The verdict is in at last on The Shrink Next Door [Apple TV+ recap]

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The Shrink Next Door recap: Dr. Ike finally gets what he's got coming.
Dr. Ike (played by Paul Rudd) never really gets what he deserves.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s The Shrink Next Door, starring Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd, mercifully comes to a close this week after eight very long episodes. Marty goes looking for the missing pieces of his life after 30 years under Ike’s care, and finds a lot of dead ends.

Can he repair his life after so long messing everything up? It’s an open question whether he, or anyone around him, will be willing to forgive him. This series finally parts ways with its central pair and lets them both off with a warning, in the grand scheme of things.

The Shrink Next Door recap: ‘The Verdict’

Marty Markowitz (played by Will Ferrell) is looking back on his time spent under the spell of Dr. Isaac Herschkopf (Paul Rudd). He misses him already. He tries to replace his shrink with Bruce (Cornell Womack) at his office, but it’s not the same.

Bruce finally gets him to consider reaching out to his sister, Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn), with whom Marty hasn’t spoken in 27 years since Ike suggested he cut her out of his life. She’s not interested, so Marty spends another night just listening to the last voicemails Ike left him.

He also meets up with his niece, Nancy (now old enough to be played by Sas Goldberg), and tries to reconnect. But she refuses his overtures when she realizes he isn’t going to apologize. He goes looking for Hannah (Christina Vidal Mitchell) and discovers at last that Ike broke up with her on his behalf. Everything Marty once had is gone — and it’s all Ike’s fault.

Once more, for old time’s sake

Marty decides one last session is in order. He goes to Ike’s office and they start talking. Ike effusively insists he’s changed, then hits Marty with an offer he can’t refuse: Be Ike’s best man at his and Bonnie’s (Casey Wilson) vow-renewal ceremony. What he doesn’t tell Marty is he hasn’t asked Bonnie if she wants to renew their vows. And Bonnie isn’t really that interested.

Phyllis hears about Marty trying to get in touch with Nancy and drives to the Hamptons house to tell him to leave them alone. She sees that the beloved family tree is gone and suddenly she understands how far gone Marty was under Ike’s influence. They finally reconcile. There’s a funny moment when they’re burning all of Ike’s stuff to bond, and Phyllis accidentally throws the signed Mickey Mantle ball in the fire. It’s going OK until Ike shows up.

Marty finally tells Ike to leave — and that he ruined his life. In fact, he says everything he’s been keeping inside him the whole time. Ike finally goes, defeated at last. Years pass, and Marty finds himself in better shape. However, he still can’t leave the door open for fear Ike might walk back in. Marty tries to get Ike’s license revoked for everything he did to him. Ike still doesn’t get why Marty hates him.

Doctors learn lessons, too

This was a fine episode of The Shrink Next Door in the grand scheme of the show, but again it lets Ike off too lightly. His existential disease, his inability to see the wrong and the harm in his actions, should be a more profound thing to stare at. However, in Rudd’s hands, it’s sort of damp once again.

With precedents like Pinter’s The Servant in the show’s DNA,  it just isn’t very fun or gratifying to come to the end and see Ike get off with so light a sentence. He stole 27 years of Marty’s life, made his wife miserable, and drove untold dozens of patients ruin their own lives. And yet, in the end, the writers don’t even give us the satisfaction of having Ike realize it. I grant that the point is Ike doesn’t know what he’s doing, but well, they’ve built in too much plausible deniability to fall back on that in the conclusion.

Ike, whatever his miserable failings as a friend and a therapist, knew what he was doing. Think back to the scene where he finally convinces Marty to chop down the family tree. The more Ike searches for justifications to get Marty to want to chop it down, the more angry and desperate he gets —  and the more clear it becomes that he knows that this isn’t about what Marty wants, it’s about what he wants.

A disappointing ending to a disappointing show

So to end The Shrink Next Door by redoubling that he can’t help himself makes a certain kind of sense (and it may indeed be what happened in real life). But it’s just not the way this character should be left. The show may finally give Marty some parcel of dignity back, but what good is it now? Better late than never but we just watched Ike run roughshod over this very nice man for eight episodes.

I wanted much, much more, from the conclusion for sure, but also from the show as well. Why does none of this hurt the way it’s supposed to? The worst of it was watching Ike scream and pout when he wasn’t getting his way. I would have liked The Shrink Next Door to acknowledge what a chore that was.

Watch The Shrink Next Door on Apple TV+

You can watch all of The Shrink Next Door on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On The Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.