Apple TV+ comedy Shrinking does the walk of shame this week. Troubled therapist Jimmy made a mess of things last week at Brian and Charlie’s engagement party, so he thinks he must make amends.
However, everyone’s got their own worries. Paul is hosting his daughter, who’s got her own ideas about his disease. And Alice and Sean are navigating a bad moment that happened in a moment of weakness.
It’s business as usual on the show where most problems are not problems at all.
Shrinking recap: ‘Apology Tour’
Season 1, episode 7: In the episode, entitled “Apology Tour,” Jimmy’s daughter Alice (played by Lukita Maxwell) is beating herself up for trying to kiss Sean (Luke Tennie) at the surprise engagement party. She sees Sean taking the trash out to the street. He sees her looking at him, then she crawls back to bed, mortified.
She’s not the only one. Paul (Harrison Ford) got too high and passed out on Jimmy’s couch in a pile of Doritos. And, of course, Jimmy (Jason Segel) and Gabrielle (Jessica Williams) had sex. They freak out about it and swear they’ll be normal, but we all know that never works. Alice tries to get ahead of the Sean situation and swears not to be weird, too. So they’ll all be reckoning with the party’s aftermath by the end of this week’s episode.
Meanwhile, Jimmy’s neighbor Liz (Christa Miller) is worried her husband Derek (Ted McGinley) is going to become a homebody after he retires in a week, and that as a result, he’ll intrude on the personal space she’s gotten used to over the years. He lovingly suggests she find an excuse to get out of the house more often.
When she runs into Sean, they have a heart-to-heart and he realizes Alice isn’t mad at him, she’s mad at herself for instigating the possibility that someone else will abandon her. Alice and Gaby also have a heart-to-heart, and she starts forgiving herself. (Incidentally, Alice’s character was written completely differently at the start of the season on Shrinking. Now she babbles just like everyone else.)
Gaby and Jimmy feel a little awkward after their erotic encounter, but she speaks to James’ dead wife Tia (Lilan Bowden) in a kind of spiritual way, as in, talks to her ghost, and reports to Jimmy that that everything’s cool. She suggests he do the same thing but he says he’s not ready. But a few minutes later, he kind of tries anyway.
Wally (Kimberly Condict) comes in for her appointment and rescues Jimmy from the moment. He talks through his encounter with Gaby, and she tells him he was being selfish. (Add this to my pet peeve list re: this show. No sessions are ever written in a way that you believe these people have been talking for an hour. This one’s especially bad. It’s like she sits down and it’s time to go.)
Then Paul and his daughter Meg (Lily Rabe) invite Brian (Michael Urie) over to sign Paul’s DNR and will. When Meg offers to have Paul move in with her and her husband, he turns her down and she gets furious. He doesn’t want to start thinking of himself as an invalid, but she just takes it as further rejection. They get into a horrible fight, which inflames his Parkinson’s symptoms. (Very good work from Ford in this scene. The guy makes this show worth watching.)
No, that’s not the easy part
There’s a very telling bit in this episode where Jimmy finally has a talk with his dead wife’s picture about having sex with Gaby. He apologizes and then says, “I kinda feel like you owe me an apology, too, for dying. Kinda feel like you got to do the easy part.”
This is the most pathetic pathologizing of this particular phenomenon I’ve yet encountered. So yes, when you lose people, you throw all kinds of things at their memories because you now have to have one-sided conversations with them for the rest of your life.
What I find a little gross is that this show gave Jimmy the tragic flaw of a dead wife, and whenever he isn’t playing cutesy self-pity games, he’s making jokes about it. It just doesn’t feel remotely honest to the experience of grief. Instead, it reads like notes from the TV writers’ field guide. Plus, Segel plays the character with a constant hangdog, “Gosh what can I do, ya know?” look. I don’t believe this guy lost his wife. And if I don’t believe Shrinking’s premise, what use is the rest of the show?
Actually, death and dying isn’t funny
If I’m being cruel, it’s because I have lost people very close to me, sat in disgusting hospital rooms while they sat, braindead, unaware that their family was about to pull the plug on them to spare them life in a coma. I’ve gotten phone calls from people who can barely choke out the words more than once, and if you’re reading this you probably have, too. It’s universal and unavoidable.
I’m just more than a little peeved at the writers Ted Lasso-ing the grieving process for cheap, deathless jokes on a sitcom with funny pronunciations of the word “Dick” every few minutes and “Ho Oh Ho” indie folk screaming in the background. I get that everything shouldn’t, can’t be, doesn’t need to be, perhaps must not be all serious, all the time. But don’t pull a dead relative out of a hat to undergird the most pat look at a guy who doesn’t actually have problems, just to give him a problem.
Naturally, just as Jimmy tells his dead wife’s picture that he slept with Gaby, in walks Alice to overhear it. Oh no! Problems! AGAIN?!?! Gosh, can this guy do anything right? It is not fun for me, this show. I want it to end.
Watch Shrinking on Apple TV+
New episodes of Shrinking arrive every Friday on Apple TV+.
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 director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.