'Shrinking' doesn't really want to do 'the work' this week [Apple TV+ recap]

Shrinking doesn’t really want to do ‘the work’ this week [Apple TV+ recap]


Jason Segel in ★★☆☆☆
You probably don't want a shrink like Jimmy (played by Jason Segel).
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewShrinking is all about reconciliation this week. The Apple TV+ show about the social circle of a manic pixie dream therapist sees Jimmy Laird trying to mend the rift between his hero, Paul, and his family.

Meanwhile, as Brian prepares for his wedding, he meets with nothing but disappointments and potential catastrophes. Gaby is caught between her rock and a hard place. And Alice makes a fateful mistake.

Everything comes out in the end in “Moving Forward,” this week’s whatever installment of the hit show that could have been an email.

Shrinking recap: ‘Moving Forward’

Season 1, episode 9: Paul (played by Harrison Ford) is being honored with an award for his work as a therapist. And, though he’s loathe to let people celebrate him, one of his patients (Neil Flynn) insists he ought to. Paul’s making people’s lives easier, after all, and that’s no small thing.

He’s also finally sleeping with his neurologist, Julie (Wendie Malick), which Gaby (Jessica Williams) discovers when she comes over to give him a ride to work like she does every morning and asks to use the bathroom. This inspires Gaby to make up with her ex-husband, Nico (Adam Foster Ballard), who apologizes for his behavior and finally tells her the things she wanted to hear. That she was great for supporting him, that he shouldn’t have taken her for granted, and that he’s happy for her.

Gassed up by all of this, Gaby rushes over to Jimmy’s (Jason Segel) place and resumes her sexual relationship with him.

Planning for a wedding

Jimmy’s own latest radical, breakthrough idea is to break into the Rose Bowl with one of his patients so they can spread his mother’s ashes, but someone calls security on them so they flee. He and his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) are back on an even keel after Jimmy grounded her for stealing his car and going to an older guy’s dorm room.

Brian (Michael Urie) has forgiven Jimmy for ruining his engagement party and decided to let him officiate his wedding to Charlie (Devin Kawaoka). Everything’s coming up roses once again … which is kinda funny, considering Shrinking is about a guy who’s … ya know … a mess? That was the whole premise? Of the show? Whatever, with only two episodes left in Shrinking’s first season, we’re movin’ on. (And, yes, Apple renewed Shrinking for a second season.)

Jimmy still must prove that he can get through the officiation without breaking down. And that means rehearsing it for Brian and Liz (Christa Miller), who needs to get out of the house more now that her husband Derek (Ted McGinley) has retired and is hanging around and getting in the way of her “me” time.

Jimmy fails the first few test runs, but he promises he’ll figure it out in time. It doesn’t help that it’s his deceased wife Tia’s (Lilan Bowden) birthday and he’s in an especially reflective, mournful mood. Alice forgets that it’s her mom’s birthday and has a huge meltdown about it, blaming herself for being a terrible daughter.

Sean makes a move for the better

Sean (Luke Tennie) has some decent-ish news, too. His dad got him a job at his company. But while it’s nice to have a little disposable income, Sean feels dead inside wearing a suit and making copies every day. So he decides to make good on something he and Liz talked about. He pulls together a business proposal for a catering company, so he can put his talents to use rather than just going through the motions.

Paul’s having his own family troubles. His daughter still hasn’t forgiven him for not moving in with her so he can spend the last few good years of his life with her. He’s stubborn and furious about it, so James pushes him even more. He suggests Paul should invite Julie to the ceremony where he’s being honored.  But Paul does one him better. He packs up the car, grabs Julie, and off they go to see his grandson in a school play instead of going to the ceremony, proving he can show up and be in his family’s life when he wants, and that he does care.

Brian’s family troubles surface in earnest this week, too, when he asks his conservative dad to be his best man at the wedding and he politely rejects the offer. Expect that to become a thing next week.

On Shrinking, everything keeps coming up aces

Lukita Maxwell and Luke Tennie in "Shrinking," now streaming on Apple TV+.
Everyone’s got problems on Shrinking, including Alice (played by Lukita Maxwell, left) and Sean (Luke Tennie).
Photo: Apple TV+

The thing with Alice freaking out because she forgot her mom’s birthday serves as a pretty classic example of Shrinking’s version of conflict. Yes, it’s perfectly reasonable to think that a teenager would be upset about something like that. However, the relentless, unyielding good vibes of this show immediately put the lie to the conceit that this is worth putting in the last two minutes of the episode.

Last week’s episode ended with Jimmy grounding Alice and her storming off. This week’s episode opens weeks later. And that means we don’t have to see the slow thawing of their chill toward each other after her acting out and him punishing her. Because, as “committed” as this show is to the ideas of grief and recovery and depression and therapy, it has zero interest in what its characters keep telling each other to do: the work.

Who needs real drama anyway?

I’m sure Alice will get over this by the end of next week’s Shrinking season finale, and it won’t have mattered that she was so upset about this in the first place. Which again points to the idea that despite making a show about damaged, broken people and their insurmountable trauma, the writers don’t really want to write any of that stuff.

They want well-to-do Californians to sit in Lands’ End catalog spreads on expensive furniture and trade mumbled, harmless quips for a half-hour. And they also want all of life’s problems to melt away so they can hear hot people tell their jokes and laugh at them like they were funny.

Side note: I know Jason Segel’s thing is that he’s supposed to be this kind of big, awkward guy who has lots of sex. However, he wrote his character two unspeakably beautiful love interests on this show. And one of them keeps complimenting his sexual prowess and his penis. Maybe some actual therapy instead of a show about therapy was in order.


Watch Shrinking on Apple TV+

New episodes of Shrinking arrive every Friday 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 director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.


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