I’ve been a fan of both Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin for as long as I can remember. 9 to 5, the 1980 film they co-starred in, alongside Dolly Parton, remains a personal favorite. So naturally, I had high hopes when Netflix announced that Jane and Lily had agreed to star in a new series together, Grace and Frankie. While the first season could hardly be considered terrible, the series didn’t quite click with me. The whole thing felt a bit directness; just older people sitting around telling jokes as a form of coping. Now, having watched the second season of Grace and Frankie, the show seems to have found its identity. Easygoing and sprinkled with relatively minor conflict, this series offers laughs, while exploring the lives of two older women.
The show centers on two seventy-something women Grace (Fonda) and Frankie who are forced to move in together after their husbands reveal they’ve been having a 20-year affair and now wish to marry. Understandably both women were shocked by the news and spent much of the first season just trying to make sense of it all. Before necessity required it, the straight-laced, put together Grace didn’t get along with the hippie, new age Frankie. In Season Two, as the women move away from the shock of their divorces, they’re able to see how much their exes truly love each other, which helps them realize how unfulfilling their marriages had been for years. While the show mostly keeps things low key, the characters occasionally break out in fits of emotion–anger, sadness, etc.–that feels real and adds a spark to the proceedings.
As the season begins, Sol (Sam Waterston), Frankie’s ex-husband, has every intention of telling Robert (Martin Sheen), Grace ex-husband, about his infidelity at the end of last season. However, Robert suffers a heart attack and those plans are put on the back burner. Concerned about what might happen to him during surgery, Robert suggests to Sol that the two men get married right there in the hospital. Despite some misgivings, Sol agrees to the plan. Eventually though, Sol’s infidelity gets out and the resulting conflict drives their storyline for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, Frankie decides to go into business with Grace’s daughter Briana (June Diane Raphael), which has its share of speed bumps due to their different philosophies toward business. Hey, at least Frankie has found a boyfriend in yam farmer Jacob (Ernie Hudson). Grace, meanwhile, reconnect with a man she had a flirtation with in the past, but things, don’t necessarily go smoothly. In the midst of all this, Frankie’s son Coyote (Ethan Embry) connects with his birth mother and Grace’s pregnant daughter Mallory (Brooklyn Decker), wonders if her husband is having an affair.
By far the best episode of the season for me, “The Party,” features Oscar winner Estelle Parsons (Bonnie and Clyde) as Babe, a longtime friend of Grace and Frankie, diagnosed with cancer who wants to throw one last, big party before her death. Funny, sweet and touching, the episode gives both Fonda and Tomlin a chance to move the show out of the slow and easy rhythm we’ve come to expect, even if it’s just for one episode.
Sure, Grace and Frankie has its flaws, but Season Two proved it’s almost always enjoyable. Besides, the cast is stellar. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin have been good friends for decades and their onscreen chemistry makes that apparent. Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen are excellent actors and watching them work together is a treat.
While the series younger supporting cast is often relegated to the background, June Diane Raphael (Brianna), Brooklyn Decker (Mallory), Ethan Embry (Coyote) and Baron Vaughn (“Bud”) have been up to the task when asked to step forward.
Grace and Frankie: Season Two is available on DVD February 21, 2017 and includes a gag reel as well as a UV Digital Copy.