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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Grace And Frankie gets real about friendship breakups

Grace And Frankie
Grace And Frankie
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Friendship breakups are real. They can be as devastating, drawn-out, and meaningful as breakups between couples, which are more often seen on television. But shows that hinge on love interests and love triangles make the mistaken assumption that sexual relationships are more compelling to viewers than friendship. Friendships can be romantic. Friendships can evolve and challenge people in the same way relationships can. Grace And Frankie understands that. “The Pot” splits up Grace and Frankie in a way that acknowledges the reality of friendship breakups.

In fact, the beats of their breakup look exactly like a breakup between significant others. Grace is in denial, smashing the hell out of raw chicken and refusing to tell Brianna and Mallory what’s wrong. Frankie seeks support from her sons and swears she wants nothing to do with Grace. “She is a dangerous, menacing lunatic,” Frankie declares, only to quickly then ask if she has called. They both insist they don’t need each other, but they’re both clearly thinking about one another, clearly unable to fill the void that each other’s absence leaves in their lives. They both seek out their children, but their children can’t provide that kind of support for them (and don’t really want to, either).


Though it brings up other issues between them, the gun is really the catalyst for the breakup. And their eventual reconciliation hinges on Grace’s explanation for why she had the gun in the first place. Robert bought her the gun when they were married because he was never around. For a while, it was all she felt she had to protect herself. But now she has Frankie. As they open up to each other, Frankie realizes the gun represents something more than a gun. On Grace And Frankie, even the smallest plot and character details eventually prove to have some sort of deeper meaning. Nothing is random. The writers didn’t just put a gun in Grace’s hands as a plot development. With Grace’s monologue at the end, which builds on her confession earlier in the episode that she constantly felt lonely when she was married to Robert, the writers ascribe deeper meaning to the gun and to this fight between best friends. The show is so carefully plotted, but instead of that making it feel mechanical, it makes it feel like real life. Even Grace smoking a joint with her daughters means much more than just a chance to get the most uptight character on the show high as a kite (although it does lead to some really funny moments, like Grace explaining that Coyote looks like a Shelley). Grace promised Frankie that if she ever smoked, it would be with her. It’s yet another betrayal.

Grace finally gets her chance to share her side with Frankie, and by explaining why she had the gun, she ironically realizes she no longer needs it. She no longer feels alone now, because she has Frankie. “The Pot” doesn’t just depict an honest breakup; it depicts an honest make-up, too. Jane Fonda’s performance in this last scene is awards-worthy. “I live in a way nicer house with a way nicer person,” she says, fighting back tears. “Who usually likes to be with me. All the time. Sometimes too much. But I like that. Sometimes too much.” It’s simple writing, but it’s fucking good, saying a lot with just a few words.

There’s something subtly radical about Grace and Frankie’s friendship. The friendship may have been sparked by their husbands leaving them, but at this point, the relationship between them has nothing to do with men at all. They’re independent women, but they’re independent together. Brianna makes the meta observation that no one really understands why Grace and Frankie love each other. But her family doesn’t need to understand why; they just know it to be true. They have some selfish reasons for wanting their mothers to mend fences, but there’s also a sense that they want what’s best for them. And repairing their friendship really is what’s best for them. The show justifies Grace and Frankie’s deep friendship masterfully, showing instead of telling, and making viewers believe in it because Grace and Frankie so clearly believe in it. Though it might not seem like it on the surface, Grace And Frankie is a love story—a love story between friends.

People fight very believably on this show. The argument that breaks out between Coyote and Bud is sudden yet convincing, the result of tension that has been building over the course of the series between the brothers. Grace’s fight with Brianna at the beginning of the episode, before the girls realize there’s more to their mother’s anger, is great, too. The subtext of Grace insisting that it’s not the time for Mallory and Brianna to be the ones taking care of her plays into the character’s well established fear of dying. Her kids taking care of her instead of the other way around suggests a new phase of life.


Robert and Sol are seemingly the only ones not fighting in “The Pot.” In fact, they attempt to have a night of romance, which leads to some really cute chemistry between Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen. But Robert is fighting with himself. Coming out to his mother and coming face-to-face with her homophobia has spooked him in a real way, making it hard for him to be physical with Sol. This development captures how deeply rooted the effects of homophobia can be on gay people. Robert is out and happy and married to the man he loves, but the effects of internalized homophobia can be lasting and strong.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much time in this episode to really delve into the issue. “The Pot” focuses more on its titular characters, but the attention given to the breakup is necessary to make the story work. “The Pot” begins with Grace and Frankie fully broken up and ends with them walking into their home with their arms around one another, locking their children out on the porch. And while the central storyline of the episode is hardly smooth, full of tension and bursts of unbridled emotion, the episode cogently goes from breakup to make-up with perfect pacing. Every single new development in their fight, and in their eventual reconciliation, strikes as true. Friendship matters on Grace And Frankie, which challenges the central friendship in “The Pot” but never diminishes its complexity and beauty.


Stray observations

  • Frankie has apparently had other exploding dummy incidents in the past.
  • Bud is so bad at getting laid.
  • Who else was crying during the make-up scene? Fonda’s so great in her delivery of that tight monologue, but Lily Tomlin’s reaction faces make it hit even harder. They are just so good at everything.
  • Who else agrees that Coyote looks like a Shelley?
  • I don’t think I find Bud’s girlfriend as funny as the writers want me to, but the cat bit was pretty good.
  • Like Frankie, I also stress-eat pickles.

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