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Grace And Frankie: “The Earthquake”

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Grace and Frankie both experience earth-shattering events in “The Earthquake.” As the title suggests, there’s a literal earthquake that kicks Frankie’s extreme seismophobia into gear. Sol rushes to her, knowing just the right things to do to calm her down. It’s another touching moment for the two, and Sam Waterston and Lily Tomlin have such great chemistry that they elevate their scenes together, effectively capturing the nuances of their characters’ close but complicated dynamic.


Take, for example, Frankie’s line “I’m sorry I asked. Kind of,” after Sol tells her—at her request—the story of how he and Robert first kissed. There’s nothing all that noticeable about Tomlin’s delivery of the first part, but the “kind of” sneaks up on you. She lets it slip out so spontaneously that it could have very easily been adlibbed. She throws in a soft laugh after that makes it feel all the more impromptu. Her reading reflects the complexity of the character’s feelings in this moment. Hearing Sol talk about Robert in that way shook her up like another aftershock, but she also needed to hear it. Sol and Frankie are best friends and worst enemies all at once, and Waterston and Tomlin bring a smoothness to that jagged line.

Grace, meanwhile, is unfazed by the earthquake, but she has her own world rocked by a passionate, spontaneous kiss from a near-stranger. After going on a bad date with Loves2Laugh a.k.a Charles—who she meets on a dating app—she comes home to find one of Frankie’s art students eating a sandwich. When the aftershock hits, he pulls her in for a kiss, and Grace indulges for a moment before stopping and letting him walk away. It’s the first time we’ve seen Grace really go for what she wants instead of holding back, and the writers finally seem to be granting the character more space to move around in. Both protagonists fit into very neatly drawn character types. Grace is the uptight one, and Frankie is the wild child. Type A vs. Type B, etc. That informs their naturally tension-ridden dynamic, which can be a lot of fun, but it’s more compelling to see them occasionally deviate from expectations and grow into characters who don’t fit neatly into boxes, and we’re finally just starting to maybe get to that place the closer Frankie and Grace’s friendship becomes. In other words, more of this playful, post-kiss afterglow Grace, please:

There’s an aimless little sideplot involving Coyote seeking a new bike seat from Mallory, and none of their scenes tie in thematically or really create any kind of movement for the involved characters. Mallory and Coyote have surpassed the broken record stage and are now pre-programmed robots who only have one setting. Coyote tries to apologize for what he did, and Mallory tells him he can’t be around her…while continuing to talk to him. The truth of the matter is that Coyote really shouldn’t be anywhere near Mallory after what he did. And as a viewer, it’s hard for me to root for either party when Coyote refuses to move on and Mallory can’t seem to stick to her convictions. She gives Mitch some feeble excuse about how she can’t just tell her future brother-in-law that he can’t come around her, and Mitch points out, correctly, that plenty of people ban their in-laws. In all of this, Mitch is really the only person making any sense.

This is small, but the show has depicted fears in a very real way. Both Grace’s claustrophobia from last episode and Frankie’s seismophobia here manifested realistically, and neither were really played for laughs. Yes, there’s something a little funny about Frankie cowering under tables and obsessing over facts and numbers, but fears—especially highly specific phobias—are, weirdly, funny in the same way other serious things like breakups can be inherently funny. We aren’t laughing at Frankie in a mocking way but rather because we can see ourselves and our own “irrational” fears in her reactions. Or, at least, that was my experience. Maybe I’m over-empathizing because I too suffer from claustrophobia—although not quite as acutely as Grace—and lilapsophobia, a fear of hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning, etc., which isn’t too far off from seismophobia. My point is: We all have specific fears. And Tomlin and Fonda portrayed their characters’ fears with more convincing realism than, say, Schmidt’s fear of spiders in New Girl.

And Grace And Frankie, of course, deals with the more universal fears of aging and loneliness in a way that feels equally sincere. Grace and Frankie have been thrust into the same situation, but they are coping in very different ways, which fits who they are innately. Sol was there this time, but Frankie has to learn to get through the next earthquake without him. Grace doesn’t want to be alone either, but she gets too caught up in what other people think to let herself be happy.


But I’m even more interested in how Grace And Frankie recognizes fears that are relatable regardless of age. It’s simultaneously reassuring and terrifying to see Grace dealing with the same kind of anxieties when it comes to online dating that people my own age feel. Frankie asks Grace what’s the point of being on a dating app if she’s never going to actually go out with anyone; Grace replies that she likes the attention. It’s a conversation I could have just as easily had with any of my friends—and, in fact, have had—and it feels natural here, playing into real fears that don’t go away with age.

Stray observations:

  • “You’ve got a great mouth, kid.” Oh, Charles. No, booboo. Just no.
  • The conflict between Sol and Robert, again, takes place on the backburner, but I like the small detail of the text message confusion, because that shit’s real. Relationships are made so much messier by iPhones.
  • Grace’s post-kiss look is fab, but I also have to include a full-length shot of her date outfit because damn:

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