After several episodes of dancing around and trying to find a point of view, “The Fall” is Grace And Frankie’s most focused chapter. So far, Frankie has seemed to be the only one who has accepted her shared connection with Grace, so the writers needed to find a way to make Grace open up and finally come around to Frankie. After all, their relationship is what this show is really about, supposedly. And “The Fall” finally brings the complicated friendship to the surface, giving the show some forward momentum.

Grace begins the episode still worrying that Frankie overheard her mean words at the funeral. During a trip to the frozen yogurt shop, Grace slips and falls, landing her in the hospital in need of hip surgery. There, she fights with Frankie, taking out her fears of loneliness on her, only to eventually realize she’s the only reason she isn’t alone. Grace finally sees that she needs Frankie in her life right now.

Only the fall never really happened. Grace does slip in the frozen yogurt shop, but Frankie catches her. In that moment, Grace’s life flashes before her eyes, so the bulk of the episode is all just in her imagination. So while “The Fall” marks a step forward for the story, it’s rather regressive when it comes to how that story is told, relying on an overdone story device to do most of the heavy-lifting when it comes to Grace’s realization that Frankie is a true friend. The fight about Coyote, the claustrophobia, and the surgery in general are all so melodramatic—even if they are rooted in genuine fears and feelings.

Grace and Frankie’s simple conversation over froyo after the near-fall is more than enough to convince that Grace is finally coming around to Frankie. The characters finally say the things they’ve been keeping to themselves. Grace apologizes for what she said at the funeral, and Frankie points out that they’re in the same position and should value each other, admitting that she would have never gone to the funeral without Grace. “Like it or not, you’re my friend,” Frankie says. And Grace doesn’t have to verbally agree to make it clear that she’s finally beginning to think of Frankie as a friend and not just a nuisance. Jane Fonda’s face does all the talking. Everything about this moment is so much more genuine and organic than the fantasy sequence and accomplishes the same goal. Could the writers have found a way to give Grace such a profound realization without the dramatics? I think so. Again, the device just feels out of place for a show otherwise so rooted in reality. It all reiterates how this show is still stuck in a weird middle ground between serious, cable comedy and zany, over-the-top sitcom.

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The most fun part of the episode all comes before the fake fall, when Brianna arrives at the beach house with a bottle of wine and a mission for Grace: find a boyfriend. She introduces Grace to the world of online dating—with which Brianna seems to have a lot of experience—and leaves her mother to craft her profile to go into the living room and get high with Frankie. Lily Tomlin and June Diane Raphael are an absolute delight with each other, and their high conversations and antics remind me of Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana in just how silly but naturalistic they are. But there’s some serious stuff in here too, with Brianna telling Frankie she has been a better friend to Grace than Lydia throughout this whole situation.

Again, the dynamic between Brianna and Frankie in this early scene has much more life to it than the weirdly mechanic and clunky dream sequence. Fonda and Tomlin both heighten the emotions that unfold in the hospital with layered performances, but the whole thing feels slightly fake—even before it’s revealed to actually be fake.

Stray observations:

  • Grace’s three words to describe herself: intelligent, in shape, and fun. But then she deletes fun and changes it to “cultured,” which Frankie says makes her sound like yogurt, which then—in the most realistic high moment of the episode—immediately makes Frankie and Brianna want frozen yogurt.
  • “I want a man who’s there when I want him and gone when I don’t.” Brianna is a goddamn inspiration.
  • “Brian? I’m Brianna. That’s like the same name but without the ‘na.’”
  • Frankie’s hippie-punk outfits are so great. And Jane’s fancy business lady outfits are also great. I’m really loving how the costumes reflect their personalities so starkly.
  • I wonder what video Brianna was trying to show Frankie.
  • I’m glad Brianna was the only one of the children in this episode. I could take or leave the others.

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