Some friendships are so intricate and intense and indescribable that they feel almost cosmic. I experienced friendships like these most potently in my childhood. But through its main characters, Grace And Frankie suggests that people in the later years of life experience these same intoxicating, complex friendships that feel magical when we’re kids. Grace and Frankie’s friendship seems impossible; the two women are different in every conceivable way. But friendships aren’t necessarily built on sameness. The strength of Grace and Frankie’s relationship, in fact, depends on their polarity. They give and take from each other as needed. They complete each other, in a way. The third season finale fittingly hinges on a cosmic sign and ends with an otherworldly scene that magnifies the grand, magical nature of this friendship.
Things wrap up rather neatly for Robert and Sol, but there’s a lot of heart to their storyline in “The Sign,” which builds on the ongoing tension between them about their queer identity. Determined to stand up to homophobia, Sol plans a protest at the bakery owned by the terrible leader of the group protesting Robert’s play. Robert’s still uncomfortable with it all, telling Sol there’s no point to pushing back against an ignorant bigot like that. But after years of being in the closet, Sol wants to be more than out; he wants to be out there fighting. He feels he owes it to those who already fought the fight, who fought for the ring on his finger. This season has been the series’ strongest when it comes to Robert and Sol. Their storylines have connected to some of the show’s larger themes. Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen bring a lot of humor to their scenes in this finale, but they also effectively capture the motivations behind their characters’ actions, making this about more than just a bakery protest.
Peter Gallagher returns as the swaggering, flirty businessman Nick. The character wouldn’t work nearly as well if it weren’t for Gallagher’s casting. He nails the charming asshole schtick, and his chemistry with Jane Fonda is palpable. Their back-and-forth negotiation of the terms for their date plays wonderfully. It’s funny, but it also establishes their dynamic. Nick agrees to stop selling Omnitech’s version of their vibrator when she agrees to go on the date, swiftly wrapping up Vybrant’s problems. But the developments between Nick and Grace do a lot more than wrap up one of the season’s conflicts, establishing a fun new relationship on the show.
But the strongest part of the finale is, as always, the dynamic between Grace and Frankie. Frankie tells Jacob she can’t go with him to Santa Fe, worried about her health. Jacob blames Grace, who sent Frankie all sorts of articles about how at-risk she is for another stroke. Grace’s motivations for sending the articles, indeed, appear multifaceted. She genuinely wants what’s best for Frankie, but she’s also selfishly projecting her own fears onto her. She doesn’t want her to go to Santa Fe, and it’s possible that there’s some truth to Jacob’s accusation. But in wanting Frankie to leave Grace behind and move with him, Jacob is being selfish, too. Loving someone deeply is a simultaneously selfless and selfish act. Grace And Frankie doesn’t reduce Frankie’s struggle to choosing between her boyfriend and her best friend. It’s more complicated than that. She loves both of them, and they both love her. But San Diego is her home. Grace is her home.
When Nick reveals to Grace that their date will consist of a hot air balloon ride up to a mountain for a picnic, Grace’s first thought is Frankie. For a moment, she’s taken out of this rom-com scenario with Nick, only able to think about what the hot air balloon means in terms of Frankie. It’s a sign, and Grace isn’t one to believe in signs, but she knows someone who does. There’s only one person she’d get in a balloon for, so she drags Frankie to the field and surprises her. But faced with that balloon, Frankie’s fears come bursting to the surface. She feels like she’s falling apart. If she can’t go to Santa Fe, how can she go up in that balloon? Grace finally admits that she wrongly put her own fears on her. “What are you so afraid of?” Frankie asks. Grace lists the beautifully specific, totally Frankie things she’d miss about Frankie, including waking up and not seeing her hats in the dishwasher. Frankie lists all the specific and totally Grace thing she’d miss about Grace. That they list some of each other’s flaws is crucial. Grace and Frankie went from being two people who hated each other because of their differences to two people who love each other because of, and not despite, their differences. The dialogue right before they get into the balloon somehow captures their past, present, and future all at once.
And then they step into the balloon, and all the fears that have poisoned their relationship over the past few episodes float away. To re-ground their relationship, they had to go up in the air. It’s an almost too perfect way to end the season, but it fit’s the show’s feel-good voice. It’s not an altogether happy ending: Uncertainty still hangs in the air. But Grace and Frankie agree to just exist in the present for this one moment, to not think too much about the future. Floating above their home, the big decisions they eventually have to make pushed aside for the moment, Grace and Frankie’s friendship in this last frame transcends time and space.
- Things are left pretty up in the air for Brianna and Barry, but what I love that the show didn’t try to turn this into some over-the-top, romantic reconciliation between them. Even though Brianna has become more than a walking one-liner this season, the writers are developing her in a way that feel true to the character. Her rather blunt proclamation to Frankie that she’s trying to get Barry to drop his scruples and sleep with her is very Brianna. She’s getting more emotionally weighty storylines, but they’re playing out in a way that doesn’t betray who she is.
- There’s more resolution for Mallory, who tells her dad about separating with Mitch. That’s another lovely scene wedged in an episode full of lovely scenes.
- “What is all that noise, are you making rain sticks again?” I love when we get glimpses into Frankie’s off-screen life.
- Oh what I would give to see what Sol looked like in disguise when he was scoping out the bakery.
- I keep finding more and more things to love about this series. It has come so far from its decidedly mediocre pilot. Thanks for reading another season of coverage, and hopefully we will meet again. There’s no word on an official renewal yet, but my fingers are crossed.