After the touching display of friendship in “The Burglary,” Grace and Frankie’s relationship is suddenly, violently fractured by Grace’s little firearm stunt that punctuated last episode. By the end of “The Gun,” Frankie declares she’s done with Grace entirely, and it looks like the two women are back where they began.

Only, it’s different now. The pilot of Grace And Frankie hinged on their hatred for one another. Grace has a meta moment in “The Gun” where she tells Sol that she and Frankie are just up to their odd couple shenanigans. That odd couple premise is still important to the show’s voice and narrative, but it has evolved into something much more complex. In the beginning, Grace and Frankie hated each other because of their fundamental differences. The root of their tension in “The Gun” is more personal, more emotionally significant. They’re fighting about very real things that mean a lot to both of them.

Grace can’t really see what the big deal is when Frankie freaks out about the gun. She thought she was being sensitive to Frankie’s feelings by lying to her. In fact, both women attempt to justify lying to each other. In the episode’s emotional climax, Frankie’s lie about where the startup money for their business came from surfaces. She thought she was doing the right thing by telling Grace the money came from Jacob and not Brianna, but for Grace, it’s a huge betrayal of trust in the same way as her lie about the gun is for Frankie. Grace tries to force Frankie to move on, but she doesn’t. If we’ve learned anything about Frankie over the past few seasons, it’s that she’s wildly passionate about what she believes in. Grace And Frankie is a feel-good show, but it doesn’t shy away from conflict either. Grace wants to most past the fight quickly, but Frankie doesn’t let go so easily. She sticks to her convictions, which is true to the character. By the end of the episode, their problems aren’t fixed. They’re worse. When fighting with her about the loan, Grace makes some off-hand comment about Bud, and it cracks something open in Frankie. She’s tired of Grace making fun of her kids, and she’s tired of Grace trying to control her. Even though the turnaround from where they were last episode to now seems quick, it’s wholly believable and well established. Some of these tensions go way back in their relationship. The gun just propels everything to a breaking point.

“The Gun” has some of the show’s most emotionally intense moments, reminiscing of when season two got pretty serious about Grace’s drinking problem. In addition to Grace and Frankie’s ongoing fight, things get pretty dark when Robert decides to come out to his mother, who Sol describes as “Irish Voldemort.” (Her nickname for him is s”the tall, loud Jew at the law firm” so she deserves Sol’s shade.) Robert visits his mother at her retirement community, telling her that he has remarried…a man. He first tells her about Sol, and when she doesn’t quite get it, saying that this is somehow Grace’s fault, he puts a finer point on it: “I’m gay.” While some of the mother’s lines are a little stilted, Martin Sheen gives such a brilliant performance in the scene that it stands out as his personal best for the series. His mother accuses Robert of being selfish for telling her, which is the exact kind of response that often keeps people in the closet. She accuses him of selfishness as if coming out is easy, as if it’s merely a statement. Coming out is much more complicated than that, and Grace And Frankie captures some of the complications that come with it. Robert feels compelled to come out to his mother. He feels shame about being in the closet for so long, and he always loves Sol so deeply that he wants to share that love with the world. His love for Sol comes through beautifully in the scene, but so does his sense of self. The reasons Robert has for coming out certainly aren’t selfish. They’re not easily summed up either, and Grace And Frankie allows those complex feelings to come to the surface. And for Robert and Sol, things end on a sweet note. No, Robert’s mom will probably never accept them for who they are. But Robert and Sol still have each other in the end. Sol embraces him knowingly, and there’s a genuine sense of relief in Robert’s energy.

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For Grace and Frankie, things end on more of a sour note. As Sol puts it: “Ho, boy.” But even throughout all the fighting in the main storyline of “The Gun,” the episode still embodies the show’s strong sense of humor. When Grace again tries to defend herself for having a gun, Frankie initiates her version of a filibuster, which consists of her prancing around while singing “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain.” The blocking heightens the tension and the comedy. Sol comes over after Grace tells him that Frankie hasn’t checked in for hours (Sol explains that she once checked in with him from the back of a minivan…that he was driving). Even just his presence is funny: He tries to be a peacemaker between the two women, but he mostly just gets in the way. His discomfort with people being mad at him comes out, too, when Frankie yells “fuck all y’all!” and he tries to act like he isn’t part of the y’all. When he asks Grace if she called the boys, she says yes and that they called all the Del Tacos. In the heat of this argument, the writers never lose sense of who Grace and Frankie are.

“The Gun” is messy in all the right ways. Even Mallory and Brianna’s little, seemingly fluffy subplot digs into the characters’ current emotional states in a poignant way. Feeling exhausted and bored with her life, Mallory begs Brianna for a fun night out. It plays into some tired tropes about bored housewives, but Grace And Frankie often plays with cliches to great success. Mallory’s eventual revelation that she feels trapped is a strong moment, and the dialogue in that scene is especially sharp, giving specificity and dimension to Mallory’s crisis. The sisters fall into a “grass is always greener” circular debate, Mallory insisting that Brianna has the freedom to do what she wants, and Brianna pointing out that she doesn’t even know what she wants. It’s a telling and grounded exchange. The escort twist, however, is the only lazy development in the episode, coming off as contrived when the rest of “The Gun” resonates with emotional honesty.

Stray observations

  • It’s kind of weird that there isn’t a stronger emphasis on the fact that Grace could have very easily killed Frankie when she shot at a dummy that looked exactly like Frankie. Everyone kind of treats Frankie like she’s being hysterical when she says she could have been shot, but it seems like a completely valid concern to me.
  • Mallory chases her vodka martini with vodka, which Brianna calls the Grace Hanson.
  • Jacob is really funny in this episode.
  • In the very first scene, Frankie walks away in rage, and Grace remains on-screen, exasperated. It’s a very quick moment, but Jane Fonda’s performance in that instant is wonderful. Fonda and Lily Tomlin are so much more than just funny ladies; they land all the more emotional moments, too.

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