There’s a scene in Apple TV’s new comedy series “Shrinking” where the protagonist addresses his own cartoonish expressions with self-deprecatory humor and practically calls himself a cartoon character. Now, that is the kind of self-awareness you would typically expect from a psychotherapist, but there may be more to it than just Jason Segel’s character acknowledging his juvenility. When it was announced that the team from Apple TV’s previous hit comedy-drama “Ted Lasso” was to get themselves caught up in another show of the same genre, frankly, I wasn’t particularly enthused. In its noble pursuit of being light and wholesome, “Ted Lasso” completely strayed from what is supposed to be the primary goal of any show whatsoever: authenticity of approach. Instead, all it gave us were characters having day-to-day troubles shoved down their throat and manually regurgitating forced positivity. The likes of Jason Segel and the fantastic Harrison Ford being cast in their new comedy did give “Shrinking” some cachet. And after watching the first two episodes, to my own surprise, I’m thrilled to say that the creators have seemingly learned a thing or two about deriving humor from a complex situation authentically. Was Jason Segel’s self-bashing joke a meta moment communicating the creative team’s self-actualization? We will find the answer soon enough.
A Rather Sad Introduction To Jimmy
There’s a belief that bad neighbors can pretty much ruin your life. And considering how important a good night’s sleep is, it comes as no shock that Liz and Derek are reasonably annoyed when their neighbor Jimmy, having a questionable blast, wakes them up in the middle of the night. Liz goes out to put a stop to the loud party that seems to consist of pills and two women that are more than likely to be sex workers. Come on, Jimmy! Waking up the next morning with a hangover and his peeved-off teenage daughter Alice isn’t particularly soothing for Jimmy. To make matters worse, the sprinklers attack him with a vengeance, and his car won’t start. Still high and somewhat drunk from the hoot last night, Jimmy somehow makes himself crawl to work. He opens the door to what looks like an imminent therapy session, and a man waiting for him asks him how he is doing. If you thought having Jimmy as a neighbor was bad, imagine what it would be like if he was your therapist!
A Therapist Gone Rogue
A staggering montage of his patients’ talking overwhelms the unfit therapist right in front of our eyes. Staring helplessly while Grace justifies her fugly husband’s abusive behavior isn’t even the worst that Jimmy has to sit through. There’s Dan, who is ready to burn the world down because his barista wanted to exchange pleasantries; there’s a less-than-basic man who clearly has unrealistic dating standards; and then there is a man who Sigmund Freud would have loved to sit down with. Overstimulated with the frustrating amounts of words his mind has to register, Jimmy lashes out in the most unprofessional way possible. Tossing “by the book” in the bin, the therapist threatens to withhold sessions if Grace doesn’t dump her ne’er-do-well, emotionally abusive husband. When a perplexed Grace rushes out of his office, Jimmy attempts to vent about his overcome state of mind in the company of his co-worker and hydration nerd Gaby and his boss Paul. Jimmy can hardly hold it in when his patients don’t take action when the solution lies obvious right in front of them. Dr. Paul Rhodes diagnoses Jimmy’s ordeal as a case of “compassion fatigue.” It is almost as though Paul expects a screw-up from Jimmy when he warns him against breaking the rules so as not to hinder the patients’ fundamental growth.
Jimmy’s plan of finally watching “Home Alone” and taking a bath gets unfortunately postponed when he has to return a favor to his ever-so-helpful friend Gaby and see a patient she doesn’t have the time for. Enter Sean, a touchy war vet haunted by the scars he brought back from overseas. Exhausted, Jimmy yawns as he goes through the files documenting his new patient’s numerous, severe bar brawls. Offended by Jimmy’s lack of enthusiasm, Sean walks out. Gaby isn’t necessarily fond of Jimmy’s new approach to treating his patients with harsh truths. But she is glad to see that her friend has gotten his spark back.
Withering Away Within
Back home, Jimmy is met with a stabbing vision of a happy life with his deceased wife, Tia. For over a year, Jimmy has been grieving the sudden death of his wife through the worst possible coping mechanisms. Ironically, for a shrink who is supposed to know all the dos and don’ts of grief, Jimmy had even made the mistake of pushing away his daughter when she needed him the most. Left to grieve alone, Alice holds a justifiable grudge against her father. Luckily for Alice, their neighbor Liz soothes her “empty nest syndrome” by taking care of her as her own daughter. By the time Jimmy wakes up and finds that his daughter is slipping through his fingers, Alice is already too distant. He doesn’t take kindly to Liz’s helpfulness, despite knowing that it’s better for Alice to have a reliable parent figure than not having someone to rely on at all. He hides in the bushes and watches like a creep as Alice eats dinner with Liz. Paul is often ambushed for his sage advice by a frantic Jimmy, who invariably does the opposite of what he is asked to. Alone and miserable in his very core, Jimmy tries in vain to reach out to his daughter, who would rather have a Taco Tuesday dinner with Liz than have dinner with her father.
Highs And Lows
Compelled by his parents to come back and see Jimmy, Sean sits grumpily on the couch as reluctant Jimmy tries to find a way to help his new patient with his violent anger issues. Just as he is coming close to calling it a day, Jimmy gets a call from Grace and is elated to find out that she has dumped her husband and has moved to Canada to live with her sister. Brimming with the joy of his unconventional advice helping his patient, Jimmy embraces his “psychological vigilante” persona and opts to take a similar approach with Sean. To help him find a harmless outlet for his anger, Jimmy takes Sean to an MMA fight. Trouble follows Jimmy when Paul gets a complaint from Sean’s parents, who are not comfortable with their son coming home with a broken nose. Ignoring Paul’s concerned advice to get a hold of his destructive actions, Jimmy continues to do what his instincts tell him to do. He gets another reassurance that his method works when he meets Sean and finds out that he managed to restrain himself when he was pushed by a random jerk on the road. Hopped up on the rush of back-to-back victories, Jimmy hikes his way to Alice’s soccer game and takes Sean along. The sunshine and butterflies that surround the happy father and daughter soon face the dark cloud of Grace’s disgruntled husband attacking Jimmy with a rage. The shrink watches it all fall apart as Sean takes charge of protecting him and roughs up the aggressor with countless punches. The next day at work, Jimmy lies to Paul about the real incident behind his black eye. But Paul soon learns of it from one of his secret meetings with Alice. Forced to grow up sooner than she was supposed to, Alice doesn’t particularly find the wild interests of friends her own age all that charming. Well-meaning Paul guides Alice through a slow process of warming up to his father once again. Jimmy, on the other hand, is busy saving Sean from the charges of assault. In order to do so, he reluctantly calls his lawyer best friend, Brian, who he has been ghosting since the fatal accident and the passing of Tia. Brian helps Sean evade the charges but not without imploring Jimmy to meet him for a match of Pickleball. Jimmy’s troubled mind is occupied with the festering insecurities about losing his daughter to their neighbor Liz. Gaby, who isn’t particularly fond of Liz’s “mama bear” personality, riles up Jimmy even further and pushes him to seize back his position in Alice’s life. Paul, being much more stable and coherent in his approach, asks Jimmy to be grateful for the help that Liz provided when Alice didn’t have anyone to turn to.
‘Shrinking’ Episode 2: Ending Explained – Is Alice Likely To Forgive Her Father?
Jimmy evidently has been handling the death of his wife in the unhealthiest ways possible. He has pushed everyone away as he continues to wallow in the darkness of his suffocating grief. To some extent, his reclusive tendencies are understandable. Grief manifests differently for everyone, and he is allowed to take however long he needs in order to pull himself out of the void of pain. But at the same time, Jimmy didn’t come through for his daughter the way he should have. Submerged entirely in the overwhelming ocean of loss, Jimmy lost sight of the fact that he wasn’t drowning alone. Alice has also been dealing with the untimely and traumatizing loss of her mother, and because of Jimmy, she has been dealing with it alone. To make matters worse, Jimmy only shows up for Alice when he is threatened by the closeness his daughter shares with Liz. Moreover, it is unbelievably cruel of Gaby to show up on Liz’s doorstep and ask her to back off. All Liz has ever meant to do is to be there for a lonely kid who has lost a parent. She doesn’t stand in the way of Jimmy taking over when they meet Alice’s school counselor and discuss her academic future. Instead of learning a productive lesson when he receives a disturbing reminder of his cluelessness about Alice’s life, Jimmy goes on to whine about Liz. He doesn’t even take heed of Paul’s advice of taking it slow with his daughter. If anything, Jimmy is causing further deterioration of his relationship with his daughter by smothering her with futile gestures.
Jimmy is ambushed by an angry Brian when he is in the thick of a session with a patient who believes that holding her breath is the only way to stop disasters from befalling her. While Alice is taking a rain check from her dinner plans with Liz to spend some time with her father, Jimmy is getting ready for his Pickleball match with Brian. The astonishingly imperceptive therapist fails to see that his daughter wants to have dinner with him, even when she brings home sandwiches. Disappointed, Alice pays a visit to Paul and eats dinner with the one man who has always been there for her. For a professional psychotherapist, Jimmy isn’t all that proficient in direct confrontations. He chose to completely get out of touch with his best friend Brian after his wife’s death. Granted, miserable Jimmy had a good reason not to want to be around someone who yells out, “everything goes my way,” and self-identifies as “human Zoloft.” The human version of an over-excited golden retriever is hardly suitable company for a grieving man. But it takes Jimmy an entire year to come out and lay the truth bare for someone he considers to be his best friend. Meanwhile, Sean is evicted from his house for spending a night in jail. Knowing that he has nowhere to go, Jimmy opens his house to Sean. Even though he does it from the goodness of his heart, Alice is sure to feel even more uncomfortable having a strange man living in her home. Once again, Jimmy fails to prioritize his daughter over everyone else and risks making the rift between them far worse.