GRACE AND FRANKIE Review: Season Four

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This season of Grace and Frankie was super enjoyable, as all seasons of Grace and Frankie have been and will be if there’s more, because watching Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin watch paint dry would probably be entertaining. So give them a few worthwhile gags and some even slightly engaging drama, and it’s obviously going to be worth a watch. That said, there was some weeeeeeeeird stuff going on this season that really ate in to the fact that the characters on this show — even beyond Grace and Frankie, obviously — are some of the most entertaining people on television. There were points at which I actually rewatched parts because I wasn’t sure I was actually understanding what was happening… but it was actually just kind of bad and inexplicable. More on that later.

We open this season with Frankie seemingly happily settled in Santa Fe, with Grace having moved on and acquired a new lodger to take Frankie’s place. Sheree (the always hilarious Lisa Kudrow) is always in pink and always over the top, and is sort of like the antithesis of Frankie — but also similar to Frankie in that she brings Grace out of her shell, and is the off-the-wall, belly dancing complement to Grace’s stiff popped collars. Frankie comes to visit and obviously hates Sheree off the bat. It’s revealed that part of her ire over Sheree’s presence comes from her own unhappiness. Despite being in love with Jacob, she hates Santa Fe, and wants to move home.

In order to make sure Sheree doesn’t end up homeless, Grace and Frankie help her reclaim her dead husband’s house from his greedy children. After that, Frankie moves back in with Grace and she and Jacob agree to do long distance, and Sheree disappears — sort of unfortunate, since every show could do with a little more Lisa Kudrow in it. And thus begins the show as we know it — Grace and Frankie bantering and arguing juxtaposed against Sol and Robert bantering and arguing. The kids are all right, but they’re also nightmares, and Brianna once again emerges as an easy favorite. She’s mean and funny and emotionally handicapped, and I’m sorry if you relate to her as much as I do.

Grace and Frankie continue to run Vybrant, but run into a hiccup when — following Frankie’s inevitable break up with Jacob — they go to visit Harriet, their most reliable customer, to cheer Frankie up. Upon arriving, they find out that Harriet actually died of a heart attack while using their vibrator, which obviously sends Frankie into a moralistic tailspin. Grace brings a blogger to their house to get ahead of the news, and to try to assure people that Vybrant is safe, but Frankie hijacks it and goes on a spiel about how they’re murderers. A seventy-eight year old woman going on and on about how sorry she is that her device killed somebody when it absolutely didn’t obviously stirs the sympathy of the internet, and soon a “I am Harriet” movement starts, bringing both benediction and extra business to Vybrant. 

Bud and Allison have their baby — who, in one of my favorite little moments, Frankie refers to as ‘Faith’ on her way out the door before Bud and Allison have named her, and they decide it fits — and decide to get married. Coyote and Allison, foes from day one, agree to dislike each other in peace going forward. Coyote and Nadia are still together and resist sleeping together in deference to her recovery almost until the very end. All in all, Coyote remains super endearing and they seem to have a healthy, positive relationship. That said, most of the time when we see Coyote it’s because Mallory is driving him around or picking him up for something inexplicably, and since he was previously in love with her, it seems like if we get more of Grace and Frankie that might be a romance we revisit.

As for the Hansons, Mallory is officially separated (or actually divorced? I’m not entirely sure) from her husband, and spends a lot of time understandably stressing over the fact that her ex bought a Porsche and is a doctor and so probably is getting laid a whole bunch. But sad, stressed out, slightly angry Mallory is a total delight to watch, to be honest. Brianna and Barry are back together and doing well — I really enjoy their dynamic. Brianna tends to do really crazy, seemingly mean things, but Barry knows her well enough to — after he cools down — sit down with her and be like, “alright, so what’s actually going on here?” And then Brianna explains what happened, which usually comes from emotional ineptitude and a fear of failure, and they sort it out. I don’t know, I just really like them. And Brianna. Brianna is a nightmare and also a wholesale delight.

Sol and Robert are struggling with their relationship through most of the season. Robert’s interest in theater and Sol’s interest in activism starts to drive a wedge between them, and in that gap they start to see more issues in their relationship. They decide to see a therapist, who brings up the idea of an open relationship to them. At first they’re incredibly resistant, but then they both get super hot and bothered over flirting with Sol’s hot young friend, and the season ends on the friend walking naked into their kitchen so… they’re probably going to end up with an at least slightly open relationship, because it seems unlikely that ends in any way that isn’t a threesome.

Grace is dating Nick, the smarmy businessman from last season, much to Frankie’s chagrin. I don’t know if I’m just incredibly bad at judging ages (I am) or if everybody had this experience, but turns out the main point of this relationship is that Nick is significantly younger than Grace, and she’s self-conscious about it. Jane Fonda obviously looks bonkers good in general, let alone for being eighty years old, so that’s part of it but like — I just spent the whole time being like… is he really younger? Everybody else on the show seems to be able to tell, though, so that’s, y’know. Really all I have to say about that.

Frankie’s arc this season is dealing with the fact that, after lying to a post office employee to get her mail without a key, she finds out she’s legally deceased. This forces her to confront her mortality, and so forth, but the biggest impact is that she gets back in touch with her older sister, whom she cut out of her life after her sister tried to tell her Sol was gay before their wedding. Although her sister is resistant at first, they eventually makeup and have a drink, and the implication seems to be that the sister is going to become part of her life again — but then we never see or hear about her after that, so who knows.

But the main plot point this season that I one hundred percent didn’t understand and totally hated and object to on many fronts is Grace and Frankie being sent to a retirement community. (This is also where the Nick plot line wraps up for now — he goes to see Grace in the home, making their age gap too obvious, and Grace pushes him away what seems like once and for all. Nick, to his credit, never seems to mind their age difference.) Grace had knee replacement surgery and is struggling to get up the stairs. Frankie takes Faith for a drive and ends up in Mexico after following an ice cream truck. These things, paired with various other gaffes on their part, convince their children to convince them to sell the beach house and go to a retirement community. The Hanson kids go to Frankie and tell her they need her to go because Grace needs to be in a home and won’t go without Frankie. The Bergstein kids tell Grace that Frankie needs to be in a home and won’t go without Grace. The ploy works, and they end up in a retirement community where they super don’t belong.

Meanwhile, Sol and Robert are at the same stage of life. They have this massive house that they apparently maintain. There’s never any discussion of putting the men in a retirement community. I get the concerns toward Grace and Frankie being on their own, but it just felt so wildly sexist that this was a plot for Grace and Frankie and never even a fear or consideration for Sol and Robert. It was weird and infantilizing, and while certainly the general idea of this part of getting older and potentially needing care where you didn’t before is a complicated, seldom discussed topic worth engaging with on this show… This was a weird, weird way to do it. It comes on quickly and suddenly and it seems like the kids go from “maybe we should pay a little more attention to what Grace and Frankie are doing since their ability to function seems somewhat hindered”  to “Grace and Frankie are incapable of taking care of themselves” immediately.

There are other things that contribute to this. Grace gets scammed by a contractor and all the copper pipes are stolen from their house. Grace also almost gets arrested for being drunk in a hardware store and driving a mobility scooter into a cop car (a HIGHLIGHT in the whole history of television, to be honest). Frankie is generally a spacey weirdo, so like, I get where this all comes from. But it just seems like their kids pole vaulted over several hundred steps before “retirement home.” Not that that also isn’t a conversation worth having on Grace and Frankie — the kids prematurely ‘retiring’ their parents so they don’t have to put the work into helping them, because that’s something that happens, and it’s sad, and it’s a problem, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Brianna, Mallory, Coyote, and Bud are constantly engaged in their parents’ lives, and there generally doesn’t seem to be a problem there. I don’t know. I really like the idea of broaching this topic on the show, but the way it was done was sloppy and egregiously sexist, and I felt like I was missing something. Some piece of the plot that made it less bizarre and abrupt. Some conversation between characters that revealed this as a commentary rather than a really bad choice on the part of the writers. But I didn’t see any of that, and it really marred this season for me.

At the end of the season, Frankie and Grace escape the retirement community, and make it back to the beach house, only to see a “sold” sign in the yard. It’ll be interesting to see where Grace and Frankie goes from here, if it goes from here. In short: this season was enjoyable because everybody in it is delightful, but the overarching plot was questionable at best and fairly offensive at worst, so in the canon of Grace and Frankie, this season probably goes at the bottom of the pile.

TB-TV-Grade-B

Season 4, Episodes 1-13 (S03E01-13)
Grace and Frankie is now streaming on Netflix

Read all of our reviews of Grace and Frankie here. 
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29 Comments

  1. This season wasn’t all that great, but I’ll take any Grace and Frankie over no Grace and Frankie. My gripes:
    Grace’s friends were dropping like flies. They’re only 74, and most 74 year olds aren’t kicking the bucket weekly. Why Grace and Robert’s friends keep dying is beyond me. I also didn’t like how the show casually mentioned that Sam Elliott’s character, Phil, died. Wth was that about? Brianna is getting a bit too much for me, probably because June Diane Raphael plays the same sarcastic character in all her work (Bride Wars, anyone?)

  2. I figure Nick bought the house, knowing Grace wouldn’t be staying at the “home” for long. I thought this was a great season, and hope there’s a Season 5. The only storyline that made me uncomfortable was Roy.

    • I really hope that’s the case. And if not I think they should be able to challenge it given they could argue they were duped into putting their house up for sale when they were parent trapped?

  3. You nailed this season in a nice way.
    Not so nice season 4 is depressing.
    Barely any build for the audience to view Grace and Frankie go from independent to dependent.
    The writers put in things they thought we’d laugh at but instead we cringed at. For example Grace as we know her would never in a million years be convinced to wear a matching yellow whatever and hideous visor. I mean come on.

    There are so many inconsistencies with season 4 trying to figure them out is mind boggling. All I know is if season 1 was like season 4 there wouldn’t be season 2 & 3.

    Major disappointment after looking forward to season 4. Everyone I‘ve spoke to that is a fan is on the line if they’ll watch season 5. I know for me if episode 1 in season 5 doesn’t get independent Grace and Frankie out of the stifling, restrictive retirement home and they keep their exhaubands living freely in perfect health I’m done.

    After reading your review I’m glad I’m not the only fan that feels this way.

    I mean did they switch out writers? Didn’t even feel
    Like the same show I’d been viewing for years?

  4. The actors in this series are gifted, no doubt. However, I wish I had stopped watching after season three. This season hit a steep decline and never stopped. It perpetuated the Hollywood tendency to believe that all women are washed up and falling apart as they age and men become more vibrant and vital. The characters are supposed to be in their 70s, which at this time in our history is a time where people are still quite vital and engaged in life. This season, the men’s sexual exploration is front and center and seems to be the one note that the writers keep hitting over and over again. As for the women, Grace and Frankie are seen as incompetent to take care of themselves responsibly, and rapidly deteriorating both physically and cognitively. It is surprising to me that women who have railed against stereotypes in real life have chosen to perpetuate them, and in Fonda’s case, executive produce them. What were you thinking!?! I watched the entire season in hopes that you would redeem the storyline. It didn’t happen. It just failed more deeply. I would never watch this series again. Massive disappointment and downer.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself. The men’s accomplishments, social lives, health, wit, and sexual exploration are all thriving while the women are made out to be deteriorating physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. The men’s storyline represents a growing vitality and strength while the women’s storyline represents decay, decline, and death. The only thing I can say about this horrible season ending is that as a cultural commentary, it is admittedly and regrettably a fairly accurate representation of our society’s true views on aging for men and women.

  5. I thought this season was the best out of all of them. The hardest, but in their own G & F way really drove you to the edge of these things to consider as we let go. The lines of giving up or giving in….and all the loved ones involved, who really don’t get it not being in their shoes… These episodes, several of them, brought me to uncontrollable laughter that turned into tears…issues too close to home, but gloriously colored with laughter and too good to be true scenarios of wealth and that friendship few will ever have.
    Can’t stop thinking about it.
    Thanks for making this season and all of the seasons….can’t wait for 5.

    • Whoa, Season 4. The fast forward into the retirement home was majorly disjointed and inexplicable. Neither Grace or Frankie deserved that. Sol and Robert expand their worlds, while Grace and Frankie slink off to the nursing home. Huh?

  6. I waited a few days after “binge watching” the entire season 4 in hopes that my distress would dissipate. It hasn’t.
    The characters are bright and flighty but in no way in need of assisted living residential living. I was surprised that Grace who was a very successful businesswoman could be scammed by the contractor just as easily as the rest of us, but that she didn’t work to correct the situation seemed incomprehensible. The writers certainly got that wrong.
    Their friend, Arlene, who is suffering from a form of dementia hit a personal note, one that many of us will face as we see the end more clearly than we can recall the formative years of our lives.
    Please writers, before you begin season 5, add another finale to season 4 and allow Grace and Frankie the independence that they both deserve. The house is as much a character as the four offspring of Grace and Frankie (and not so snarky).

  7. I loved the past episodes. Not this one. Didn’t like trying to make
    Grace and Frankie unable to handle their own responsibilities
    At such a young age. Especially did not like that the husbands
    Became super gay. I fast forwarded through their silliness and
    Acting like total queens. Additionally didn’t care for the promotion
    Of open marriages. Why did they want to get “married” in the first
    Place if they weren’t planning on monogamy. Very disappointing.

  8. Thank you. This is well put. My beefs with this season are safisfsxtorially represented and shared. :) haha I am puzzled and profoundly disappointed by the plot line this season.

  9. I hope I’m not in too bad a minority (younger male), but as a fan of Martin Sheen, Lily Tomlin, and Ethan Embry my whole life, this show was a gift in my eyes.
    I’m also glad that I’m not alone in feeling let down after completing Season 4. I mean the first two episodes started off with some promise (not really big on the Kudrow plot, but whatever), but the rest of the season was a nose dive off the ugly tree. Like everyone else I couldn’t understand why Robert (Mr. Heart operation) and Sol’s lives were far more open and interesting and our ladies were cast into near-cartoon buffoonery and debilitation. And don’t get me started on the kids. We’ve all come to know their respective baggage, but the irony doesn’t fail to escape me, especially concerning Coyote’s past and Brianna running her mother’s first business into the ground. One poster commented on how the kids vaulted from simply thinking about getting their mothers some help, to just locking them in a soul-sucking ‘home’. Lastly, I hope to God it was Nick who bought the house. Knowing his character, he’d buy it for Grace and ‘Kookie’, might even prevent Say Grace from falling into the clutches of that spoiled ditz of a competitor.
    The house is as much a part of the show as any character, hell, it’s a character all on its own. Even non-beach people can’t help but look around that interior with it’s views and feel a ping of comfort and some jealousy. Were the house to be purchased by anyone else, it could hijack the entire fifth season (should there be one). And not to sound spoiled, myself, but G&F without that house…I don’t think I can stomach that.

  10. Jennifer, thank you for your review. I couldn’t agree more with you and the other reviewers in this thread. It’s a testament to how much people love and admire the show that we are all so angry about the tone-deaf plot changes. I wanna smack the writers around a little bit!

  11. I keep hoping there is some mix-up and Phil is still alive. Maybe his wife passed away and the information got passed along incorrectly? I love Grace & Phil together!!!

  12. I agree with the comments on the ending and the way Grace and Frankie who are…were…strong women suddenly become unsure of themselves and agree to a retirement home! What did I just watch??? I went from laughing out loud at Grace and Frankie lying across the table trying to stop a rat to HUH??? A retirement home?? The guys story line is not my favorite. I want more Grace and Frankie and less of the guys. I have grown very tired of the guys and their whining. The kids of both Grace and Frankie were hard to take but after the episode of tricking both ladies into going into a retirement home I don’t know if I can watch them on screen anymore and the daughter-in-law of Frankie is so annoying I have to grit my teeth when she’s on screen. All in all I have to ask what in the world were the writers thinking???? The last few episodes were so depressing and the ending was so depressing that I won’t watch anymore unless they bring back the sassy Grace and Frankie that made the first 3 seasons!

  13. Grace and Frankie is an amazing, clever, well written show. Binge watching it is not optional, it’s necessary. If you haven’t seen it, you MUST give it a try.

  14. I couldn’t agree more with this review! Surely, the writing team has either changed or had a very, very, very bad day when writing the outline for these 13 episodes. While I agree with the age-related topics attempting to be addressed, I’m left feeling a group of 20 something, male chauvinists wrote the scripts. It’s plausible that Robert would have heart surgery, as he did previously, that Grace would have knee surgery, and that the kids would have some concerns over a few things. But to jump to the wrong conclusions they did in the short amount of time they did, does beg the question of either missing scripts or edited to get down to 13 episodes.
    Then there is the bogus difference between the men & women. Sending Grace & Frankie off to a retirement community & allowing Robert & Sol expanding their homosexuality knowledge/interests as well as being vibrant & active was disappointing at best & extremely disturbing/condescending at worst. I too am surprised Fonda agreed to this story arc. Especially coming heroically back to a sold sign–which sold ridiculously fast. Maybe it was Nick.
    If the show goes on, it will have to be or it will be too disjointed to watch.

  15. In addition to all that’s been said here:
    1. “The kids” sold the house out from under them. That’s actually not possible without them signing lots of paperwork. Which leads me to point #2…
    2. If Frankie was “dead,” she couldn’t have entered into contracts to sell the house or to start residence at assisted living. Assisted living sure as hell checks your social security benefits.
    3. They didn’t ever ask any friends or relations for contractor recommends? Ridiculous. But perhaps no more ridiculous than a neighborhood shutdown for an orangutan?
    4. In the age of 4000 methods of communication, Nick was totally unreachable while on business in Japan. Right.

    Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy writing. Very disappointing that it happened and that Jane and Lily agreed to do it.

  16. I just watched Seasons 1-4 in the last 3 weeks. I agree with the review and absolutely hated what the writers did with the ladies. So Grace who set up a successful business at 73 gave $10,000 to a random contractor because he knew Phil? Maybe Frankie, but not Grace. So the ladies get manipulated into a retirement prison and the men star in musicals and re-vitalise their marriage. How misogynist can you get?? I really hope Season 5 is more about the ladies and they are back in their beach house living life to the fullest.

  17. I learned about G&F 3 weeks ago and finished watching all 4 seasons two days ago. Since then I have watched the episode of Frankie and Jacob’s breakup everyday as if I expect the couple will reconcile. I really enjoyed these two characters together and hope Jacob will be returning to Frankie’s life.

  18. I’m with you- I hate the retirement community story line and especially how they got tricked into it, and also the idea of having their home sold without their consent. First of all neither is senile if so this show wouldn’t be fun to watch. Maybe be if they wee 94 but 74? No. Not in the climate today where people work til 70 very commonly and life expectancy has increased so much. I find it demeaning and really upsetting how they are suddenly treated like infants by their children and even by the smarmy retirement home aides. I had a really hard time watching the last episode and I really hope there’s a big change for season 5 or the show may lose me. It bugs me that Sol and Robert are experimenting sexually and dancing on stage and going on cruises but the little old ladies are falling apart and losing it. Not cool.

  19. I agree completely. I would give up on this show if it weren’t for the two actors. The writing for this season was sub-par. The story line completely flies in the face of these two very independent women. Neither of the characters, as they have been written up to now, would have ever buckled under their kids’ pressure that quickly! They are both very spirited, driven, independent and rebellious characters. I was baffled and angry. Meanwhile, the men are stereotypically, “handling things on their own” and “getting better with age?” What crap and so sexist! Tomlin and Fonda should hire new writers. They are fantastic, but the show’s writing is slipping. Get the writing team from the other hilarious show with a “Grace” in the title, and we’d have a blockbuster!

  20. It is quite upsetting to me that we had to sit through graces sex scene with her. Oufriends, but we never got to see Frankie with the Yam Man” beyond sitting on the couch. What the hell was that?! And of course I am totally agreed and hated the two women ending up in a home, but the guys seem to manage fine. Poor clueless women…

  21. I don’t know if it’s because I know some of Peter Gallagher’s other work or because I actually noticed the age gap but when I realized that he was going to play Jane Fonda’s love interest I immediately looked him up. Since Grace is supposed to be in her 70’s the age gap isn’t too terrible but Peter Gallagher is only 53, he and Jane Fonda are over 17 years apart in age.

  22. I agree. The 4th season seemed very misogynistic! Why do the two women have all the health care issues and are incompetent handling their daily lives while the men are having the ” time of their lives?” Usually aging men have more health issues than women and yet we get this one sided — and not an enjoyable view of aging. What?? It only happens to women?

  23. I really love your review. I watched the last couple episodes of season four in anger asking myself why Grace and Frankie are depicted as two deranged and helpless women while Robert and Sol are singing, dancing and contemplating an open relationship. That really irked me. And how is it even possible for these horrible kids to convince their mothers to move into a retirement home when none of them took some time to stop by their mothers’ house every once in a while and see if everything is okay? I’m 34 and watching the series asking myself constantly why the story would unravel like it did. Season five has a lot to make up for.

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