Wednesday, February 1, 2023

REVIEW: 'Shrinking' - Jimmy Struggles to Balance His Personal and Professional Relationships in 'Coin Flip' and 'Fortress of Solitude'

AppleTV+'s Shrinking - Episodes 1.01 "Coin Flip" and 1.02 "Fortress of Solitude"

Jimmy, a therapist mourning his wife, takes a more proactive approach with his patients in the hopes that helping them will help himself. To get Sean out of legal trouble, Jimmy reconnects with his estranged best friend - while trying to hide it all from Paul.

"Coin Flip" was written by Bill Lawrence, Jason Segel & Brett Goldstein and directed by James Ponsoldt
"Fortress of Solitude" was written by Brett Goldstein and directed by Ry Russo-Young

Absolutely everyone is working on their boundaries. They are trying to figure out the perfect balance between their professional and personal lives. Jimmy is a mess. His wife was killed in a tragic car accident a year ago. He has been meandering through life every since. This isn't the first time Liz has had to come over in the middle of the night due to his erratic behavior. And yet, Jimmy is suppose to be trusted as a therapist. In his profession, he has the duty of guiding people through the difficult times in their lives. Sure, the comedy comes from the absurd nature of why his patients are in therapy. Most of the time, he just sits there and nods his head. He's not really doing anything. When he hits his breaking point and speaks up, he believes he found a new tactic worth trying. He believes if he blatantly tells the truth to his patients, then their lives will instantly improve. He is filled with that hope. He receives the immediate gratification of it working. Grace listened to him and broke up with her abusive husband. Sean suppresses the urge to fight someone simply for bumping into him. And yet, it all still implodes. Grace's husband assaults Jimmy and Sean starts beating him up to defend his therapist. The argument could be made that Sean had a reason for his actions in that particular moment. However, he still can't stop himself. He just keeps punching. It's the breaking point for his family as his parents ask him to move out. He doesn't deal with any legal consequences simply because Jimmy's best friend Brian happens to be a lawyer. Even there, it's all about faking it and hoping for the best. That's really the overall mentality of this story. People are just wading through life pretending like they know what they're doing. It's beneficial sometimes. However, no one truly has all the answers. Jimmy and Brian delight at playing pickleball. And yet, that can't distract from the fact that Jimmy went a year without talking to Brian. His best friend had no clue what he did to deserve such punishment either. It was ultimately a clash between different outlooks on life. Jimmy understands the power of seeing a situation from a different perspective. That's the skillset he brings to his job. He is suppose to help people see things more clearly when they are incapable of doing it themselves. He's still crossing boundaries because he has no sense of what's moral or ethical anymore. That's potentially dangerous. The show doesn't really discuss how healthy Jimmy's current actions are. He simply invites his patients into his life more fully. He can apply his situation to their predicaments. But the lines blur of what role he is suppose to provide.

All of this stands in sharp contrast to how Paul operates. He is the veteran therapist at the practice. He provides guidance to his colleagues. He questions their tactics. However, he also hopes to maintain his own privacy. He has set those boundaries for himself. They clearly hide a complicated personal life where he is all alone in his house while his daughter is on the other side of the country. Alice is the only person he lets in. Even then, it's only briefly. Paul's taciturn nature means he is sharply critical of those around him. And yet, he is still full of compassion and sympathy. He wants to help Jimmy and Alice through this strained time. He's also critical of the own advice he gives. He uses sarcasm to make his points more efficiently. He pushes the two to put an effort into being a family once more. It's still difficult because they barely know how to communicate with each other anymore. It's much easier for Alice to rely on Liz. She is the next-door neighbor who knows how to be a mom. Jimmy essentially left Alice all alone to process her mother's sudden death. He wasn't there to support her through that turbulent time. It's miraculous that she is still doing well in school and on the soccer field. It's good enough for Jimmy to attend the game and want to have dinner with her again. The bar has been lowered significantly. Jimmy barely meets those expectations. He tries to mend things in one relationship only for it to come at the expense of another. He wants to be a better therapist who actually helps his patients. That only leads to inviting Sean to stay with him. That leaves Alice shocked and confused in her own kitchen. She doesn't know what to expect from her father anymore. It's as if she is being pushed out of his life without him actively trying to do so. It's hard. Meanwhile, Liz is being told that she is overstepping. She doesn't know how to be an empty nester. And so, she is devoting her attention onto Alice because she needs a parent looking out for her right now. Everyone's motives seem genuine. It's simply difficult because they don't always line up with each other's at a convenient time. Sometimes it takes the right push in order for a breakthrough to occur. Even then, it leaves plenty of people uncomfortable. That's the world in which these characters operate. They can't deny that. They simply have to endure the burden of the tragedy that has uprooted their lives. It's all in relation to Jimmy and what he is going through. He's not the only one struggling. Recognizing that and expanding upon the ensemble will allow the show to reach that next level. Right now, it's a little too dependent on the sad grief of Jimmy's life hitting over and over again. That makes the broad comedy - like Gabby's obsession with water and the size of her bottles - seem out of place.