Friday, February 10, 2023

REVIEW: 'Shrinking' - Jimmy Demands His Patients Make Progress While Paul Struggles to Be Honest With His Daughter in 'Potatoes'

AppleTV+'s Shrinking - Episode 1.04 "Potatoes"

As things spiral at work, Jimmy confronts Liz for interfering in his life. Paul struggles with whether to tell his daughter his diagnosis.

"Potatoes" was written by Rachna Fruchbom and directed by James Ponsoldt

Two cars drive to work with two passengers each. In one, it's simply two colleagues who understand it's safer to travel this way. They have a blast rocking out to Sugar Ray's "Every Morning." In the other, it's a therapist and his patient who are unexpectedly living together. Sean questions why they had to come to the office to have a session. Jimmy makes a joke about his notepad being there. And yet, it's an absolutely valid concern. Jimmy no longer has the boundary to be understood solely as a therapist. He can't dig deeper into what makes Sean tick because he interacts with him outside the office. Their friendship is compromised in that way. Jimmy understands he needs to know what Sean endured during his military service. That's more than likely at the root of his violent outbursts. Sean is reluctant to talk about it. It's Jimmy's responsibility to know when to push his patient and when to let him steer the conversation. Right now, Jimmy can't do that. Instead, he's pressuring all of his patients into making progress in their respective lives. He needs that from them. He's frustrated when that doesn't happen. It often leaves his patients confused as well. Grace was in therapy for a reason. She took a meaningful step. Jimmy was a part of that decision. It happened in a professional setting. And then, he saw her backslide in the real world. He caught her with her abusive husband. He's now leaving numerous voicemails demanding her to explain herself. He can't allow her to make these mistakes. He demands better of her. He takes it personally. He views this entire day as miserable because of his patients' actions. He doesn't really take accountability for his own role in the dysfunction. People try to give him opportunities to react in the appropriate way. Sometimes they don't fairly judge how much he can handle. Alice is willing to talk with Gaby about losing her virginity. Gaby assumes Jimmy can handle that information. Instead, he lashes out at Liz for letting it happen. He views her son as taking advantage of his daughter. Of course, that's not what happened at all. They both acted responsibly. Becoming sexually active isn't something they should be shamed for. It doesn't totally warrant the praise some heap onto the situation. It's simply a matter of life. It further depicts how Alice is growing up. Of course, Jimmy should be concerned about Sean being in the house. He refuses to see the temptation that puts in front of Alice. He doesn't understand teenage girls and their crushes. Liz and Gaby do. In fact, it's so refreshing to see them become friends. That's more rewarding than their posturing as the better influence on Alice. They are both so much better than Jimmy. Sometimes they need to be recognized as such. Jimmy is grateful for all that they've done. They've simply now put a thought in his head that he can't get out.

Elsewhere, Paul receives a brief visit from his daughter, Meg. He has long had a strained relationship with her because she moved away with her mother after the divorce. They exchange plenty of pleasantries. However, their relationship doesn't seem defined by talking about anything real. Meg asks about his health mostly because it's the polite and expected thing to do. He declares himself as fine because it's the noble action to take. That's not necessarily healthy. Brian wants to analyze that decision. He believes he has experience in the matter because he has helped many clients with estate planning. His rationale doesn't ring true for Paul. The therapist aims to maintain his privacy. That's simply who he is. He's reluctant to ask for help or admit that anything is wrong. He doesn't care what others think. Of course, he's in a profession where people come to him with problems. He is asked to offer an opinion and help guide people through their issues. He doesn't want to carry that work into his other relationships. He's upset that Jimmy is breaking his professional ethics. He can only talk down to him so many times. He knows how inappropriate his recent actions are. Jimmy has to address them with maturity. That's the only way he is going to help his patients. Jimmy doesn't have the capacity to do so. Paul doesn't intervene on behalf of the patients. The behavior is allowed to continue. That includes a case of emotional transference with Wally. She is spiraling with her OCD and trying to justify her behavior. Jimmy tries telling her that she's great. She tries to kiss him. Jimmy doesn't know how to respond. In fact, he repeats the same action that caused the confusion in the first place. He doesn't quickly learn from his mistakes. It's simply awkward. He suddenly doesn't have the training to know what to do. He wants to act as if it's not a big deal. It absolutely is. He can no longer effectively help her. But again, the argument can be made that he isn't helping anyone right now. That's a tragic central arc for the series. It presents a protagonist who is disruptive to everything he touches. He still has to be a compelling figure. The situation has to provide more than Paul's disdain and sarcastic comebacks. Paul knows it's best to keep Jimmy removed from his personal life. Not everyone can make that choice though. Gaby and Liz have to interact with him to also look out for Alice. Sure, they have their own issues as well. Some of those can be solved simply from drinking. Jimmy can be a decent hang briefly. He still retreats to what he believes is working. As such, he isn't all that different from Paul. The two can learn from each other. It's more one-sided because Jimmy needs a ton of help. It's also fascinating to see the show better balance the comedy and drama elements. That makes this episode an improvement while still aspiring for more dimension in the core narrative.