‘Grace and Frankie’ Season 4 Leads Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin Towards a New Chapter

In season four of Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” which drops its 13-episode run Jan. 19, stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin feel quite at home living in the skin of their respective titular characters. For these two veteran performers, with age comes a great complexity.

At the start of season four, the show kicks into an entirely new gear. Grace and Frankie’s business venture, embarked in season three, appears to be in full working order. But their professional partnership takes a back seat to other life events going on in the two vibrant broad’s lives.

Frankie’s son Nwabudike (Baron Vaughn) is having a child, which calls for the modernist tradition of a gender reveal party. Currently residing in Santa Fe, Frankie travels back home only to realize that this is where she truly belongs – with her family and her new grandchild in a place that she stands out, as opposed to fitting in. This realization means that her relationship with her Santa Fe based beau Jacob (Ernie Hudson) must be long distance. But the two seem perfectly alright with traveling the extra mile when needed – at least for a moment.

Grace’s relationship with Nick (Peter Gallagher) has evolved from business competitor to romantic. Since last season, the two have gotten quite serious. However, her driving desire to continually maintain a perfect appearance grows tiresome and wedges some distance between the two. In perhaps the season’s most vulnerable moment, Grace confronts Nick with nothing but a makeup wipe in tow. She rips the extensions from her hair, strips the makeup from her face and stands there open, yet insecure. To much of her surprise, Nick accepts a naked Grace, the real Grace. For the somewhat hardened character, a wall has been cracked for the first genuine moment of the comedic series.

Lisa Kudrow is a welcomed addition as Sheree, an exotic nail stylist who never seems to have the right words to say, regardless of her endless amounts of bedazzled, pink attire. Eclectic, bubbly, and good-hearted, Kudrow plays the character best. Following the death of her husband, Sheree loses all assets to her greedy stepchildren. Now homeless, Grace allows the widow to move into the guesthouse. However, Kudrow’s appearance is brief and ends rather abruptly. Following Grace and Frankie’s successful plan to get Sheree her house back, the character leaves, and the girls return to normalcy at their comfy beach abode.

The show’s least compelling storyline remains to be Robert and Sol. Portrayed by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston respectively; the performers do the best with the less-than enthralling arcs thrown their way. Whatever misadventures Grace and Frankie get immersed into, the drama in Robert and Sol’s relationship lacks a genuine sense of urgency. While the character’s talk about issues of infidelity and loneliness, the witty dialogue between the two men doesn’t make their situation feel very serious. It’s an unbalance that luckily doesn’t kill the show. But if the show were titled “Robert and Sol,” it would be a problem.

Regardless of mid-season struggle, the twists thrown at the two hero characters leaves Grace and Frankie in an unlikely place – promising a new chapter, albeit different. But their strong friendship, which anchors the entire show and fits into its core structure, is present as ever – and it leads them right where they belong, sitting on their ocean-side lawn chairs.

Grace and Frankie’ season four is available Jan. 19 on Netflix.