‘Grace and Frankie’ Returns for Season 6 With Its Charm and Sense of Life Intact
“Grace and Frankie” returns with a sixth season that feels warm and familiar, never daring to change too much yet maintaining all of its charm. It’s one of those comedies about aging that feels like the passage of time itself. What you can call the plot feels like the natural progression of life. People grow older, they may decide to try love again and friendships have to endure new changes. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin continue to be the perfect pair to pull this off with the experience of two stars who’ve endured it all.
The season begins with big news. Grace (Fonda) is getting married, to the very wealthy Nick (Peter Gallagher). This means that Frankie (Tomlin) suddenly faces the prospect of being alone once again. Changes of an even more uncomfortable sort are facing their inner circle however. Sol (Sam Waterston) and Robert (Martin Sheen) are facing difficulties related to because of the cost of healthcare for Sol. Meanwhile Barry (Peter Cambor) has decided to donate sperm to a lesbian which creates friction with partner Brianna (June Diane Raphael).
Like “The Kominsky Method” this is one of those series where we continue basking in watching these characters deal with life as it throws very relatable hurdles their way. Frankie finds herself sitting alone at home after Grace’s wedding, like the abandoned friend attempting to figure out life on her own again. There’s a hilarious side plot added of the two friends still trying to start a business together, this time it’s the idea for a hydraulic toilet which would help senior users stand up with little effort. It’s a bit of a rehashed plot, but it’s the banter and chemistry between these two screen giants that makes it enjoyable. Fonda takes on the role of the friend moving forward with life, while Tomlin is that more feisty type who can’t quite accept that things have a way of changing. While some of the jokes can feel like retreads to the same themes from past seasons, the two are so good it feels like visiting familiar family or friends where you know what to expect, but with delight. Cliché story devices are made fresh by the great cast, like Grace being insecure about marrying a man who is used to being with much younger wives, and Nick himself is somewhat annoyed by Grace being so close to Frankie. It’s almost a statement on how even age can’t change certain attitudes.
The rest of the cast round out the season nicely with their own personal dramas. Brianna becomes a more endearing personality this season as she faces the idea of Barry donating sperm, which isn’t cheating of course, but it generates an awkward sense of insecurity. Sol is now the sick one and Robert is challenged by the small hypocrisy of getting frustrated with the medical bills, when Sol was there for him when he was sick a few seasons back. Ratcheting up the loveable tension is that Sol was always the clingy type, now cancer is making it worse. It’s a mirror reflection of Grace and Frankie, who are dependent on each other in a certain way and Grace getting married brings the issue front and center.
“Grace and Frankie” still goes for a more slapstick story angle by giving the central pair their inspiration for the hydraulic toilet. This gives their friendship meaning as life brings about big changes. Grace gets married, but this doesn’t mean a business partnership with Frankie should end. They can pursue big dreams together.
This is the penultimate season of this Netflix gem and if anything it leaves us wishing it would keep going. We could follow Fonda and Tomlin eternally playing this endearing pair. If the writing feels familiar, the performances always feel witty and refined, like two masters easily pulling off material they could do in their sleep. Yet there’s always real heart in this show, because it understands that getting older doesn’t mean life gets any less complex.
“Grace and Frankie” season six premieres Jan. 15 on Netflix.