Episode 4 of Apple TV+’s Shrinking gives us singing in cars, potatoes, confrontations, and new dynamics between our characters.
This review contains slight spoilers for episode 4 of Apple TV+’s Shrinking.
Who knew that watching Harrison Ford and Jessica Williams sing along to Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning” while driving to work was exactly what we needed from Apple TV+’s Shrinking? Episode 4 might be the weakest chapter of our psychologists’ journey so far, but it also gives some charming moments and a few developments that might be meaningful for the episodes that await us.
At the centre of Episode 4 is still our favourite boundary-breaking therapist, Jimmy (Jason Segel, of How I Met Your Mother), whose idea of becoming overly involved in his patients’ lives instead of waiting for them to make choices on their own has proven to be not so groundbreaking after all. Last week’s episode ended with Jimmy finding out that his patient Grace (Heidi Gardner, of Hustle), who was supposed to have moved to Canada and broken up with her abusive husband, has actually never left, and has been lying to Jimmy for weeks.
This week, the focus shifts onto Wally (Kimberly Condict, of Brooklyn Nine-Nine), whose OCD makes her misunderstand Jimmy’s intentions, and Sean (Luke Tennie, of Players), who’s not ready to open up about his traumatic memories yet, even more so since – to use Paul’s (Harrison Ford, of Indiana Jones) words, he now considers him his “friend/roommate instead of his therapist.”
Part of this week’s episode is dedicated to Paul’s relationship with his daughter May (Lily Rabe, of American Horror Story), who decides to visit her father right when his lawyer Brian (Michael Urie, of Swan Song) – who just so happens to also be Jimmy’s best friend – has just talked to Paul about his “medical power of attorney.” It turns out that May doesn’t know that Paul has Parkinson’s, and watching the two of them interact is the best part of the episode: Harrison Ford excels at conveying all the conflicting emotions his character must be feeling, and the different conversation that’s taking place inside his head. It’s a heartbreaking scene that is bound to be the beginning of a new journey for Paul, and, though we can’t wait to watch it happen, we also can’t help but prepare for the worst.
The weakest part of Episode 4 is what comes next, which sees Gaby (Jessica Williams, of Booksmart) try to get Jimmy to be the “cool dad” by getting Alice to open up with him about the loss of her virginity. Despite Gaby’s intentions, this ultimately leads Jimmy to unleash all the frustration that’s been piling up within him onto his neighbour Liz (Christa Miller, of Scrubs). It’s a confrontation that needed to happen, since we know from previous episodes that Liz has been way too involved in Alice’s life, but it ends up being way more heated than it could have been because of Jimmy’s mental state.
Episode 4 of Shrinking is where Jimmy’s issues become painfully evident, and what happens with Liz, Alice, and eventually Sean too is all part of our protagonist’s journey to healing. There are bound to be rewarding developments in future episodes precisely because of these scenes, but Jimmy’s reaction to his daughter’s revelation and Gaby and Liz’s unsolicited opinions about what girls are like when it comes to sex are not quite as funny as the series thinks they are. Not only that, but they also verge onto stereotype territory, reinforcing the ideas that women are only allowed to have conversations that are about men, and that men aren’t able to handle certain topics as well as women can – that’s something that, up till now, Shrinking had managed to avoid.
That said, there is still much to enjoy in Episode 4. Though it does end on a predictable and pretty stereotypical note, it also sees Jimmy make some progress: our protagonist is finally starting to realise that he’s not doing too well, and to acknowledge what others have done for him while he was at his most self-destructive. We also start to see Liz as a human being instead of just a nosy neighbour, and we witness a honest conversation between Sean and Jimmy that teaches us not to make others feel guilty for being unwell.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been comparing Shrinking with Ted Lasso for the series’ genius premise, charismatic characters, healthy resolution of conflicts, and effective blend of humour, wit, and heart. Episode 4 is an enjoyable, heartwarming watch, but it’s also not as funny and unpredictable as the past chapters of Jimmy’s adventures have been. Not only that, but now that we’re already familiar with the show’s premise, its protagonist also doesn’t feel as charismatic as he did in the past. Do showrunners Bill Lawrence, Jason Segel and Brett Goldstein have something in store for us for the second half of the series? Knowing their past work, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
Episode 4 of Shrinking is now available to watch on Apple TV+.