‘Shrinking’ Ending, Explained: How Did Jimmy Deal With The Grief? Does The Last Scene Hint At Season 2?


The season finale of “Shrinking” is here, streaming on Apple TV+, and it can be said that the series is given a roundup, with all characters learning to deal with their problems and griefs in life. Jimmy Laird is a professional therapist who is disturbed and grieving in his own life after the accidental death of his wife, Tia. Although his colleagues Paul and Gaby are always there to ease Jimmy’s situation, the man just keeps avoiding responsibilities and even comes up with a bizarre therapy technique. Although “Shrinking” does end with the overall positivity and happiness that was expected, it also presents an extremely disturbing scene that quickly changes the whole tone.

Spoilers Ahead

‘Shrinking’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?

Although months have passed since the accidental death of his wife Tia, Jimmy Laird is still a broken man, heavily drinking and taking sleeping pills to cope with his situation. Jimmy is a clinical psychotherapist by profession and runs a center with his colleague Gaby and their senior mentor Paul. However, listening to the problems of other people and trying to find solutions for them is not an easy task when one is going through a supremely tough time themselves, and Jimmy learns this soon enough. He is easily irritated by the complaints and grievances of his patients and has lost all sense of compassion for them, which is perhaps the starting point of any therapy. As the man explains his condition to Paul, the veteran therapist calls it a rare case of “compassion fatigue” and asks Jimmy to hold on to the principles and methods of conventional therapy while giving himself more time.

In his personal space, Jimmy is even worse off, for amidst all his apparent grieving for these many months, he has emotionally abandoned his teenage daughter Alice and has hardly ever been there for her. Although Alice is old enough to understand what is wrong with her father, she understandably has her own struggles in life too. Instead of her father, the girl is looked after and cared for by their neighbor Liz, a warm and loving woman who has too much time on her hands now that her sons have grown up and moved out. Jimmy has earlier made attempts at stopping his life from spiraling out of control, and now he takes a more resolute approach towards it.

But along with the grief that is still very much inside him, Jimmy also has to go through the situations in each aspect of his life. He is frustrated by the fact that his professional role requires him to stay neutral and compassionate to his patients, and then in his personal life, his daughter is literally growing up under the nourishment of his neighbor. Unable to keep the effects of any of these under control, Jimmy decides to make huge, sudden changes in his life and help himself out of the slump. While he suddenly wants to show up for Alice as much as he can, his decision on the professional side is even more bizarre—Jimmy tries out a method of “psychological vigilantism” (as termed by Paul), in which the therapist makes the choices for their patients and gives them straight and hard opinionated advice. 

How Does Jimmy Ultimately Deal With His Sorrows?

The journey of Jimmy from being a highly irresponsible and struggling individual to one who takes control of his life once again is one of the central matters in “Shrinking.” His new-age therapy technique, in which he simply tells his patients what they should do instead of giving them the time and support to internally make decisions, pays off terribly for Jimmy. It initially begins with him telling a long-time patient, Grace, to divorce her toxic husband, Donny, and go spend some time with her sister in Canada. Grace is typically someone who fears hurting people all around and finds comfort in always pleasing people, even if that hurts her personally. Very naturally, she claims that she cannot make such harsh decisions, and then Jimmy almost threatens her passive-aggressively, saying that she either leaves her husband or never be his patient anymore. Grace does not contact for a few days, and then one day, she video calls her therapist to say that she has indeed left Donny and moved to Canada, just like he had told her to do. While Jimmy takes this as the first instance of his revolutionary success against conventional therapy, he later finds out that Grace had only been lying to him because she wanted to keep him pleased as well. In reality, Grace was still living in Pasadena with her toxic husband, and Jimmy had technically made things even worse through his advice.

A similar thing happens with another of his patients, Sean, the one we get to see the most throughout the series. Sean is a young man with tremendous anger issues and a concerning affinity towards violence, because of which he has been involved with numerous bar fights and run-ins with the law. When Sean first comes in, Jimmy is basking in the false glory of his newfound success, and therefore, his suggestion for Sean is that the patient tries out some legal form of fighting, like MMA, to vent out his anger and violent desire. Jimmy keeps taking Sean to such fights and even gets the young man involved in one more fight when Donny confronts Jimmy. Sean is kept behind bars for a night, and his distraught parents ask him to leave their house, saying that he needs to figure his life out first. Along with being the unconventional therapist, Jimmy now becomes a friend and roommate to Sean, as he lets the young man stay at his pool house for a few days till Sean can find his bearings again. Although this support is perhaps great, Jimmy loses out on the very purpose for which the two had connected—to provide Sean with therapy and help him get over his anger issues. Whenever Jimmy tries to sit down for a session and talk to the young man, he denies talking about anything and always avoids the difficult practice of revisiting his uncomfortable memories and talking about them. It is only when Paul steps in and talks to both of them it is revealed that Sean is highly traumatized and ashamed of his actions during the war. Towards the end though, Sean and Jimmy recover their friendship and both of them make it a point to continue their therapy as well.

The rest of the troubles for Jimmy is regarding his young daughter Alice, to whom he wants to reach out but cannot figure out how. There are many instances of the usual father-daughter embarrassments, like when Jimmy finds out that Alice had sex with Liz’s youngest son, Connor. There are also more serious instances, like when Alice overhears Jimmy’s confession about having sex with Gaby and takes it to be utter disrespect towards her mother, Tia since Gaby and Tia used to be best friends. But by the end, though, their father-daughter bond grows strong and wholesome since Jimmy keeps trying to make things better ever since realizing that Alice, too, had lost her mother.

How Does Alice Make Things Better With The Help Of Sean And Liz?

After the death of Tia and the subsequent breakdown of Jimmy, the teenage daughter Alice is the worst affected. Not only has she lost her mother suddenly in an accident, but her father is unavailable, too, making Alice toughen up and mature beyond her years in a very short while. The girl does have a beautiful bond with Paul, who is almost like a grandfather yet a friend to her, and it is mostly with him that she shares her deepest problems. Unlike the worries of people of her age, Alice is not concerned with parties or the attention of boys but feels internal grief and sadness that consumes all of her emotions. The practice of crying for fifteen straight minutes every day, as suggested by Paul, does help, and then Alice finds comfort in the presence of Sean. Although initially disturbed by a sudden newcomer in her house—that too, a patient of her father—Alice gradually grows close to Sean and is even romantically attracted to him, as is obvious at her age.

Jimmy is blind to this natural possibility too, but he then hears her confess her admiration and realizes how much of a mess he has created. Alice tries to express her interest in Sean by trying to kiss him and is left embarrassed and devastated when he pulls away, saying that she is still a minor. This is the situation that Liz, Gaby, and Paul were scared of when Jimmy first brought his patient home, but thankfully Sean and Alice managed to iron out the awkwardness too. In this sense and many others, Liz plays a crucial role as she explains to Sean how he should deal with the scenario. Even though Liz is often considered a desperate motherly figure by some of the characters, the woman is indeed like a perfect guardian and companion to Alice. The teenager is undoubtedly wronged and helpless when it comes to how her father has been behaving, but it is not like Alice has been completely abandoned by the others too. Paul, Liz, and Gaby too always make themselves available to Alice and hear her out. Sean comes in a bit later and does so as well, which is even better since he is closer in age to Alice. Her woes start to get better when Jimmy also starts to rebuild his role as a father, which is sometimes tough for Alice, too, like when he grounds her for having gone off to a party in his car, but all of these decisions become important. Although Alice still has a disagreement with her father towards the very end, when Jimmy tries to move on from Tia’s death, the girl ultimately understands his reasons. She decides to embrace the act of moving on in a different way, and Alice is seen wearing Tia’s dress and dancing with Jimmy at the marriage celebrations of Brian and Charlie.

Sean and Liz do not only help the teenage girl, but they also ultimately end up helping and being there for each other as well. Since Sean had an arrest record, employers kept turning him away, and the man was even more embarrassed about not being able to get a job. After many attempts, he is seen working with his father doing menial work, but Sean clearly does not enjoy any of it. By now, he had discussed his situation with Liz, and upon her asking, he revealed that cooking was a practice that he really enjoyed, even during his army days. On the other side, Liz’s husband Derek had recently retired and was spending his days at home, which was irritating Liz, and she was on the lookout for a new hobby or work. Finally, Liz and Derek decided to fund a catering business for Sean, and then Liz joined the business too. While Sean and Liz had already become friends, the man did not mind letting Liz be his business partner either.

How Do Things Go For Gaby And Paul?

The colleagues, Gaby and Paul, are also equally important throughout “Shrinking.” Along with providing support to Jimmy and Alice, both of these characters have their own struggles that they have to overcome. Despite being a very energetic and happy person on the surface, Gaby goes through a very difficult time ending her marriage of eight years with Nico, and she does not even have anyone to discuss her problems with. Tia was the only friend close enough to Gaby, and she now had to make the decision to leave her husband all by herself because she was tired of his addiction problems. Nonetheless, Gaby takes the change positively, showing excitement for her new single life, but then also gets pulled back to her past and Nico. She visits an exhibition of Nico’s art along with Liz and Sean and is irked by the man’s comment about how a piece of art was inspired by his current girlfriend, whereas it had actually been his tribute to Gaby.

After this incident, Nico also tries to get back to their former selves, asking Gaby to start over their relationship once more, but Gaby obviously knows better than that. Since a surprise engagement party held at Jimmy’s house for Brian, Gaby has also started to get sexually involved with Jimmy. She initially claimed that Jimmy was an ideal person to have casual sex with since the two of them would never get romantically involved. However, as their encounters keep happening, there is clearly a bond growing between the two. Liz even makes a note of this, saying that things would not remain casual for very long anymore, suggesting that Jimmy and Gaby could be a couple when season 2 of “Shrinking” arrives.

Paul’s problems are more internal—physically, he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which is only going to get more serious. Mentally, he is stuck with a feeling of regret and contempt with regard to keeping no contact with his young daughter Meg after being separated from his wife when Meg was just a young girl. This resentment is what makes Paul nervous in telling his daughter about Parkinson’s since he does not want to make Meg feel like she is bound to take care of him. There is a sense of awkwardness and distance from both sides before both try to resolve it in their own ways. Paul asks Meg if he can visit her house and spend some time with his grandson, but the daughter politely turns him down. This decision of hers obviously changes when she learns of her father’s condition, but Paul now refuses to leave his whole life and career in Pasadena to go live with his daughter. Although this disagreement continues for some time, Paul ultimately realizes that he needs to move on from his past mistakes and treat his daughter with love and warmth in the present. Together with a new romantic partner that he finds in his doctor, Julie, Paul visits Meg to watch his grandson in a school play. This father-daughter bond too is settled in a positive manner by the end of the series, and Paul also finally opens up about his family to his friends and colleagues. 

In the end, Paul helps Gaby out, too, after Liz points out how the man had always stood firm for Jimmy no matter what and yet did nothing for Gaby. This is, in fact, very true, and Paul, too, realizes that he has a tendency to side with Jimmy. At the end of the season, Gaby expresses her desire to enter academia and become a college professor because she wants Black representation in such spaces. She asks Paul for a letter of recommendation, which he snobbishly asks her to write and promises that he will sign at the end. After realizing his partiality, though, Paul visits Gaby’s employer in person and convinces him to take her, which is really not necessary since Gaby has already secured the job.

‘Shrinking’ Ending Explained: What Does The Last Scene Signify?

“Shrinking” season 1 ends with Brian and Charlie having their marriage ceremony, with all the characters coming together to celebrate the occasion. Jimmy’s bond with Paul, Alice, and Gaby grows tighter as he, too, has finally made the right step towards accepting Tia’s death and moving on. Liz is also closer to the whole unit than she was at the beginning of the series since she has grown good friendships with Gaby and Sean. Paul’s situation with Meg and her family has improved too, and the man has also found a new lover in Julie. All things seem to end on a very good and happy note, and the fact that “Shrinking” has already been renewed for a second season opens up possibilities for new bonds too.

For example, Liz’s decision to be a professor now means that she is no longer a colleague of Jimmy, making their imminent romantic relationship even easier. It is at the very end that “Shrinking” comes up with a horrific twist when we are shown Grace and Donny on their usual walk routine. Grace was still keeping up with the toxic husband, even though she had started to realize how Donny did not respect her presence in his life and always kept complaining about her actions. On this particular evening, too, Donny kept complaining about his wife while standing at the edge of the hill and stretching when Grace very calmly walked up to him and pushed him off. Donny falls to his death, having been killed by Grace, who was a regular patient of Jimmy’s, even to this day. This essentially means that Jimmy’s advice had been used and twisted into the motive for murder, and the matter will surely come back to haunt our protagonist in the next season.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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