The new comedy-drama series “Shrinking” on AppleTV+ does a somewhat decent job of portraying serious human struggles in a light-hearted manner that intrigues but does not create many effects. In its two episodes that premiered this week, we are introduced to Jimmy, a psychotherapist who is immensely caught up in his internal worries. The initial laughs in these two episodes are delivered through Jimmy’s advice to his patients, which breaches the ethical boundaries associated with the profession, and the set of characters introduced. While both the writing of the series and Jason Segel (who is also a co-creator) in the role of Jimmy are good enough to keep the series grounded, it is already clear that Harrison Ford as the senior psychotherapist Paul is going to be the most exciting aspect of the show.
What Happen In Episodes 1 And 2 Of ‘Shrinking’?
“Shrinking” begins with a couple waking up in the middle of the night to loud music and noises from their neighbor’s backyard. It is evident from their reaction that they are fairly used to such a bizarre occurrence, and the woman, Liz, goes up to take control of the situation. Calling out to her neighbor Jimmy, who is out by his pool popping painkillers and partying with two young women, seemingly sex workers, Liz brings a halt to the celebrations. As the next few scenes pan out, we are introduced to Jimmy, our troubled protagonist, who is still struggling to accept the tragic loss of his wife. His current mental state and his profession are quite at odds, for despite being in shambles internally, Jimmy has to listen to the woes of his various patients as a therapist. Along with a fellow therapist, Gabby, the man runs a psychotherapy center that is owned and presided over by their senior, Dr. Paul Rhodes.
At present, Jimmy self-admittedly suffers from what he calls “compassion fatigue,” meaning that he is just burnt out from having to show fake compassion to his patients. He expresses his anger and frustration to Paul about some of his patients repeatedly doing the same things that disturb them, and clearly seems out of touch with what is expected of a therapist. Out of this feeling of being stuck in a play of pretend, Jimmy decides to go completely unorthodox in his profession and chooses to be totally honest with his patients. One of these patients is a woman named Grace, who is in a toxic romantic relationship but refuses to believe so. Unlike how a usual therapist is supposed to make Grace naturally figure out her realizations, Jimmy now clearly states to her the situation she is in and spells out his advice that she should leave her partner immediately. Grace, at first, even tries to talk about the impossibility of the suggestion, but Jimmy continues to harp on the need for it and finally convinces Grace to leave her husband.
A new patient named Sean also arrives at the center, and Jimmy follows a similar practice of therapy with the man. A war veteran with terrible anger issues, Sean has already had a history of public violence and bar fights, even at a young age. When Jimmy sits down with the man and listens to his complaints, Sean says that he feels like the whole world is trying to act against him. Once again, instead of following the usual practice of trying to help such a patient through conversations, Jimmy decides to take a more direct and active step. Befriending Sean, he gets him enrolled at an MMA center, believing that getting into ethical fights and beating people up inside a sport would let Sean’s anger vent out in a proper way. This practice of being a “psychological vigilante,” as Jimmy himself calls it, initially even seems to pay off, as both patients seem better. Grace leaves her husband and moves to Canada to live with her sister, and she keeps informing Jimmy about her mental condition, which seems far better than what she was living with earlier. Sean gets into a situation on the streets where he certainly would have gotten into a fight earlier, but at present, he finds the courage to stay away and walk out of the situation. But such a practice, which is also unethical at times, as stated by Jimmy’s colleagues Gabby and Paul, soon brings trouble for the protagonist.
As Jimmy and Sean go to see the former’s daughter Alice at her high school soccer game, a man angrily walks up to them, clearly looking for a confrontation. As it turns out, this man is the estranged husband of Grace, and he is extremely angry at the fact that the therapist he was paying for had told his wife to leave him. The man is in no mood for words as he starts to throw punches at Jimmy, injuring the therapist in front of the whole crowd at the soccer match. It is now that Sean’s tendency towards violence is seen firsthand, as the man intervenes and stops the attacker. The hot-headed husband punches Sean as well, and the young man now gets into a fit of rage, beating down the attacker. It is only with the arrival of the police, called by the school authorities, that the situation is brought under control, and Sean and the husband are both arrested for a night in custody. It is ultimately Jimmy who gets Sean released the next day, as the two have grown to be friends by now, and the therapist comes to provide even more help for Sean. The young man had been sent for therapy by his parents, who were tired of his violent behavior and constant run-ins with the law, and now they refuse to let him stay at their house. At the end of “Shrinking” Episode 2, a homeless Sean finds shelter at Jimmy’s house as the therapist now completely turns a friend.
Jimmy’s life is perhaps a complete mess, even more so for personal relationships than professional ones. He was evidently very close to his wife, who had passed away in an accident about a year ago, and the man has still not been able to move on with it. He was so affected by this loss that for almost the entire year, he had completely ignored his daughter Alice and turned a blind eye to the young girl. The fact that Alice, too, was shocked and grieving the death of her mother did not occur to Jimmy’s spiraling mind as it should to a parent. Taking this whole situation into account, his neighbor Liz has stepped into the role of being a parent to Alice, and it is she who knows more about the girl than Jimmy. This becomes evident in a scene in “Shrinking” Episode 2 when Alice’s school counselor sits with both of them and asks them about Alice’s goals and ambitions, and it is Liz who has definite answers. It is only now that Jimmy has started to realize how immature he has been with his daughter, and he tries to make up for it in a rather awkward manner. As Alice clearly tells him, doing her laundry now and making her breakfast on some days would never compensate for the emotional absence that she was subjected to. Jimmy is also jealous of Liz at present because of the fact that his daughter is more close with the neighbor. To him and his colleague Gabby, Liz’s behavior is explainable by the fact that her own sons had now grown up and left home to pursue education, leaving behind a void in her life as a mother that she was now filling with Alice. It is not that the girl is completely against her father, too; when Jimmy tries to show up, Alice is appreciative of it. After Jimmy attends her school soccer game, she thanks him for it and then also decides to drop her plan of spending time with Liz to have dinner with Jimmy instead.
The protagonist also has a few other important relationships that are introduced in the two premiere episodes. First is his professional senior, Paul, who is revered like a father figure by Jimmy. It is Paul who has to step in and tell the man how and where he is going wrong in certain situations for Jimmy to realize his mistakes. Despite being fatherly, both in age and in attitude, there is also a deep friendship between Paul and Jimmy, and the former always acts for the good of Jimmy. Like most conventional father figures, Paul is also rather secretive and unexpressive about his love and concern for the younger man. He always seems to judge Jimmy and Gabby for their actions and choices, but Paul also realizes the heavy internal turmoil that Jimmy has to live with. The man is, in fact, not just close with the father but with the daughter as well, as he spends time with Alice whenever he can, almost like a caring grandfather would. But Jimmy is not yet aware of this, and he asks for advice on being a good father from Paul. What the senior man does is that he tries to work on the relationship from both sides, meaning that he advises Jimmy on what to do and then also tells Alice to give her father a chance in that aspect. Such a scenario plays out in “Shrinking” Episode 2 when Paul advises Jimmy to have dinner with Alice and then also tells Alice that she should give her father the opportunity to get back close to her. Another individual close to Jimmy is his attorney best friend, Brian, even though the two have not been in touch with each other since the death of Jimmy’s wife. This was again because of Jimmy’s behavior and choices, as he did not think of anyone else while grieving. But just as relationships with best friends often pan out in reality, Jimmy now contacts Brian all of a sudden after a year or so, and Brian is back in his life with no qualms. This happens when Sean needs a lawyer to fight off a possible lawsuit filed by Grace’s ex-husband, and Brian agrees to help. The best friend then also obviously asks for clarification from Jimmy about how he had been kept away from his life, and all Jimmy can do is apologize. Once more, like a true best friend, Brian understands his situation and continues to be close to Jimmy.
What To Expect From ‘Shrinking’ Episode 3?
The two premiere episodes of “Shrinking” lay down its foundation as we are introduced to the main characters and the core drama that is going to be at the heart of this comedy. How Jimmy gets back to his role as a responsible father to Alice will be something to look forward to. In terms of his personal relationships, whether he fulfills the duties expected of a friend with respect to Brian is also to be seen. The bond that Jimmy has with Paul is obviously one of the strongest in the series, and how much of it is developed through the season will be interesting to watch. The character of the neighbor, Liz, is also quite interesting, as she is indeed very considerate and invested in her relationship with Alice, and how she might react to the change in situations would be something to watch. Lastly, where the show draws a line between comedy and drama would also be something to expect, as Jimmy’s unorthodox and borderline-unethical practice of therapy at present can also land him in more trouble if the show chooses to be like that.