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Shrinking Becomes a Show About Grief Again in Its Finale

Alice's relationship with her mom finally comes into focus in the Apple TV+ series.
  • Luke Tennie and Lukita Maxwell in Shrinking (Photo: Apple TV+)
    Luke Tennie and Lukita Maxwell in Shrinking (Photo: Apple TV+)

    The concept of Shrinking was promising when the series premiered in January: Jimmy (Jason Segel), a therapist grieving the death of his wife, deals with loss by turning the lives of his patients upside down, for better or worse. But in execution, the series suffered from an overdose of optimism, and the struggle with grief was put on the back burner in favor of a hangout comedy about a group of adults unwilling to recognize that a teenage girl, Jimmy’s daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell), is the one among them struggling the most. In the Season 1 finale “Closure,” which hit Apple TV+ on March 24, Alice finally gets her chance to openly grieve and share memories of her late mother, offering a glimmer of hope for how the show can course-correct in Season 2.

    There are far too few reminders throughout the series that Alice is also suffering a loss, other than her saying those exact words out loud to her dad. While Jimmy is allowed to be a complete ass whenever he’s reminded via flashback of Tia (Lilan Bowden), Alice hasn’t been afforded nearly the same amount of time to even think about her mom. Even her rogue therapy sessions with Paul (Harrison Ford) are more about her relationship with her dad than how she is handling this major loss. She gets one coping mechanism — just be really sad for 15 minutes while blasting emotional music, like Phoebe Bridgers — and is then expected to move on with her life. And she seemingly does throughout the season, instead getting wrapped up in her crush on Sean (Luke Tennie), her friend Summer’s (Rachel Stubington) not-so-cleverly named parties, and Liz’s (Christa Miller) attempts to parent her. But sobbing for just 15 minutes a day is hardly enough to truly deal with all her emotions bubbling at the surface.

    When Jimmy packs up all of Tia’s things, it’s because he’s ready to move on (though the show barely shows that he’s gone through the necessary work to find the “closure” that the episode’s name suggests), and he once again doesn’t even seem to recognize how that might affect his daughter. But in the finale, Alice is ready to call him out on it and admit to herself why she’s not ready to let go. She wants to hold onto the memory of her mother; she’s scared of forgetting what she looks like, and it’s now clear that the quick cries aren’t filling the void.

    The finale is the first time that we see a flashback of Alice with her mom, the first glimpse the show offers of their relationship in action. They’re sneaking ice cream from the freezer, intentionally cutting Jimmy out of their special time together, giggling in the kitchen that up until now has mostly been a place for Alice’s scowls and disappointments. It’s the first moment that truly acknowledges the bond between Alice and Tia that exists outside of the family unit, and the first shown through Alice’s perspective, not Jimmy’s. When she starts telling Sean about her mom’s “hot as sh*t” heels, one of the mementos that Jimmy boxed up, it’s clear a weight is starting to lift. It’s a sign that if she ever, say, talked about this in therapy, that she might be able to properly grieve. And Season 2 could provide the room for her to do that, hopefully with a therapist who is neither mentoring nor banging her dad.

    Shrinking co-creator Bill Lawrence told Variety that the series was initially pitched as three seasons: a beginning, a middle, and an end. The finale could be setting up the beginning of Alice’s grieving journey, with the “middle” more closely following how she handles the waves of happiness, sadness, and anger, especially as she prepares to leave for college and face other life milestones without her mom by her side. Maxwell has proven herself more than capable of carrying a more complex, substantive storyline. With what little depth she was given to work with in Season 1, she still managed to deliver a nuanced and grounded performance amid the sitcom setups. Framing more episodes through Alice’s perspective as she continues to dig into her grief would give Maxwell the material she deserves and fulfill the promise of the emotional exploration that Shrinking set up from the beginning.

    All episodes of Shrinking Season 1 are streaming on Apple TV+. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Shrinking, Apple TV+, Bill Lawrence, Christa Miller, Harrison Ford, Jason Segel, Lilan Bowden, Luke Tennie, Lukita Maxwell