The second season of “Grace and Frankie” began with wishes and ended with vibrators. To be more precise, it began with Frankie (Lily Tomlin, “Grandma”) making a wish on an eyelash and then yanking a hair from Grace’s (Jane Fonda, “Youth) chin and making Grace wish on it, and it ended with them deciding to make a business out of sex toys for women with arthritis (while also saying goodbye to a dear friend). It was a tightly written season, wrapping up almost all loose ends while still leaving a few tantalizing ideas for future seasons.
In the first episode of the second season, Robert (Martin Sheen, “The West Wing”) has a heart attack and ends up in the hospital. Before he goes into surgery, he decides he wants to marry Sol (Sam Waterson, “The Newsroom”) in the hospital, just in case. It’s up to Grace and Frankie to find a minister for the wedding of their two ex-husbands — and thus, the first episode of hilarity ensues. First they find a Catholic priest who won’t marry gays; then they find a rabbi who has no problem with two men getting married, but he won’t officiate a wedding that’s not between two Jewish people. Grace, fed up with this nonsense, finally shouts: “There’s a sick WASP upstairs who needs to marry the Jewish one!” Eventually, Frankie officiates the wedding, beginning with “We are here today to join my ex-husband with her ex-husband.”
Throughout the episode, Frankie decides to sell her infamous lube made with yams to Grace’s daughter Brianna (June Diane Raphael, “Burning Love”), who runs a cosmetics business. Frankie wants millions of dollars and her own vaginal art on the boxes and stubbornly holds on to several of her values regarding the business, making Brianna’s life extremely difficult. Grace goes on a journey to find an old flame, which doesn’t and then does work out.
One of the funniest parts of the fifth episode is a bit of a throwaway conversation between Grace and Frankie. Grace, while talking to Frankie about her relationship with her old friends, refers to the “whole Robert mess” — meaning, of course, the fact that Robert and Sol had been cheating on Grace and Frankie with each other for years — and Frankie asks her what she means by that. Grace looks incredulously at her and Frankie realizes what she means, but quickly tosses it away with a hand wave. This season builds on what the first season did by allowing room for the expression of the pain that comes from cheating but also makes us aware that the most important part of this show is the resilience of these two women, and their friendship.
“Grace and Frankie” deals with more than the negotiation of relationship politics between two families bizarrely twined together. As the two main characters and their husbands are both of retirement age, everyone’s got mortality on the brain. One of Grace and Frankie’s eccentric friends throws herself the “party to end all parties” because she wants one final good time before she dies by choice before letting cancer get her first. The show portrays a positive stance on people choosing how and when they want to go when their options are limited, injecting slivers of humor and hope into a conversation that is otherwise bleak. The finale features a magnificent speech by both Grace and Frankie on how women their age aren’t respected or acknowledged — especially sexually — so they decide to go into business together, making vibrators for women with arthritis.
The acting has only strengthened over time, bolstered by hysterical writing. The jokes land one right after the other; Tomlin and Fonda have unrivaled chemistry on screen (though it is still fun to watch Sheen and Waterson play lovers), which is part of the reason “Grace and Frankie” was able to make a significant demographic care about a show that revolves around two wealthy, white, older-than-middle aged women and their families. While it’s hard to ignore just how wealthy they are — especially every time there’s a beautiful shot of a meal at the beach house — and how their abilities to cope with their problems are aided by that, the show manages to ground itself in comedy that never lacks a heartfelt warmth.