“Reading” is fundamental in Season 5, when Grace and Frankie square off against a formidable new foe: RuPaul, as Benjamin La Day. Photos by Ali Goldstein, courtesy of Netflix
during telling, if rare, mundane moments. “There’s one scene,” Bagley recalled, “when I’m sitting around the table with them [Robert and Sol], and I discover that Robert can sing. And I remember looking at them, and feeling really lucky, because it was a scene about them just being happy and supporting each other. So much of the show, they’re dealing with problems. And I was thinking what this scene is, is just showing the normalcy of these two men. They’re in love and finally able to be together, and have a fun time with their friend.” Peter, said Bagley, “started out as kind of a sweet guy, and a friend of theirs [Robert and Sol’s], and I think the writers have had fun making him more and more awful. At first, he was pretty normal and easygoing. Michael Gross played my husband, and we were caterers. Then, later on, they found a way to have me direct this theater group. I’m kind of
a bad director, and an awful person.” Season 5 finds Peter as a demanding guest of Robert and Sol, after they discover him curled up on the couch (the show’s goto metaphor for emotional retreat). “I can’t give away why, but I can tell you there is a new musical,” Bagley teased. “My character is hideous, but he has redemption, in his own way. You’ll understand, early on, why he does what he does.” As for this viewer’s bleary-eyed verdict on Season 5, having binge watched it way too close to deadline: It’s not quite the next step in evolution one might hope for, but it’s a welcome reminder why January (the new season’s annual premiere month) is a time of year worth looking forward to. Kauffman and company seem to have turned a corner that hints at weirder, wider, far more wonderful things to come.
The dream sequences and flashbacks of past seasons are replaced by bouts of magical realism, as when a drunken Grace is rattled by her (fully-awake?) conversation with Babe (Estelle Parsons), a deceased friend, whose subsequent encounter with Frankie appears to be a regularly scheduled appointment. And the eccentric final episode lays out an alternate timeline scenario that throws the relationship dynamics of Seasons 1-4 into utter chaos. Order, in the court of viewer opinion, or the lives of these characters, is not something the show’s creative team seems interested in courting. Good. A few more seasons in which the show itself embraces the newfound refrain of its two main characters (“F*ck it!”) is just what we’re going to need more of as we age, gracefully or otherwise.
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Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 3, January 18, 2019