Shrinking – Season 1 Episode 1 “Coin Flip” Recap & Review

Coin Flip

In Shrinking Season 1 Episode 1, we meet Jimmy. Grieving over his late wife, he self-medicates with alcohol, Adderall, and women he doesn’t know. On one particularly difficult morning, Jimmy’s daughter Alice cleans up the remnants of his drunken night while he drags himself to a therapy center–not to see a therapist (as he probably should), but to be one.

It’s clear Jimmy’s been doing this for a while, but either his grief has made him less tolerant of his clients’ failures or his frustration has been brewing for even longer than that (Personally, I think it’s a bit of both). Because after a full day of clients rehashing the same problems they’ve not made any progress on, Jimmy loses it. He tells Grace, who has been in an abusive relationship for years, to leave her husband or he’s done being her therapist. Just as the inappropriate nature of his words sets in and you feel him about to take them back–Grace agrees with him.

Later, when Grace calls him to share the news that she left and thank him for the advice, Jimmy starts to wonder if it can be ethical to just force his clients to do what they need. News flash from his grumpy colleague Paul: It’s not. But Jimmy’s not done experimenting with this new method. So when he gets a new client from his coworker Gaby, he tries something a bit new and dangerous.

Sean is a veteran who pretty severely beat up another guy in a bar fight. He tells Jimmy that anything can set him off, and Jimmy comes up the perfect solution for him to let out the trauma and violence from overseas that’s been festering inside Sean. He takes him to a boxing ring. Jimmy hopes that this will help prevent Sean from hurting innocent people while they still figure out how to deal with his problems at their roots.

At home, Jimmy has his own issues of getting at the root of the distance between himself and his daughter. His neighbor Liz, who has stepped in as a mother figure for Alice, berates Jimmy for not spending enough time with his daughter. He tries to do more things for Alice, but the teenager is quick to let him know that it’s not enough for her to forgive his absence for the past year. He didn’t just lose his wife; she lost her mom. And he ignored that fact.

Jimmy continues to throw himself into intensive therapy/boxing sessions with Sean, but they couldn’t keep the nature of their meetings a secret forever. When Paul finds out, Jimmy admits to him that he not only put Sean in cage matches; he forced Grace to leave her husband. And he really thinks he can help more people if he stops sticking to the rules. Paul is obviously fed up with Jimmy, but he doesn’t stop him from proceeding with his unorthodox methods.

One of those being oversharing. When Sean shares that happy memories make him angry due to the feeling that he’ll never be happy again, Jimmy commiserates. He knows what that feels like; his wife died in a car accident, and the last time he saw her they fought. Sometimes a great memory of her will cause him to feel terrible that he’s without her. 

The therapist laughs when noting that he shouldn’t be telling Sean these things about himself. But why should he care? He’s helping his client. And when he gets the news that Grace is doing well, he starts feeling like nothing can stop him.

Later, someone bumps into Sean on the street, and you can see the anger coursing through him. He calls Jimmy to meet him–thankfully, to tell him about how he avoided fighting this guy. Jimmy tells him he had a major victory. It’s okay to be mad, and he should celebrate that he didn’t act on that anger.

When Sean realizes he took Jimmy away from Alice’s soccer game, the two of them run there together. They make it right at the start of the game, and it makes Alice smile to see her dad present.

But Jimmy’s own smile falls to see Grace’s husband approaching him. He’s mad he told Grace to leave him and punches him in front of everyone. That’s the last straw for Sean, who starts hitting the man in defense of Jimmy.

While the cops arrest Sean, Alice approaches an ice-pack-sporting Jimmy. She doesn’t comment on the fight, just thanks him for coming to her game. He would come sooner, he says. It’s just that she looks so much like her mom.

The Episode Review

Is it an indictment to say I think my therapist friends would hate this show? It certainly blurs the lines between the personal and professional in therapeutic practice. But after The Patient, I’m loving this brand of show about the humanity and messiness of therapists themselves.

From this premiere alone, I don’t believe Shrinking is making any statement on how therapy should or shouldn’t work. I do believe it’s (rightly) saying that, when humans are involved, things can be messy and complicated and beautiful–and even a little bit unethical. I’ll be fascinated to see how they further explore Jimmy’s rule-breaking ways in this context.

Shrinking’s cast and characters mesh incredibly well, particularly at the therapy center. Jessica Williams charms as the witty Gaby, Harrison Ford is delightfully gruff as Paul (we need more of him please!), and Jason Segel gives a nuanced and tender performance as the grief-stricken Jimmy. 

Now, I don’t know who was behind the musical choices for the series–they amp up the cheese factor a significant amount and clash with the raw and real moments throughout. But at least there are plenty of those to resonate with.

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You can read our season 1 review of Shrinking here!

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