The 'Grace And Frankie' Peyote Scene Proves That Age Ain't Nothing But A Number
Netflix's newest comedy opens with quite a narrative blow: After finding out their husbands are gay and plan to marry each other, two wives' lives are upended by the news. In the pilot episode of Grace And Frankie , both wives decide to get away from their lives and try to process this incredibly difficult news. But neither can truly cope with the enormous change themselves. Grace insults Robert out of pain that their relationship was a fraud for 40 years, she breaks down a few times and even steals Robert's new "Ryan Gosling chair" for herself ("If anyone's going to sit on Ryan Gosling's face, it's me"). Frankie on the other hand, stays relatively stoic around others but she does buy some whiskey to mix with Ben & Jerry's ice cream before drinking some peyote tea at the couples' joint beach house. You know, the usual post-breakup routine. But it's after Grace and Frankie drink the peyote tea that the series' real journey begins.
The peyote isn't use to escape their pain or try and become young again, the duo's trip is actually more about admitting their true emotions and fears about this monumental change in their lives. What's more is that the scene works to prove much of the show's promise: That age is just a number. But it's not just about age. The scene in genuinely hilarious — how could we not be bowled over by Frankie telling Grace that her "anger is frightening the sand" and the duo dancing much like Betty White and Sandra Bullock's characters in The Proposal? Still, the scene is actually more poignant than funny.
I couldn't help but find this scene the opposite of another older-character-on-drugs scene from Mad Men — Roger Sterling on LSD in "Far Away Places" — which served to prove just how old Roger really is.
On Mad Men, where Roger's trip begins only because his young wife begs him to go on a trip with her when she takes him to an LSD party. Roger feels too old and out place throughout the experience; he muses about the obnoxious conversations the other guests are having at the party; and he winds up watching the 1919 World Series alone in his bathtub rather than spending his acid trip with his wife, Jane. And if all that wasn't clear enough, the Beach Boys song "I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times" plays throughout. By the end of the trip, Roger and Jane sadly decide their marriage is over (even if Jane regrets the decision in the morning), and the news is like a weight off his shoulders because he knew he'd never fit in with Jane and her younger, more experimental crowd.
Roger's experience comes in stark contrast to Grace and Frankie's trip, which is significantly less psychadelic but just as emotionally relevant to their characters. The focus, however, is the opposite: They're not focused on feeling too old to carry on without their husbands in their final years. Instead, what Grace seems to be most angry about is the fact that she's being made to feel irrelevant. It's not about age at all; it's about how she actually feels, numbers be damned. She's done everything for soon-to-be ex, from cooking for him, to cleaning up after him, to raising their kids, and even "shopping with his mother," and it's almost like he's taken all of that hard work away from him by moving on with someone else. She feels erased, not old. And that's the place where much of Grace And Frankie's success stems from.
Frankie on the other hand reveals through her trip that she's not as calm about all this as she thought: She's heartbroken. She believed that the man she loved for so many decades loved her back just as much and she's more angry and disappointed with herself for not seeing the obvious signs. Thankfully, the trip is void of "Getting too old for this"-style jokes — which would work against the entire point of the show.
Instead the next morning we see Grace and Frankie still feeling the lingering effects of the peyote, and continuing to discuss their love lives through two birds they see in the distance ("Behind Jesus" as Grace puts it). "Do birds mate for life?" Grace asks. "No one does."
That last line is the one connection this scene could boast to Roger's trip in Mad Men if only in its realistic nature: We get a sense that these ladies' lives aren't necessarily rife with possibilities you might hope for. Unfortunately, this sort of thing feels different for a 70-year-old woman than for a 70-year-old man and that disparity is something Grace And Frankie attempts to tackle head on as the series continues. Grace And Frankie are firmly grounded in reality over the looming question marks in their futures and thanks to the peyo-tea (as Frankie so eloquently calls it), both women finally admit to their own faults, insecurities, fears and emotions. And though the scene doesn't leave age out of it (you can't completely ignore that factor, after all), it's ultimately about that universal worry, the one we have any time life throws a curveball: What's next?
The peyote scene gives Grace and Frankie an outlet to reveal their true feelings, but it's more than that. It also allows them to realize that it's time to move forward and that they can in fact still move forward, there is still plenty of time in their lives for absolutely anything to happen.
Images: Melissa Moseley, Screenshot (2)/Netflix